Life @ Schneider Blog

How do we make a ‘we’ that is all of us; how do we embrace different?

Written by Sonali Satpathy, Vice President Diversity and Inclusion at Schneider Electric

Company is a microcosm of the world

I heard actor Asia Kate Dillon speak at the Bloomberg Gender Equality summit in New York recently. Dillon, who identifies as both transgender and gender non-binary made a powerful case for equality at the workplace: They said and I quote, “Your company is a microcosm of the world as you see it, the way you want it to be. Do you want to live in a more free and inclusive world because you have a desire to be included, to be truly equal, to be free? No one is free until we all are free. Until the most marginalized amongst us; black, indigenous, people of color especially trans, intersex and gender queer folks and differently abled folks are held up as essential assets for the survival of us all, no one will be free…When we work to make the world more safe and free for others, we are ultimately making the world more safe and free for ourselves”.

This is the spirit and sentiment that we are striving to achieve at Schneider Electric. We believe that “Access to energy is a basic human right” – our aspiration is to improve the lives of people everywhere in the world by developing sustainable energy solutions for our customers. This belief also extends to our Diversity & Inclusion philosophy. Our ambition is to offer equal opportunities to everyone everywhere, and we want our employees — no matter who they are, or where in the world they live — to feel uniquely valued, and safe to contribute their best. For us diversity of people and an environment of inclusion generate greater engagement, performance, and innovation.

Creating a bias free and inclusive culture

Diversity is challenging because it highlights our differences. Sometimes the differences are visible and sometimes not.  This makes it even more important to create a culture which is bias free and inclusive. By signing the UN Free & Equal Standards of Conduct for Business on Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans & Intersex People we made a global commitment to go above and beyond the diversity challenge.

By adopting these Standards, we as a company pledge to:

  • Respect the human rights of our LGBTI workers, customers and members of the public
  • Eliminate workplace discrimination against LGBTI employees
  • Support LGBTI employees at work
  • Prevent discrimination and related abuses against LGBTI customers, suppliers and distributors – and insist that suppliers do the same
  • Stand up for the human rights of LGBTI people in the communities where we do business

We know from experience that public commitments such as these are important signals both within the organization and in the larger eco-system within which we operate- our customers, partners, shareholders and future talent. We also know that to be truly effective, these commitments need to be hardwired through policies, practices and bias-free processes. Which is why we have set ourselves the task of creating an environment of safety and trust so that employees can bring their true selves to work.

Earlier this year, we announced our global anti-harassment policy to demonstrate our commitment to zero-tolerance on all kinds of harassment, including sexual harassment. As recent events have shown, harassment is still quite pervasive and often goes unreported. As a global organization we need clear and consistent expectations of work place conduct to ensure a work place free of harassment.

In 2017, when launching our Global Family Leave policy, we ensured that we had a very inclusive definition of family recognizing that family needs are different for each employee.

Being inclusive is not difficult, but it is a deliberate action

But what about the everyday inequities, the micro-aggressions that occur on a daily basis, that can have such a negative impact on people? Being inclusive is not difficult, but it is a deliberate action.  Most of us think of ourselves as inclusive people but we know that bias exists in all of us and we all have triggers which make us sometimes act in ways that might not always be perceived as inclusive.  So, it’s important that we are aware of those triggers. In 2017, hidden bias education was rolled out to our top leaders, role modeling the change we want to drive. That rollout will continue to all managers and employees in 2018. However, training alone will not result in a culture of inclusion, and deliberate practice of these behaviors will need to be reinforced, rewarded and recognized to create lasting impact.

Olivier Blum, CHRO Schneider Electric, in his blog on “Building an Inclusive Company in a Diverse World” summarized it very well. He said, “Diversity may be visible through representation, but inclusion is characterized by acceptance within diverse teams that in turn creates room for mutual respect, and multiple perspectives. Simply put, diversity is meaningless without inclusion…. I am convinced that global corporations must become visible role models, and advocates of change within society. There is great value in contributing to the debate by sharing experiences, and learning from others.”

Pride month celebration - diversity and inclusionAs we celebrate Pride month, I would like for us to pause and consider the question Asia Kate Dillon posed to the audience – “When you acknowledge that you yourself are ever evolving, ever changing, different every moment of everyday, you acknowledge the same is true for all people. We must embrace the difference…the things that make us different those are our super powers… the question then becomes; how do we make a “we” that is all of us?”


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About the Author

Sonali Satpathy is the Vice President, Diversity &Inclusion at Schneider Electric. She joined the company in December 2010 and is responsible for driving Diversity & Inclusion globally. She has worked for Schneider Electric in Paris, Hong Kong and is currently based in the Boston Area.

Prior to this, she oversaw Leadership Pipeline and Programs as a Talent Management COE and has held roles in project management and communications.

Before joining Schneider Electric, Sonali worked in the Broadcast news industry in India for 11 years for NDTV and Times Now news channels. She has been a journalist, anchor and a news producer. She was head of Channel operations for NDTV Profit, a 24-hour business channel before she left.

Sonali has an honors degree in Economics from Miranda House, Delhi University and an MBA from HEC, Paris.


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