By Tanuja Randery, president UK & Ireland, Schneider Electric
Great people make Schneider Electric a great company. It’s something that’s right at the core of our business, it drives us and gives us energy.
In the science and engineering sector, there’s a need to rebrand and improve people’s understanding of what we do to encourage the uptake of STEM careers. Take the datacentre industry for example, where a large part of Schneider Electric operates. Datacentres power the modern economy and underpin every aspect of modern living. From your smartphone to traffic lights – this infrastructure is backed by a large group of networked computers – storing, processing or distributing large amounts of data. There is a false perception of careers in this industry – its seen as too geeky or that the average engineer or technician wears grubby overalls, wielding a spanner.
What’s more, this is an industry that many associate with providing careers for men. This perception is having a knock-on effect, exacerbating what is already a significant gender divide. At Schneider Electric, we believe that both women and men are critical to achieving gender equality and promoting women’s empowerment.
We’re taking steps to make those changes – from the inside out – and there’s room for change at multiple levels. We want to support the next generation of women engineers and be a part of their formation and success. It’s more important than ever to pass that knowledge on, especially within an industry that is growing and changing at such pace.
The challenge begins with inspiring young people about the diverse and rewarding career potential that a STEM-based career path offers. We should take inspiration from the US Space Programme, because of which there was a direct correlation with the increasing number of students entering engineering and science courses at university. This fantastic effort hasn’t been matched since.
Next, we must ensure that women are equally considered in the recruiting process, at all levels. The engineering field is historically weighted towards men, so we see an uneven split of candidates right from hiring through to promotion. It’s important to set targets to ensure enough women are applying and considered for roles right up to executive and leadership positions in the future.
I firmly believe that businesses need to be tougher on recruiters. I refuse to see any CVs from a search firm unless at least 50 per cent of them are from credible women. Setting these kind of targets is sometimes the only way to ensure that women are given an equal opportunity, and recruiters don’t take the easy route.
At Schneider Electric we set ourselves a stretch target for this year that 40 per cent of all new recruits across all levels will be women and we’re pushing our partners in the search firms to ensure we have a good selection of candidates. Globally we recruited 23,460 women over 2012-2014, which represents 30 per cent of total recruitments. We’re proud to be making headway, but there’s plenty more to be done.
We also support HeForShe, the gender equality solidarity movement by UN Women. HeForShe’s mission is to encourage men to support change in favor of diversity and women’s rights. With this commitment, we’re part of an ongoing movement that exists across every industry – not just engineering.
There is clear evidence that companies with women in their executive committee are more successful. Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors have attained significantly higher financial performance, on average, than those with the lowest representation of women board directors. In April 2016, women represented 41 per cent of the board of directors of Schneider Electric.
We work with our women leaders and role models within the organisation to highlight the positive impact they’ve had on the business. We also encourage our male leaders to support and guide their female colleagues. Our CEO, Jean-Pascal Tricoire is an outspoken supporter of gender equality and has led us in setting goals and defining our commitment to change. Women thrive under guidance and inspiration from fair managers, who are often men given the industry we exist in. I always encourage women I meet to find a mentor – or a ‘sponsor’, and to volunteer themselves for that role to somebody else.
Its within our power to make change and engineer impact when it comes to diversity. It’s heartening to see real action taking place – not only inside our own organisation, but throughout the world. HeForShe’s 10x10x10 campaign has already seen other influential businesses signing up, like Unilever and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
This is a momentum we need to continue. Within STEM, there is plenty of uncharted territory ahead for aspirational young women to claim.
So, I say to all women – follow in the footsteps of Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer programme in the 1800s and write a new history for the decades ahead. I say to both women and men who are in positions of power and influence within the industry I work in – without your guidance, there might be millions more Lovelaces who may not be discovered if they drop these STEM subjects early on.
About the author
Tanuja joined Schneider Electric in 2015 from BT Global Services, where she served as President, Strategy, Marketing & Transformation responsible for the growth transformation agenda. Prior to BT, Tanuja spent 10 years at Colt Group, in both strategy and operations roles – while at Colt she led the UK/IE Enterprise Business, was MD of Benelux and setup Colt’s Global Business division. Tanuja also led the acquisition of MarketPrizm – a low latency trading infrastructure company and was CEO of the entity driving the expansion into Asia and cross asset classes.
Tanuja’s professional career has also seen her working as Vice President of Strategy at EMC Corp where she led a number of key M&A initiatives and she worked seven years as a Consultant at McKinsey, specialising in technology and sales and marketing effectiveness, both in the United States.