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Arthur Vašarević, Director, Schneider Electric for Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina

Twenty years ago, the leadership of the Schneider Electric team was predominantly male. Gender imbalance in a male-dominated industry was something we decided to tackle head-on. Today I am proud to say that females make up 42% of our Board and manage more than 50% of our business. We are delighted with these numbers, but we also know that diversity is not just about percentages (be it gender, nationality, ethnicity, LGBT+, generation, disability, etc.). We build an inclusive environment where our people feel like they belong, are uniquely valued, and feel safe to contribute their best.

Could you share with us some key milestones in the D&I journey of your company?

When you talk about company established almost 200 years ago, many milestones have been historically and societal influenced. And therefore, at Schneider Electric, D&I is an integral part of our history, culture, and identity. Today, the only difference is that we talk about this issue in the public space and that different institutions recognize such policies and practices more and more.

For the third year in a row, we have been included in Bloomberg's Gender-Equality Index, scoring high on criteria involving top management commitment, gender inclusive policies, and community engagement. We have been recognized by the Financial Times in a first-of-its-kind ranking for diversity and inclusion in Europe. In addition, we have been ranked in the Top 50 for the Universum's Diversity & Inclusion Index, which recognizes the world's most diverse and inclusive employers.

What aspects of diversity management have the highest priority in your company?

Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ambition is to provide equal opportunities to everyone, everywhere and to ensure all employees feel uniquely valued and safe to contribute their best. There are no gradations, priorities or any compromises on this one.

Which D&I activities have been implemented in your organization so far?

As a global company with over 140.000 employees worldwide, there are many different activities taking place. Just as an example, to achieve gender equality, empower women in our line of business, and ensure that all our employees are covered by pay equity, we implemented Global Family Leave Policy, Global Anti-harassment policy, Flexibility@Work.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by the industry sector in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce?

Twenty years ago, the leadership of the Schneider Electric team was predominantly male. Gender imbalance in a male-dominated industry was something we decided to tackle head-on. Today I am proud to say that females make up 42% of our Board and manage more than 50% of our business. We are delighted with these numbers, but we also know that diversity is not just about percentages (be it gender, nationality, ethnicity, LGBT+, generation, disability, etc.). We build an inclusive environment where our people feel like they belong, are uniquely valued, and feel safe to contribute their best.

What business benefits do you see as a result of increasing D&I?

In an era where our most pressing problems are too complex for individuals to solve on their own, we need a holistic view of many people with different perspectives and this is why from the business point of view embracing D&I is the prerequisite for innovation and value creation in the complex digital age.

On a larger scale, businesses can't operate in isolation. So, it is our role to support the further development of economies and societies according to our beliefs. In this respect, each D&I activity is a clear message that we should all work toward better societies.

Can you name three diversity challenges that companies have to pay attention to?

First, Diversity is challenging because it highlights what makes us all unique.  To make it work, we must hardwire it through policies and practices. Policies are cultural symbols, and so D&I needs to be hardwired in policies and practices.

Secondly, to lead in a diverse environment, our leaders must embrace differences and build the best teams. Behaviours of leaders can drive up a big difference between the proportion of employees who feel highly included and those who do not. At Schneider Electric, through active coaching and feedback, leaders are expected to build diverse and inclusive teams.

And third, we need to lead by example. We want our people to reflect our business footprint and the diversities of the communities in which we operate. To ensure that our people reflect the global community in which we operate, we want to have a more fabulous mix of diversities i.e., gender, generation, nationality, LGBT+, disabilities and above all to have people with different backgrounds.

What do you do to convince your colleagues to see the value in diversity management, or even more to truly get them on board?

We don't need to convince anyone. It is a question of our policies and practices, which are embedded in our daily work. Our people are happy and proud to be part of such a company. The regular D&I communication activities have the purpose of celebrating the differences and learning from each other.

Any plans for the upcoming #EUDiversityMonth this May?

As mentioned above, we constantly strive to promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion daily and through different projects. This month our focus is on people with disabilities. To create a diverse and inclusive environment, we act as allies and foster inclusion by better understanding the key concepts and what people with disabilities need.

For example, we encourage allyship for people with disabilities to build a culture of respect, educate our employees on the topic. In addition, we use inclusive language and terminology, being cautious of outdated or offensive terms, avoid generalizations, and promote accessibility adjustments where needed.

 

This interview was produced with the financial support of the European Union (project Workplace Inclusion Champion WIC). Its contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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