Article: COVID-19 offered opportunities to promote DE&I agenda: Schneider Electric's Karen Lim


COVID-19 offered opportunities to promote DE&I agenda: Schneider Electric's Karen Lim

Schneider Electric has frequently been in the news for its ever-increasing diversity goals. In a short conversation, Karen Lim, Schneider Electric’s Head of HR Resources for Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei, gives a few quick pointers on how the company views gender equality.
COVID-19 offered opportunities to promote DE&I agenda: Schneider Electric's Karen Lim

Energy and automation multinational Schneider Electric has for several years been steadily increasing its gender equality statistics and goals: from women representing 40 percent of all new hires and 21 percent of global leadership in 2019 to 50 percent of new hires and 30 percent of senior leadership by 2025. How did this happen so quickly, though?

People Matters asked Karen Lim, Schneider Electric’s Head of Human Resources for the Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei Cluster, for a quick rundown of how the goals have been able to evolve over time and how the challenges and solutions changed in tandem. Here's what she shared.

Could you share how the diversity goals have been able to constantly increase over the last few years?

Our diversity goals have gone up over the last decade in response to an evolution in the workforce demographics. Schneider Electric has a “bold-bet” talent development initiative where we target potential leaders early on in their careers before they are 35 years old. This raised the bar for HR and our Talent Acquisition Team as we needed to actively source for the cream of the crop across an entire cohort regardless of gender.

We provide equal opportunities to everyone, everywhere. We emphasize empowering women to take on leadership roles by grooming them during the early parts of their career, with Schneider Electric being the first multi-national corporation to have all its Country Presidents commit to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP). Established by UN Global Compact and UN Women, the WEP is a set of principles offering guidance to businesses on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace, and community.

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What do you consider the 'ultimate goal' for diversity to be?

Our “ultimate goal” is to future-proof the organization and remain the industry leader. This means that we need to actively drive business growth and foster innovation. To achieve this, we are constantly looking for young talent and grooming them during the early years of their careers as part of our plan to ensure that we solidify ourselves as the leading energy management player in the marketplace.

With the change in diversity goals over time, how have the challenges evolved? What's a good way of tackling them?

The change in diversity goals meant that we needed to ensure that diversity and inclusion are present in the workplace. One of the challenges we encountered was attracting more female talent to Schneider Electric. Age is a critical factor due to our “bold-bet” talent development initiative and for a challenge like this, possible approaches can include working with tertiary institutions to develop the curriculum, or for the institutions to introduce business or non-engineering minor degree as part of the engineering undergraduate degree so more female students will consider taking up engineering as their main discipline.

From your perspective, how did 2020 change the case for diversity?

While the pandemic has caused many challenges, we have also seen many opportunities for implementing initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion. We recently deployed a 2-day Work from the Home policy for the Singapore office, which allows parents to better plan their working schedule to accommodate their need to look after children during home-based learning.

This hybrid work environment promotes a positive employee experience by promoting equality at work and allowing employees to actively contribute during the pandemic period.

Finally, do you think the way forward for DE&I in your industry has changed? What efforts need to continue and what efforts need to be stepped up?

There is a continued emphasis on the usual D& metrics such as nationality, ethics, gender, and age. However, in 2021 we are also looking to include support-function roles that open possibilities for the disabled community workforce in Singapore. We have started talks with SG Enable, a government agency dedicated to enabling persons with disabilities.

Read what global leaders have to say about the current state of DE&I and how to fix the broken equation, from the February 2021 issue of our e-magazine   


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Topics: Diversity, #ChooseToChallenge, #HybridWorkplace

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