Why Celebrate Sustainability on International Women's Day

March 6, 2019

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a time to honor the progress made by women worldwide towards gender equality and empowerment.

IWD is also an opportunity to celebrate a future in which innovation and technology creates unprecedented opportunities for women and girls—one in which they have an expanding and leading role. Women are already key stakeholders and influencers in the sustainable transformation of organizations, communities and countries. 

Notably, ENERGIA found that women’s equality and access to energy are intimately connected, while research by Women4Climate shows that women exercise great power when it comes to shaping sustainable and inclusive cities. In his seminal work, Project Drawdown, environmental thought leader, Paul Hawken, includes women and girls as foundational contributors to climate change solutions.

To recognize IWD, which the city of Berlin has declared an official public holiday for 2019, and the power of women to lead on sustainability, we asked leaders at Schneider Electric to answer the question: “Why is International Women’s Day a day to celebrate sustainability?”


Today, sustainability needs to be at the core of any company’s strategy. Fortunately, women are an increasing part of this equation, taking leading roles on corporate boards and bringing healthy habits like long-term thinking, collaboration and inclusiveness. I love to meet with female sustainability managers or CEOs because they really believe in what they do, are passionate and are motivated by purpose and long-term positive impact. Out of the board room, each of us can have an impact and for sure, women will always play a key role, preserving our planet for the new generations.

 

I developed an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEAM) at an early age and was fortunate to have opportunities in the space growing up – most notably, as president of “Women in Science” club! I earned a role at Schneider Electric and joined immediately after college. I’m grateful for the time I’ve spent helping our EPC business successfully instill sustainability and efficiency into our work with municipalities and school districts across the country. My STEAM experience and passion has enabled me to lead the organization down these paths – as well as becoming known as a ‘mathlete’ amongst our finance guys.

 

Sustainability has a woman’s face. Just think about it: Starting from the circle of life which is the essence of sustaining our ability to live, to agriculture, food, ecosystem maintenance, and even financial value creation. Women are all about building and creating. We are the driving force within and behind any change in the world, powered by love, desperation, instincts, education, desire – creating a better place for us, for our families, for our kids, for everybody.

 

Though I live in the UK, I have the fortune to have been born in New Zealand; the first country to give women the vote and home of such inspirational women as Helen Clark, former Prime Minister and the only woman to ever lead the UN Development Programme. She says that having women in leadership positions not only sends a powerful message to other women but also changes societies' perceptions of gender roles and encourages girls to believe that no door is closed to them. Despite the progress we’ve made, there is still much work be done to enable women as catalysts of change, fostering the productivity, creativity and innovation that are critical to a sustainable transformation.

 

Any mother can attest to the collaboration skills it takes to keep peace with multiple children in a house. I believe that women are well suited for sustainability leadership roles due to our natural gifts in the areas of empathy, listening, nurturing, enabling collaboration and reducing complex problems down to manageable tasks. We need all these skills as sustainability professionals to enable the collaboration required across multiple silos to achieve sustainability success.  Women are leaders for sustainability and this is proven out by the many successful leaders we have today.

 

Business needs new leaders of all kinds — women and men — to champion sustainability. During my own career, I’ve always been motivated by the strong confidence of doing the right thing. Today, we should recognize and encourage all women as core contributors to sustainability, through nurturing the planet and humanity. We each have an important part to play, whether leading the fight on climate change, volunteering our time to charity, raising our children to be considerate contributors to society or being responsible consumers and minimizing our waste.

 

It's been inspiring to see the evolving role that women have played in a global field that’s so complex. Sustainability encompasses not only environmental advancement, but gender equality and quality education as well. Women already play a key role in driving sustainable development and innovation, but there is still progress to be made. As a mother, I look forward to not only creating a better world for my children by helping companies become more sustainable, but also continuing the conversation around education and equality for women and girls of all ages.

 

Saturday morning, gentle rays of sunlight, hot and fragrant cappuccino on the table. Intriguing titles catch my eye browsing my beloved newsfeed: “New package free shop in Budapest,” “Sewing your own veggie bag,” “Young designer receives state aid to study sustainable fashion,” “How to build a capsule wardrobe, less is more!” Curious about the commonality? All are led by powerful women in the name of sustainability. Let us take the opportunity to celebrate such massive achievements and while at it, believe and embrace the reality that every little step matters. Happy International Women’s Day to all of you!


Our commitment to inclusion and equality

At Schneider Electric, inclusion is one of our foundational values. We believe that great people make a great company and are 100% committed to ensuring that all our people feel they belong and are uniquely respected.  We know that difference and inclusion are cornerstones to driving more innovation, more engagement and higher performance across our business.

One of the ways we pursue this commitment to inclusion is by promoting gender equality at every level of the company. Globally, women are an underrepresented minority in in the energy sector, and we believe we can do better. In 2015, we aligned ourselves with the HeForShe campaign. We’ve set a goal for women to make up at least 30% of our workforce by 2020 and promote a work environment that provides advancement and inclusion opportunities throughout the employment lifecycle.

As part of our HeForShe commitments, we’ve deployed an equity review process to ensure equal pay for equal work. This equity framework covered 92% of our employees in 2018, and we aspire for it to cover 95% in 2019.

We’ve also been recognized by Equileap, Bloomberg and Catalyst for our leadership—a strong validation of our global strategy to be the most diverse, inclusive and equitable company in the world.

But we don’t stop there: we also accelerate gender equality, poverty eradication and access to energy by training women in electricity, energy management and entrepreneurship in many countries around the world. We provide clean technologies, such as solar-powered lights, micro- and picogrids, and other household energy solutions, to women across Africa and Asia, creating economic opportunities and improved health outcomes in their communities.

Most of all, we believe all companies should be mobilized when it comes to inclusion and equality. You can join us at HeForShe.

Schneider Electric recently hosted a Girls in STEAM Empowerment Conference which inspired students and teachers across 25 California school districts to dream big and provides roadmap to achieve their goals. Hear from the girls who attended in our recent video blog.

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