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David Pownall

VP Services & Safety UK&I, Schneider Electric

Businesses are realising that women should have access to every role which is only possible when they fulfil their commitments to deliver opportunities and diversity initiatives.

At Schneider Electric, leaders are committed to being inclusive, compassionate and respectful. They know that equitable opportunities will positively impact people, the company, and our world.

As the company’s VP for Services and Safety, David Pownall knows only too well that the electrical engineering and technology company is a male-dominated workplace. However, he is committed to promoting talent and taking action to encourage more women into non-traditional roles. 

Changing the landscape 

David is responsible for the Services business and also has responsibility for the health and safety of almost 4,000 employees across the UK and Ireland. 

Today, the company has successful female professionals in a variety of roles, including marketing, business development, coordination, and order management. Moreover, the sales services team is now heading towards a 50:50 gender split and the company is committed to achieving 50:40:30 gender balance by 2025. This commitment means women must represent 50% of all new hires, 40% of all frontline managers and 30% of senior leadership. 

The Women in Services Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are an essential component of Schneider Electric’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. It is open to everyone and serves as a safe space for women to be heard. David also supports a dedicated community of women in service, a forum for discussion to solve challenges in the tech sphere.

We must provide more psychological support that is reflected not only through inclusive policies, but through efforts from management.

More than flexibility 

David stresses: “We offer all the flexible working policies, however, sometimes, it’s not enough and doesn’t address things like the anxiety women may feel when returning to work from leave, for example, and businesses often overlook the challenges women face in various stages of life. To overcome that, we must provide more psychological support that is reflected not only through inclusive policies, but through efforts from management.”

The role of leaders is crucial, and they are best placed to support women employees by understanding individual situations and working with them to come up with solutions. 

“We have not always done a good job, but now, we are doubling down on these issues,” David adds.

Widening the career gates 

A drive to encourage women has seen increasing numbers of hiring successes in areas such as strategy, operational management, and leadership roles — but the big nut to crack, says David, is encouraging more women into engineering roles. 

And with a global skills shortage, government, educational and industry sectors must be forced to think differently and accelerate their plans to empower, develop and retain women – and that is supported by building workplaces where all individual needs are respected, supported and developed. We all have a role to play.

Men can support women in the workplace by being true advocates for gender diversity. Speaking up alongside women, creates a supportive, flexible culture and promotes policies and initiatives that build a more diverse and inclusive society.

Schneider Electric regularly works with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) organisations and offers a range of opportunities for young talents such as graduate and internship programmes, with a commitment to promote gender diversity and inclusion across all levels of the organisation. 

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