Over the past 12 months, here’s what I’ve learned about strategy refreshes, leading two functions at the same time, the power of listening, and about creating a better world for the next generation.
I’ll never forget that Thursday just over a year ago when our then Deputy, now current CEO Roland Busch called and offered me the role as Chief Diversity Officer for Siemens AG. It was such an aspirational job, but I didn’t think it would be offered to me. Imagine, then, what a surprise and an honor it was when the call came – and what an opportunity! One year later, I’m still honored to hold this role alongside that of Chief Cyber Security Officer. I have a much wider knowledge base now, a new community around me, and even more passion for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I). Here, in no particular order, are my top 6 takeaways;
1. It takes a community to develop a new path
Let me start by saying I’m not an expert in DE&I. I have an understanding and a good internal compass, but when I started, I realized how much I had to learn. So, I reached out: to my own small but incredible team, to Siemens’ wider internal community, to its businesses and regions. I explored how different regions have different challenges – be that around gender parity, racial differences, or obstacles to the LGBTQIA+ community. We also widened our understanding by contacting other companies, to learn from the ‘best in class’ and put together the bigger picture. This is how we created a community and how our internal community developed a strategy – one that we call #BelongingTransforms (more of that below). No strategy will be successful if it stands alone: that’s why we shared, listened and consulted on its development, and now we are embarking on the next step of sharing and communicating it to the company as a whole.
2. Yes, be inspired by other leaders!
Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, documented his company’s quest to transform its culture in his book Hit Refresh. He explains that when you “hit refresh” in your web browser, it updates – it doesn’t wipe everything away and start new, it keeps some things and replaces others. This resonated strongly with me when I was working on the DE&I strategy. I’m mindful of the fact that Siemens already had a diversity strategy, and now we’ve simply written the next chapter. Over the last year, I have also been inspired by all the DE&I ambassadors who care within Siemens and who have shared their own stories. Now that we’ve reached the implementation stage of our strategy refresh, our people will be even more important – it’s their words and actions that will bring about mindset change and make the difference as to whether an individual feels included at our company.
3. Now is the moment to put the “E” and “I” in “DE&I” and achieve belonging
While I was reflecting on the idea of “hit refresh” and what this would mean for Siemens’ strategy, the world changed. The COVID-19 pandemic and the protests following the death of George Floyd in 2020 put an even more intense focus on racism, social justice and equal opportunity. Siemens was already on a journey of diversity, taking steps to ensure that the diversity of our workforce mirrors that of society. Now, with the strategy refresh, we have added the dimensions of inclusion and equity. As I have written here in a previous blog, it’s how an organization harnesses diversity that matters: we have to include our people – and their needs, views, ideas and contributions – to really achieve the benefits of a diverse workforce. We also need to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities, whether that’s to training, to information, or to pay. It’s only by having all three dimensions of DE&I that we will generate a true sense of belonging for every one of us.
4. Two very different roles on paper can be closely connected in real life
At first glance, cybersecurity and DE&I are worlds apart. In cybersecurity, we deal with technology, with cybercriminals, with risk – very technical topics. DE&I is all about people; in fact, it’s a topic that’s so close to people’s hearts. The two jobs are obviously different but also complementary, and energy flows from one into the other. For example, I gain energy from DE&I – from engaging with strategy and purpose – which I can then expend on cybersecurity, and vice versa. Another point on which they are the same: their benefits might not be immediately visible to the businesses, but it’s worth convincing them! While cybersecurity helps them protect their digital assets, a team with a sense of belonging is more innovative, goes the extra mile and achieves better results.
5. What I’m most proud of
I’ve talked with a lot of people over the past year – people who, at first, didn’t know who I was – and now when I speak, I see that they trust me. When I speak, they realize I’m talking about something achievable that grows from real needs, and not something I’ve just “invented.” This is a big honor and recognition, and a real motivator to continue. I’m committed and engaged, so Siemens can count on me to do whatever’s necessary to achieve the targets we’ve set together.
6. I’m even more determined to build a better world for my daughters
The last year has made me even more aware of the opportunities I have had and how much I want to contribute to making life as full of opportunities for the next generation as it has been for me. Having two daughters, I don’t want them to face certain circumstances; I want them to have a better life and be respected at all times. We need to have a better world without prejudice and discrimination. Organizations as big as Siemens have a role to play. They represent a large slice of society – and if they can commit to achieving change, this will influence the change I want to see in the world.