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Diversity and inclusion empower Schneider Electric to address implicit bias

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Posted at 10:17 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 23:34:50-05

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Schneider Electric is sharing how diversity and inclusion have kept implicit bias from affecting the success of their global business.

The office as we now know it is different than years past. To see empty seats and desks shouldn’t be a surprise, but the few people you do see at Schneider Electric represent a wide array of diverse backgrounds.

Princess Simons is the North America Product and Margin VP with the company. She only recently accepted the position created once leadership recognized her talents for both finance and business development. It’s still a rarity Simons says when you consider most people working for engineering companies are white men.

It's part of the implicit bias that Simons says can exist anywhere, but especially in the hiring process. To no fault of their own, employers will look to hire people who have similar backgrounds and similar values to those they grew up with.

“Maybe you didn’t recognize it because it’s not happening to you, but the more you want to learn about it, the more we can correct it,” Simons said.

Simons says she noticed a change with Schneider Electric from the moment she was introduced to the moment she walked into their Franklin office. It wasn’t like other places she’s worked where diversity was an afterthought.

“When I walk into work, I’m like okay. I see more women or I see more people of color. I feel good. We’re making steps,” Simons said.

Candace Bridges is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leader at Schneider and says it hasn’t always been this way. Even for a company with a global footprint and more than 150,000 employees worldwide. She says the diversity journey began in 2005 globally with a focus on gender. In the past few years, they’ve committed to hiring more minorities from a spectrum of backgrounds. Bridges says it’s a commitment that came from leadership at the top who pushed for more inclusion.

“We’ve been intentional and our leaders have been intentional to say we’ve got to lean into the uncomfortable at every chance we have, because if we don’t then nothing will change,” Bridges said.

Bridges says instead of a one-on-one hiring process, they’ve turned to a panel approach where they invite the opinions of multiple voices on any one candidate. The idea is that with input from more people, you can avoid the threat of implicit bias automatically disqualifying an otherwise stellar candidate.

“There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a part of who we are, so we have to be aware of it. That way we don’t automatically discount someone or make a judgment that’s unnecessary,” Bridges said.

Bridges says she’s also turned to one-on-one check-ins before meetings so her colleagues understand they’re more than a means to an end.

Simons says it makes all the difference knowing you will be heard. During Black History Month, she and other Black professionals connected through virtual conferences to talk about their experiences either at Schneider or elsewhere.

Simons says this was one of the first times where she felt the company was making good on this commitment, by providing a platform for these discussions. When talking with friends at different companies, she realized few people have similar programs where they can openly speak about how to improve conditions created by implicit bias.

“To be able to say Schneider is doing these things and to hear the feedback, it makes me feel really good. Like okay, I’m in a good place,” Simons said.