“DE&I Is A Key Business Imperative,” Believes Rachna Mukherjee, Schneider Electric

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“DE&I Is A Key Business Imperative,” Believes Rachna Mukherjee, Schneider Electric

January 22
09:08 2022
We remain committed to provide equal opportunities to everyone, everywhere and ensuring an environment of progress through equity & inclusion. At the very early stages of our DEI journey, we realized that for our organizational culture to change we needed to influence societal behaviour as well,” asserts Rachna Mukherjee, CHRO India and South Asia, Schneider Electric

1. Is DEI somehow a part of the organisation’s larger ESG goals? To what extent do you think it helps in keeping talent intact?

In the past, Schneider Electric’s Planet & Society Barometer was leveraged as a sustainability scorecard to measure its commitment to sustainable development on a quarterly basis and contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The barometer was aligned along the three pillars of the planet, profit, and people, using several indicators in each to quantify progress. Commitments to achieve gender pay equity was part of it.

With the evolution of Schneider’s Sustainability strategy, DEI is now present as the Health & Equity component of our Sustainability Impact Index, with two key indicators around the Global Family Leave policy implementation and the Global Pay Equity Framework implementation.

DEI has a strong impact on retention. Creating an environment where people can be who they are, that values their unique talents and perspectives, empowers them, makes them want to stay. At SE, we provide equal opportunities to everyone, everywhere and ensure an environment of progress for all through workplace inclusion. We make sure that all our employees feel equally valued and safe to contribute their best and create a better tomorrow. Through DEI’s holistic approach and strong linkages with EVP, Core Values, Leadership Expectations we have seen a drastic reduction in attrition rates of women (~50% reduction) since we began this journey in 2014.

2. What initiatives have Schneider Electric taken to have more women representation in the organisation across levels?

At Schneider Electric, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a key priority that everyone in the organization focuses on and strives for. Our DE&I ambition is to “provide equal opportunities to everyone everywhere and to ensure all employees feel uniquely valued and safe to contribute their best”. Schneider Electric India strongly advocates DE&I as a key business imperative and considers it as a core value. It is a key element that gives us our competitive edge, inspires business results, innovation, and openness.

• There is a lack of women talent across all management levels in our industry. During maternity, mobility, marriage, medical needs of the elderly women fall by the wayside.

• Hence the need was to have a holistic approach around, attract, retaining, develop and enablement (incl. policies) societal commitment and employer branding.

Focused developmental initiatives

• URJA (which translates to ‘Energy’ in English) is a 6-month intense women leadership development program which incl. mentoring via external & internal role models and sponsorship to increase competence and confidence. This program has been instrumental in developing our women employees to take up higher responsibilities and move up the ladder faster.

• ERG (Employee Resource Group)/Women As Allies – established networks within the organization to create a supportive ecosystem at the workplace where women can learn from the experiences of others, discuss issues and challenges in their professional growth and foster networking among peers as well as with the broader community to enhance their professional capabilities. We also provided them opportunities to interact with global leaders and thus get exposed to senior leaders and build their networks.


Schneider Electric India (SEI) has always been the forerunner in launching progressive policies aligning to the changing needs of our workforce. Our empowering policies include the following:

[email protected] (since Aug 2015)

Flexi Timing: Employees get the flexibility to choose the time of arrival at the office and departure from work (provided core business hours are met), Work from Home, Part Time- This policy allows employees to work for four hours in a day @ 50% of the salary.

Culture Shift

• From ‘Why’ to ‘How’ – When we started this journey, we had people ask us about – the business impact of this? Why are we doing this? However today, conversations have changed considerably where stakeholders/businesses ask – how can we support. There has been a shift in culture where now, there is an understanding of the impact of D&I i.e. – the importance of having the right mix, understanding that men & women get different skillsets to the table, and the business imperative and how value is being delivered.

• From ‘Reluctance to Allyship’ – There is also an acceptance of women in all roles and not the only back-office roles. Many managers have come forward and said that they would want to hire women for a particular role OR would like to receive more resumes of women candidates

• With the launch of these initiatives & our holistic DEI approach, since 2014 we have seen a – ~+19 pts increase in Women ratio, +18 pts improvement in Women hiring and reduction in Women attrition by up to 50%

3. To create a culture that embraces diversity requires an inclusive mindset. How is Schneider Electric making a difference here and establishing a level playing field for all – irrespective of gender, age, qualification etc.

At SEI, the DEI journey started during a leadership offsite (IMT) when ‘gender sensitization’ topic was brought up for discussion with our leaders. The India Leadership team did roundtables with select, small groups of women employees to understand women’s perspectives. Post the roundtable discussions 4 key themes were shortlisted – Security, Development, Policies / Process on which we worked simultaneously.

Every year, our approach (practices, policies, initiatives) continues to evolve. We want our employees to reflect the diversities of the communities in which we operate. While gender continues to remain key, we also look at other areas of diversity such as Generations, LGBT+, People with disabilities. For e.g. our insurance covers gender reassignment surgery; the Mediclaim coverage also covers same-sex partners in the case of LGBT+ employees.

We also ensure that DEI is integrated at all stages of our Total Employee Experience and to ensure fairness and equity in core people processes and policies. Our overall goal is to establish trust and eliminate barriers and to make processes that are inclusive to all diverse needs (refer to earlier response on Gender Pay Equity, Talent Reviews, Promotions & Maternity process & Policies).

Open communication from Leaders in forums like Open lines, Sounding Board, Quarterly connects with employees specifying the organization’s intent to promote diversity & inclusion.

Leader’s Dialogue – This initiative was started by all leaders in their respective teams. SEI leaders meet together with their teams (direct and/or indirect) to discuss how the culture has evolved over the last couple of years on Inclusion and what specific practices, processes, and behaviours we all should adopt to promote an inclusive culture in the organization.

In our initiative where employees visit schools to educate children on gender stereotyping (JAGRITI) we have Leaders volunteering towards the cause, acting as change agents themselves

4. How can organizations rethink their approach to the public conversation around inclusion and diversity?

When it comes to social issues, consumers are paying attention. Now more than ever, consumers are willing to put their money where their values are. This has forced organizations to address their customers desires to see themselves reflected before making buying decisions. With the impact of social media, we need to be prepared for uncomfortable conversations. Organizations that don’t make serious efforts are more likely to either lose key employees or missing out on capital from investors, both resulting in business loss.

Companies need to have a balanced approach to the public conversation. Leaders need to understand that to foster an inclusive culture within the company it is important we focus beyond ‘work’ as well and on wellbeing. At SEI, we are slowly working towards influencing society in general through programs such as Jagriti & Prerna Awards.

Overall public conversations around DEI need to be balanced. We should collectively focus on responses to questions like where are we lagging? Can we take help from other organizations? Are we collaborating enough?

5. The Prerna Awards is one of the many initiatives that reiterates SE’s commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. What can you tell us about this year’s winners?

The main objective of PRERNA awards is to recognize women entrepreneurs who have done cutting edge work in traditionally male-dominated areas and/or challenged mindsets and faced all odds to make sustainable contributions in enhancing equity and inclusion.

In the 4th edition of PRERNA awards, the event was preceded by a thought-provoking conversation on equity and inclusion between Kiran Bedi, IPS, 24th Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry and Rachna Mukherjee, CHRO India and South Asia, Schneider Electric India. 

o YouthNet is an NGO, founded by Hekani Jakhalu in 2006 with a mission to help youth by providing them training and development required in various jobs. The organization primarily focuses on creating job opportunities focusing on Nagaland. Since its inception, YouthNet continues to be one of the premier youth organizations in Northeast India that empowers young people to address education, unemployment, entrepreneurship, and livelihood issues.

Prerna Award winners in the past –

1. Lakshmi Menon – Founded in 2012, Pure Living (Products Upcycled Recycled and Economized) offers an eco-friendly alternative to plastic pens & wooden pencils that grow into trees when they are disposed of. The venture has helped empower the elderly and specially-abled women (paraplegic) in the region and uses up-cycled paper waste from printing presses to manufacture the pens.

2. Manju Bhatia – Founder of loan recovery company Vasuli. Though in a male-dominated industry, she has used her patience and diplomacy to learn the tricks of the trade and build a successful pan-India company. At 28, Bhatia’s Vasuli handles recoveries valued at over Rs 500crore annually, with more than 250 staff in 26 locations across India.

3. Kala Charlu – has started multiple initiatives including an end to end program on women hygiene and menstrual health, skilling girls/women who are burn victims and marketing their products etc.

6. Can you elaborate further on the company’s larger DEI policies that go beyond the organisational level and what role does SE plays in supporting women entrepreneurs and their vision?

Through our holistic strategy, we have made great strides in becoming more diverse, equitable and inclusive. We remain committed towards providing equal opportunities to everyone, everywhere and ensuring an environment of progress through equity & inclusion.

At the very early stages of our DEI journey, we realized that for our organization culture to change we needed to influence societal behaviour as well. We had to become advocators for gender equality, reshape mindsets and foster a society which is more egalitarian. It is important to articulate the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion outside the organization and so we launched multiple initiatives to create that impact.

HeForShe mobilization activities: SEI leveraged this movement as an opportunity to bring about a cultural change not just within the organization but also outside. Here are key highlights of the actions we took:

Internal Campaign – We used all forms of internal communication channels to educate our employees and garner their support. Ex:

• JAGRITI – Schneider Electric Greater India has also developed the Jagriti initiative in 2016, which aims to educate and influence school children, while they are still in mouldable thought process stage, on concept of equity, inclusion and respect for all genders, identifying gender stereotyping & biases

• DIYA – a women entrepreneurship program that encourages bright & smart women students to seek out careers as an entrepreneur. This is a novel way of empowering women by recruiting them from college campuses and through a structured induction training program onboarding them as SE Promoters. Once assigned, these women are remunerated based on sale conversions

7. Does the pandemic impact the importance of the DEI action plan in some way? What is the significance of the latest increasing trend of appointing a dedicated person as Chief Culture Officer?

DEI has been a strong pillar of our business strategy for 10 years and it continues to be very important. Schneider Electric India strongly advocates DE&I as a key business imperative and considers it as a core value. It is a key element that gives us our competitive edge, inspires business results, innovation, and openness.

India as a country is diverse and the complexity which the economy is navigating now makes it critical to be inclusive. DE&I continues to be a critical competitive differentiator for us.

India is a major talent hub for Schneider Electric. Because of the competencies available (Ecommerce, Cybersecurity, data analytics, data science, digital services, AI) there is a clear talent transformation that we are driving here. We see this as an opportunity to further strengthen the gender balance and leadership now.

Gender balanced organisations tend to showcase a different perspective, higher quality work, better decision-making, more empathetic leadership to greater team satisfaction, and enabling companies to increase their effectiveness.

CEO, other leaders, people managers (incl. HR) are the chief culture officers. In SE, we focus on the authenticity and seriousness of the intent because of which we have been able to drive a lot through our business leaders as culture officers.

About Schneider Electric

Schneider’s purpose is to empower all to make the most of our energy and resources, bridging progress and sustainability for all. We call this Life Is On.

Our mission is to be your digital partner for Sustainability and Efficiency.

We drive digital transformation by integrating world-leading process and energy technologies, end-point to cloud connecting products, controls, software and services, across the entire lifecycle, enabling integrated company management, for homes, buildings, data centers, infrastructure and industries.

We are the most local of global companies. We are advocates of open standards and partnership ecosystems that are passionate about our shared Meaningful Purpose, Inclusive and Empowered values.

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