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Why Gender Balance in Industry Matters and What We’re Doing About It

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I have two daughters and I want them to grow up in a world that supports their professional ambitions equally, whatever they will be. I’m also EMEA president of a global industrial company that will benefit directly from gender balance at every level and function of the business.

As an industry we have a long way to go on this issue. I can remember earlier in my career that I’d go to industry events and it would be room after room full of just white, grey haired males.

Similarly, more recently, at a leading trade event in Germany, I noted just two women in the room – and discovered that they were head-hunters. Throughout my career, I’ve also had the pleasure of working with students at various universities. The picture there is very different – there is much more diversity, but it’s not reflected at the professional level.

Industry faces a big challenge to improve gender diversity and it’s a challenge that leaders of industry must accept at a personal level, and companies at a company-culture level. We have many good, progressive partnerships, programmes and approaches to tackling the issue.

We haven’t cracked it – it’s a journey, not a destination. But we’ve taken some excellent steps, especially since launching our Culture of Inclusion in 2007, which is designed to help us improve all aspects of inclusivity.

Our Culture of Inclusion was recognised by a Catalyst Award in 2017 to honour the innovative organisational approach with proven, measurable results that address the recruitment, development and advancement of women. I recommend reading a blog by Michele Matthai, our director of culture of inclusion, about the one thing companies need to create an inclusive work culture.

Speaking of blogs, for a personal view about the experience of being a woman in engineering and how things have improved over the last 30 years, I also recommend this blog by our commercial engineer Lynn Siggins in the UK. In it she also speaks to what women can bring to engineering, the size of the challenge ahead, and some key steps to overcoming it.

Lynn’s blog mentions the Rockwell Automation Professional Women’s Council (PWC), which is one of the ways that I am personally involved in developing our approach to gender diversity at Rockwell Automation in EMEA. 

One of the partnerships we have undertaken as part of our Culture of Inclusion is with White Men as Full Diversity Partners (WMFDP). More than 1,000 company leaders from around the world have taken part in WMFDP training, and more than 4,000 more employees have attended. My own training, despite the fact that I am personally driven to improving diversity, really opened my eyes to some of the unconscious biases that exist in society and corporate culture.

But I digress – I was telling you about how I am personally involved with the Rockwell Automation EMEA PWC – which I sponsor. In that role, my responsibility is to offer support and help build connections within and outside of our company’s leadership positions.

It is to help create a platform to share experiences and help clear road-blocks along the way. As a whole, the EMEA PWC’s mission statement is to support Rockwell Automation EMEA women in achieving their goals and encourage their work-life balance.

Its objectives are to develop women leaders; educate and share knowledge; network, mentor and provide role models; support personal and professional goals; and foster an inclusive environment. I’m proud to sponsor these objectives and very much enjoy taking an active role in PWC events and meetings. As Lynn’s blog points out, encouraging girls in STEM subjects is also vital to improving gender balance in industry.

My pledge is to keep challenging myself and Rockwell Automation to do more and to do better. And I’m really eager to hear about and learn from the challenges and solutions you encounter too. Has your company actively engaged in diversity training?

Those following my LinkedIn page will see that we recently collaborated with Greenlight for Girls, as we teamed up with Public Libraries 2020 to inspire girls in coding and help share how important libraries are as sources of technology. Rockwell Automation volunteers led 25 girls in Sphero programming activities and they got an insider’s look at the European Parliament. It was truly inspiring to be a part of.

Speaking of social media – look out for content from Rockwell Automation tagged with #WomenThrive and #PeopleMatter – we are sharing more inspiration there regularly.

We’ve come a long way and have a long way to go yet. But I strongly believe that it’s through inclusivity and diversity that we can best meet industry challenges of today and tomorrow.

It’s also the kind of world I want for my daughters – for everyone’s daughters; and for everyone’s sons, too.

Thomas Donato
Thomas Donato
Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, Rockwell Automation
Thomas Donato

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