Siemens creates a sense of belonging
As the proud owner of a master’s degree in engineering, you might wonder why I work in equality, diversity and inclusion? It’s a story about not belonging. At university, I was in the minority a...
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Category: Diversity & Inclusion, Siemens, Equal opportunities, Apprentice Engineer, mechanical engineering, international sales
Have you ever wondered what your head of department really thinks when it comes to diversity and inclusion? Are they really for it? Or just ticking a box?
Well, the SI REU EPS BP D&I Team wanted to know. So, for each quarter you will hear from a different head of department. Last quarter was with Ville Paetynen and you can read his interview and others here. The next one will be with Peter Colverd, Head of BP.
Faye Bowser, Head of EPS
For this interview, I am pleased to welcome Faye Bowser, who is the Head of EPS (Energy, Performance, and Services). Faye joined Siemens as a mechanical engineering technical apprentice in 2003 at Lincoln’s Gas Turbine factory, later going on to complete an honours engineering degree. After 10 years in engineering focussed roles, Faye moved to international sales and contracts management for service customers. She added an EMBA while setting up the UK Distributed Energy Systems team. Her particular focus most recently has been on setting up the EPS Business to grow a team that provide end to end customer-centric solutions that carbon and cost benefits through energy efficiency, generation and market advisory services. Faye is also an avid supporter of Women in Leadership and Engineering as well as a very active ally for Diversity and Inclusion.
Before we committed to booking any interviews with the Heads within REU, EPS and BP UK, the D&I team came together to determine 11 questions which will be the basis of each interview. So, let’s get to it.
I think that within EPS, we have a very open, accepting and inclusive culture. The main thing that makes that possible is a level of trust. I see people in the team talking with one another, asking each other questions to get to know the person behind the everyday job. I like that we are all celebrating different events together from different religions, cultures and countries, and we talk about it and embrace it.
I get the sense that we have created a very inclusive culture in EPS.
The main thing that drives me now, is having first-hand experience throughout the last 17 years. Knowing what it can really feel like to be excluded and to feel that I’ve been judged on my appearance and nothing else. So, I find it quite relatable! When you go through those experiences, there are parts that you can really feel sad or angry and even frustrated with why that’s happening. However, I’ve got to the point now where I’ve reflected and seen that the problem is not with me alone, and it’s not going to get solved by me being angry. But I can be part of the solution, by using my experience and making a difference for other people.
Everyone’s experiences are unique., I’m in no way saying that I understand the intricacies from each person who have felt excluded, but I do know my own story. It took determination, perseverance, support, and character building to sometimes keep going through where my age and gender were used against me and I don’t think that’s right! I think that there were situations where I could have added more where our customers and company could have benefited. This is just a constant topic that drives me every day. I don’t want to think that people are going through that now in our company because it’s not right, it shouldn’t be tolerated, and we know that we can just make a difference.
The thing that gives me the extra drive is understanding that realistically differences are being made. I see quite a different company now than what I saw when I joined in 2003. So, I know it’s possible for us to make progress! But I still don’t want us to take up the assumption that this is going to solve itself. It takes proactive interventions by all of us. So, I need to do my bit.
Well, when we say ‘business’ or ‘organisation’, it’s really a collection of people. I think that people that we know want to show that they have respect and kindness for other people. I think that the main thing that keeps being promoted is the business case, it makes you more profitable, or it makes sure you get new talent, it makes sure you don’t use your competitive advantage and there is clearly a business case behind it. However, I think much simply. I’m a human being, who likes to learn about other people. I want to make sure that anyone I speak to knows that I respect them, their culture, their background. That I enjoy learning about them and learning about different things.
So, there’s the hard type of business case and then there is just the everyday activity of being in an environment where you feel that you can be comfortable, open and be yourself. That’s the kind of environment I want to work in as a person.
Yes, I think it’s perfect because you can only manage what you can measure. Plus, it shows the seriousness that we are taking for EDI.
If this was a matter of health and safety or a matter of compliance, this is the sort of activity that we would do. We would do an audit. We would find out where things aren’t aligned with what we are expecting. We would act on that and we would look to see how we can make improvements over time. So, it’s a necessary step to say that this isn’t in anyway “a nice to have”, or an “if you mind”. This is an essential business topic that we are going to make sure that we understand our starting point, our baseline. Then we will set some targets of where we want to be and then monitor that over a period of time and create a structure where we can share best practices across different business units.
So, I think it’s good that we are taking a very pragmatic review about what we are saying. So, it’s almost saying how do we turn this strategy into a reality.
I’m quite excited about that!
My main piece of advice comes via 2 prongs:
I am part of the leadership team and I see the discussions that we have on EDI. And I know it’s taken seriously, and I know that it’s important to people. So, it’s about finding a way you can think of that regularly. Like the meeting I just had, did I see anything where it was exclusive or did I say anything? You need to hold yourself accountable and hold other people accountable in a constructive way.
Although I’ve said I’ve had my experience and I know what it feels like mainly being a female in a male dominated area. That doesn’t mean I know what another female’s experience is, or what someone’s experience is like from a different ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or disability. So, I think nobody could ever get to a point where they say “this is authentic, and I understand it, job done”. It’s always going to be, when you are in that situation you should try and be respectful to the person and create an environment where you can ask questions and then genuinely listen. Because the difference that you could make might vary on that individual. I feel quite strongly about that now because I remember early on in my apprenticeship, being batched into this group of ‘female engineers’ rather than an Engineer like my colleagues and there were some great initiatives to showcase to girls in school what is possible and to tackle inclusivity. However, it would have been appreciated for someone to ask and listen about the experience of joining at 16 as a minority to understand and take into consideration views on the initiatives that were being rolled-out.
I think everyone should know for themselves and for other people around them that your uniqueness is your strength. That for me felt quite empowering.
I had a mindset shift from trying to fit in, to actually seeing that there is value here that I am different. It’s about really embracing that and seeing that it’s quite a basic principle. That if you have different mindsets, different experiences then you’ll come up with different outcomes and more competitive outcomes. But, I don’t think you can really believe that about other people unless you believe it about yourself.
And I think for us, it’s about making sure that we also relate that being unique is not only for women, or those from a different country, or those who have a different ethnicity, etc. EVERYONE IS UNIQUE and has a unique story, experiences, skills. This is relatable to everybody and once you understand that you can put yourself in somebody else shoes to try and understand their point of view.
“I like that! It’s not about your race, or gender, or even where you are from. It’s about your experiences like where you’ve worked, what you’ve done because everyone has unique aspects from that point of view and that’s how you should look at it rather than putting things into specific “diversity” boxes”
Yeah, exactly because I don’t think anyone wants a focus on inclusivity to lead to excluding a big portion of our existing workforce or to create a feeling of guilt particularly the ‘white middle aged man’ who act as allies, role models and bring their own uniqueness to work. I saw this a little bit over the last couple of years from things like international women’s day where there were some comments from male colleagues who said, “this is a day for women, not for me or for me!” And we were like well “NO, you are part of this!”. If we all want to get the value of diversity, then we’ve all got to contribute and take part. But that’s what you see when you go to a conference or meetings that try to make a difference. Considering that it’s a male dominated organisation, the majority of those who are there, are women. So, we have to make sure that what we are saying takes into consideration the men and respects them and brings them to be part of this.
I think so but that’s like the utopia!
That’s at the top of the mountain, and I’m trying to figure out how to climb it and get there and that’s something you want people to strive for every day. I believe that you can do that at a generic level, by having a really open environment for everybody but there are occasions where you need to be more specific to make a difference to “a” group of people. So, there are some things that you can categorise, like females in engineering, or like a lot of the messages that we heard back through Black Lives Matters were “what it feels like for black people living in the UK”. So, I think that there is somewhere by getting focused and being specific you can have a bigger impact, and we should do that. However, at the same time because we are striving for that utopia where people aren’t judged by their appearance or anything about them beyond actual seeing the value for their experiences, capabilities and skills and that’s what it should be about.
The first step is having a shared understanding of the problem and part of that is by people sharing their experiences. For instance, I learned a lot through the black history month. I listened to a lot of panel discussions, some podcasts, some of the different promotions through the BBC, through different documentaries and artists. I learnt quite a lot from that about things that I could do differently to be more proactive and get involved to call things out rather than being a bystander.
I think that would be applicable to any part of diversity and inclusion. To say have people heard more experiences like that? Do people really understand the problem that we are trying to solve?
For example, if someone approached me and wanted to know “what it’s been like being a young female in this company since the age of 16?” I would tell them the good, the bad and the ugly. And some people are still quite shocked by the bad and the ugly side because their reaction is genuinely, “Did that really happen?”.
I feel that people see what I’ve experienced as historic behaviour and not something that could have happened last week for instance. So, by explaining my personal experiences and how this behaviour affected me mentally as well as having a knock-on effect to my day and the work I produced. And by sharing these relatable experiences helps highlight these areas and the problems and opens up the conversation as to how we can find a constructive way to stop this and build a better future.
“That’s great about sharing different experiences and learning from other people. I’m the same as you and proactively try to get that deeper understanding. But what about those, who aren’t proactive, or don’t want to learn from other experiences? How would you try to get them onboard?”
One of the ways that people have found that helps, which is kind of linked to one of our first questions, is that you have to make it personal because it is personal! If they say it doesn’t relate to them, then ask the question “do you find this type of behaviour or actions acceptable towards your wife, daughter, sister, niece, etc?”
That’s the type of process I went through. I had a phase where I got angry about it, where I was like “No, it’s not OK to talk to my sister or friend like that!” But then I moved on to rather than being angry about it, to wanting to learn more and started focusing more on the solution. Thus, there are ways to make it more relatable to people because yes, you might not know how it feels, but we all have families and people we care about who are in those types of situations that you don’t want to feel that way. So, it is for all of us!
You are going to have so much more of a fulfilling, rewarding and exciting life by listening to people’s experiences and learning from that. We are lucky that in Siemens, we’re working with a very good group of people who know that at our core of our values is respect. And I think that the luxury, is that people live by that but what helps is that the company says that this is part of our business conduct guidelines and is necessary for the business.
I think quite pragmatically, and even when you see some of these rankings for how we are doing, the competitiveness side of me comes out. We are doing fantastic work and leading from the front with conscious inclusion, the EDI standard and flexible working. However, we’re not regarded as N°1 for the most progressive or the most inclusive, so we need to keep focus and momentum.
We as a blue-chip company we always say that we are not going to fall or accept N°2 or N°3 in our market. We want to be the leader in our market, and I think that same ambition should be applied to diversity and inclusion. We want to be the good case of what an inclusive environment looks like. So, we’ve got the right targets, we’ve made the right progress, and we’ve got something we can feel really proud of. The hurdles to that actually stem far beyond industry and Siemens. It’s going right back to the core that if you look at some of the statistics, particularly for females in engineering, you know that between 11 and 14 there is roughly 60% that would consider engineering. Then between 14 and 16 it drops down to 40% and from 16 onwards it drops again. This is not a problem we can solve alone in this industry. This is something that needs to be tackled from a societal point of view. The point at which we enter this world we are almost being conditioned by society, to live by the stereotypes which are set out. So, we need to continue working with schools right through from primary all the way to universities and now that we have got a pipeline of talent coming our way. Then it is up to us on how can we retain that pipeline? How can we progress that pipeline? But we will never get to where we want to be without figuring out and dealing with the root cause of the issue. And we can make a difference through by professional partnerships and then by bringing in some of that experience back into our own lives.
Fundamentally, the biggest hurdle isn’t a Siemens problem or an industrial problem. It’s a societal problem, which is a beast to tackle.
I may be biased, but I think the D&I team are doing a brilliant job. I always read the Newsletter in detail because I found it really helpful that we have one collective area to go through. You’ve created all the right links; you’re making sure that actions are being followed up on. So, I think a big part of it is actually keeping consistent with that. One thing you always want to check in on is “is the company that we are talking about, is that the same company that you are experiencing?”. It ties a little with “listening to people” and seeing what comes through the survey will help. We as a management team and so many of the employees, feel proud that we are working for a company that is taking this seriously, that’s trying new things and benefiting from previous ideas. BUT I think that we should be willing to challenge ourselves, by saying “are you experiencing this in the meetings that you are going to, or the projects that you are working on, the colleagues you are with?” It’s getting it right drown from the broad topic, down to every layer in the organisation. That will be a good sense check to know what kind of difference we are making. Now, when we see progress in something good, we need to keep consistent or if not adapt.
I can personally say that I found the “Conscious Inclusion” training to be really worthwhile. I learned more from hearing some of the questions and ideas from colleagues on their experiences and how they have challenged things in the past. As well as why they may have a particular perception on a situation that is happening. Since then, we have been getting bi-weekly nudges which has been great because it helps keep the training sustainable, by making me continuously think “oh were we inclusive in this meeting, did anyone leave looking deflated…, and what was my role in that, and what was the team’s role in that and how did I hold people accountable”. So, I like that we have done this overall move from Unconscious Bias to Conscious Inclusion, to now the regular nudges.
I would never have a feeling that we’ve got this. This is something that we need to always be conscious of because if you become complacent about it you just loose that unique culture that we have.
One thing that I want to do is just embed it into our every day, like what we do in our team meetings, where we have an inclusion moment as appose to just an HS&E moment, and we are open, talk about it and accepting of other cultures and holidays. I want to challenge myself and the team regularly on, do we have that sustainable culture? Or is there anything that’s a risk that we need to tackle together that might change that?
So, I don’t really have one big thing. This should be part of our every day and out business as usual!
I always compare it to health and safety. I don’t think people get together to talk about zero harm once every 6 months. People think about zero harm in everything that they do, like when they are planning, designing, delivering, … There’s an absolute in zero harm and I want for D&I to be a zero tolerance. As in a constant zero tolerance, where there is no place in this company for exclusive behaviour AND we always need to find a way to encourage inclusive behaviour. So, I need to find a way to make sure that this is lived true in our everyday business.
What have we learned so far?
Well, we are 3 interviews in and there seems to be a running consensus on quite a few points. The biggest being “listening” and “understanding other point of views”. As Faye mentioned, this is something that needs to be part of our every day. Reflect after that meeting, or call. Did you truly listen to what’s been said? Were you or anyone exclusive in how you spoke or came across? What went well? What didn’t?
It’s a continuous process, a “Growth Mindset”
During this interview, Faye and I went slightly off track when we started talking about how some people don’t realise the repercussions of their actions. Specifically, when it comes to their language and how they come across. It was here that Faye mentioned that we need to challenge this when it’s happening. Either at that moment or in a 1-2-1, you should mention “did you realise when you said that to me, what that meant and how I interpreted it?”
As a female engineer, and as someone still fairly new to their career I find it difficult, I would even say uncomfortable, to challenge someone like that, even if it was 1-2-1. So, I asked Faye how long it took her to get the courage to challenge people. This was her reply:
“It took quite a long time to be honest, in hindsight I wish I’d done something sooner. But I was worried about people accusing me of playing the woman card or people thinking why you should be treated differently because you’re a woman. I in no way wanted to bring up a comment that kind of exasperated the system that made me different from everybody else. I was like, I just want to fit in that’s all I want to do. So, I’m not going to ask somebody why you used that certain term or phrase. Because I feel that I’m starting to separate myself from other people.
I just didn’t know how to do it. And I didn’t really have the courage to do it.
I think for me, what kind of changed was when I stared seeing it happen to other people. I had a tendency to stick up for someone else more than I stuck up for myself. But I’d just fallen into this trap of “oh you know, it’s fine. I don’t mind”. But then I remember someone gave me quite a harsh talking to after it had happened to me in one particular meeting. This gentleman questioned why I didn’t say anything, and I did the usual “Oh it’s fine! It’s my norm, I’ve got a thick skin”.
But then he harshly put “it’s not about you! This is about the next woman in that room. It’s about our new talent. By you not saying anything you are showing that group, that that was acceptable. Which means, that’s what you expect for other people.” That really hit home for me because I’d never thought about it like that.
So, I think having the drive to do it for someone else gave me a bit more courage. And then from trying different approaches I’ve now found a really respectful, constructive way to do it. To not look like you’re attacking someone but instead showing that I want to help you understand. Because I’m sure that they would appreciate an understanding of why it could have come across as offensive.
Thank you, Faye, for such personal and relatable responses to these questions. It certainly shows another side to D&I that others may not know of or even how to approach these types of scenarios.
As a young female engineer just starting her career, I’m privileged to work with and for you. You are such a great role model to me, and many others, so please continue what you are doing.
"Your uniqueness is your strength!”
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