International Women’s Day – Now is the time to #ChooseToChallenge

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day – marked annually on 8 March – urges leaders, organizations and individuals to challenge the status quo, because from challenge comes change. Read how Linxon employees are not only challenging inequality, but about the achievements of our female employees and why the company is an inclusive place to work.

The world has witnessed significant changes since the first International Women’s Day (IWD) in 1911. We now have more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights and increased women’s visibility with impressive role models emerging in every aspect of life. Female students are now welcomed into university and women can have a career and family – they have real choices. IWD celebrates such social, economic, cultural and political achievements, as well as marking a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Ingela Hålling, Managing Director of Linxon Sweden, has experienced such progress in the workplace first-hand. “In my early career, I was working in Mexico as a consortium leader for four big transmission projects and I had three trainees working together with me, all female engineers. Our customer was very impressed by all the skilled female trainees who came to my project team,” she explains. “In my opinion, female professionals and leaders move to companies where they see role models and where there are good opportunities for development, learning and job progression.

 

And her colleague Fissaone Teck, Senior Finance Analyst at Linxon in Switzerland, has also experienced a workplace culture which has changed for the better. As she says, “I realise that Linxon is an inclusive place to work when I look at my team. We have a diverse background and work well together.

 

Do we still need to challenge for change then?

The short answer is: yes. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, none of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children. The figures for economic participation are particularly sobering, with WEF predicting that the gender gap will take 257 years to close. Similarly, a mid-2020 report from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects, has found that women are disproportionately disadvantaged by the pandemic. The report estimates that women make up almost two-fifths of the global labour force but have suffered more than half of total job losses from the crisis. That’s left them 1.8 times more vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact than men. MGI also points out that even before the pandemic – between 2014 and 2019 – progress toward equality in work and society had also stayed relatively flat.

This reality is not lost on Ingela and Fissaone. As Ingela says, “Inclusive working needs to be part of our DNA and is a long-term effort, not a quick fix.” And Fissaone reflects that achieving her professional goals includes having a positive work/life balance and getting the same salary as her male colleagues with the same skills and experience.

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is a winning combination

However, the pay-outs when we get it right are significant. The WEF’s report shows reducing gender inequality boosts an economy’s growth, competitiveness and readiness for the future. This is supported by the McKinsey report, which models various scenarios based on what level of action is taken to counter the effects of the pandemic on gender parity. It found that taking action now to advance gender equality could add $13 trillion to global GDP in 2030 compared with the worst-case scenario of doing nothing.

And moving into the business sphere, McKinsey research has also found that there are benefits for more diverse companies. For example, those in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.

And Jacqueline Mongrut, Linxon’s Managing Director Americas, would agree, adding that one of the reasons she was inspired to join the technology sector is that it’s important to make a difference in an industry where it’s rare to have women leading operations or P&L. She says: “People with different backgrounds tend to have different experiences, different perspectives and views – leading to higher creativity, innovation, faster problem-solving and better decision-making.

At Linxon, 40% of the executive management team are women – and this is backed up by practices that include equal opportunities in recruitment, flexibility with regard to working from home, upskilling and reskilling programmes as well as care for health and mental wellbeing.

Linxon’s Chief Legal Officer Nicole Olsman is another employee who feels the impact of D&I in the office. She says, “I don’t think we’re quite there yet in terms of full workplace equality, but I knew we were moving in the right direction at Linxon when I started seeing more female colleagues in the senior management team. It also really struck me when I joined Linxon and was tasked with leading a male-dominated team.

A better outlook for the future

While the experiences of Ingela, Fissaone and Nicole point to a bright future, sustaining this requires women to be represented in emerging roles, in particular those related to technology, data and digital transformation. To address this, according to WEF, workforce strategies must ensure that women are better equipped in terms of improved skills or reskilling to take advantage of the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Bhumi Shah, an office administrator at Linxon in Vadodara, India, and Nisha Jasani, a project engineer in the same location, are both graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) – and are both proud that their work is contributing to societal needs. “After graduating in Environmental Science, it has been my passion to take a sustainable living approach wherever possible – and sustainable technology is crucial in our current world,” Bhumi underlines. “Working in the renewable sector not only makes me feel happy, but my knowledge can contribute to making a more sustainable society.

Nisha was inspired to work in a technological field after she spent time at her father’s factory premises growing up. “I was really curious about how machines work which led me towards choosing Engineering,” she explains. “Working in a technology-driven company fascinates me and keeps me motivated.

For her, continuous learning and gaining new skills are important factors for success. “When I see a new generation joining our business, my efforts in training them towards becoming better professionals excites me a lot and gives me a sense of achievement,” she adds. “I challenge inequality by continuously working and improving upon the skill sets required for our business.

Everyone can play their part

Nisha is not the only one challenging inequality at Linxon. As the IWD 2021 theme highlights, challenge leads to change – and it can be practiced by anyone, including male allies.

Angel Guijarro is one such ally. He is Linxon’s Chief Proposals Officer and, like Nicole, is keen to see as many women as men in high-level meetings. For him, inclusivity means “offering the same opportunities for both women and men, and – in daily work – respecting and appreciating different approaches for problem-solving.” His approach to challenging inequality is to promote inclusive practices and attitudes, especially in cultural environments where women have traditionally not played a strong role.

Choosing to challenge is also not restricted to the workplace. As Nicole points out, she pushes both “my team and my family to think outside the box and learn how to excel in diverse situations.” She also challenges her own unconscious bias, the stereotypes that we unconsciously attribute to another person or group of people. And Bhumi has also challenged inequality throughout her life. “From leading a cultural committee in school to leading a campaign for deaf rights, I could always speak up,” she says. “I feel lucky to be around people who have always heard me and appreciated my views.”

Forward, not back

At Linxon, listening to others is an action that comes from the very top. By challenging views and sparking changes, and by enabling people to reflect and cascade this new mindset. It’s about making people feeling the benefits and value by themselves.

Drawing on her own background, Jacqueline can only underline this. “My grandmother was an indigenous woman from the Peruvian Amazon; she had to walk five hours a day to bring water to her home. From a very young age, I decided that something had to be done,” she explains. “Any action counts to make a difference. We shouldn’t wait for someone to do it for us – each girl has to have the chance to explore all opportunities and we need to inspire them from a young age.”

As we mark the 110th International Women’s Day, it’s clear how necessary raising awareness and accelerating gender parity have been for over a century – and how current events like COVID-19 and the impact of greater digitalization make these actions just as relevant today. As McKinsey stress in their report, procrastination is a losing game: the time for action is now.