Alejandro Preinfalk
President and CEO Mexico, Central America & The Caribbean
Expert Contributor

Workplace Diversity, Inclusion: Empowering Productive Teams

By Alejandro Preinfalk | Wed, 08/25/2021 - 13:06

Diversity refers to the characteristics that make us unique, such as personality traits, gender identity, our manners of expression, ethnicity, age, culture, disabilities and sexual orientation.

Equity is about ensuring that all people have the same opportunities within the organization and that prejudice, harassment and discrimination of any kind are neither accepted nor tolerated.

Finally, inclusion is recognizing and accepting those differences so that all employees can have an impact within the organization, due to the same qualities that make them unique.

When these three are put into practice on a daily basis and considered key elements of the internal culture of an organization, then the sense of belonging and engagement from the employees toward the company not only will increase, but will also be reflected in great results, meaning sales targets accomplished, great projects won, and bright new ideas running and flowing.

In my career, I have been able to identify that the more diverse and inclusive a team, the more innovative it becomes. This is because the ability to learn and grow from each other expands exponentially and a diverse exchange of ideas drives a richer generation of new proposals, which lead the way to greater innovation and creativity.

Diversity allows us to be more empathic to each other and to have different ways of interpreting the same realities, to consider a different approach to design processes, achieve objectives, face tasks, work as a team and communicate ideas. The first step is to recognize the differences between our teams and then inspire them to harness these unique attributes to become the best version of themselves.

During my career at Siemens, I have had the opportunity to meet a great number of different people, diverse cultures and ideologies that have enriched my habits and my knowledge and, at the same time, allowed me to be willing to break paradigms and challenge the status quo in the organization because our differences enrich us personally and professionally.      

A company that rightfully manages diversity, from the conviction that it is an end and not a simple means, will increase its chances of creating a high-performance culture, in which companies and people embark in a "win-win" relationship: the company is committed to the people and the people to the company. It is a two-way commitment to find new ways of doing things, new decisions to make and different solutions to new problems.

When that level of diversity and inclusion is achieved in a group, teams reach a more direct, honest and responsible communication, they work in a more collaborative way with a new spirit of alignment and sense of belonging. Likewise, they show their strengths as a team and increase their ability to take risks. They demonstrate responsibility for their work and a sense of ownership for the goals of the organization. And last and foremost,      they embrace the success of the organization as if it were their own, which allows them to actively explore new possibilities, leading to continuous innovation in organizations.

There are some hard facts that support this analysis:

  • The implicit association test, created by Harvard University, shows that more than 70 percent of people associate men with career and women with family.
  • According to a 2019 McKinsey study, it is possible that organizations with a more diverse leadership team achieve 25 percent higher revenues than companies with less diverse leaders.
  • By 2022, 75 percent of organizations with front-line decision-making teams that have diverse members and adopt inclusive strategies, will exceed financial targets (Gartner).
  • More than 77 percent of job candidates consider a company's culture at some point to determine if they will accept an offer (Glassdoor).
  • The average performance of employees in diverse organizations is 12 percent higher than performance in non-diverse organizations (Gartner).
  • The gross domestic product (GDP) of Latin America and the Caribbean would grow an additional 16 percent if the gender gap in the labor market were completely closed (El País).
  • Companies with above-average diversity had 19 percent higher innovation revenue (Harvard Business Review).
  • The second and third most common forms of discrimination in the workplace are racism and gender. About 42 percent of employees say they have witnessed or experienced one of them (Glassdoor).
  • According to the World Economic Forum in 2020, only 7.5 percent of the people on the boards of directors were women in Mexico.
  • According to the OECD, the gender pay gap in Mexico in 2019 amounted to 18 percent.

Quite shocking and revealing facts, right? Nevertheless, it is up to us to start making the difference by leading by example and inviting decision-makers in each company to start living a diverse and inclusive culture.

At Siemens, all our initiatives, actions and programs are planned and executed to foster diversity in our teams. At Siemens Mexico, 12.5 percent ​​of our management positions are women, and today we have a wage gap of less than 1 percent. Although there is still a way to go, we are sure that we are heading in the right direction. Our goal is to establish an open work environment for all our employees, regardless of their cultural origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.                

Every Siemens employee contributes equally to the success of our businesses. In recent years, our company has strived to create more employment opportunities for women, at all levels within our organization, thus contributing to the UN sustainable development goal "Gender Balance." In 2016, Siemens signed the United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles to empower and support our women in business. It is the first global initiative focused on promoting and directly strengthening women in companies.      

At Siemens, diversity extends beyond inherent characteristics. It reflects who we are through acquired attributes. such as education, socioeconomic background, nationality, work experience and religion.

In times of great change, it is more important than ever to seek diversity and inclusion; diversity has become a business imperative. So, as Gandhi said, “today I invite you to be the change we want to see in the world.” The beauty of diversity and inclusion is simple to describe, you get remarkable results, more innovation and, with it, higher productivity.

In this regard, a few months ago, Siemens Mexico, alongside CAMEXA and other German companies, took a great step toward consolidating the bases of diversity and inclusion by signing the “Diversity and Inclusion Charter,” which is a call to action to create a community where embracing diversity and moving beyond tolerance toward genuine acceptance and respect is not just a way of thinking and feeling; it must be transformed into a way of acting.

Together, we can create a vibrant community where differences are accepted and individuality is celebrated. As Michael Forbes said, "Diversity is the art of thinking independently together.”

For us at Siemens, inclusion means to have a holistic mindset. We don't just want to set an example of accessibility; we want to pave the way for inclusion in other companies. We have learned that inclusion cannot be prescribed. You need to live accessibility and inclusion on a day-to-day basis. Our employees demonstrate how to overcome "obstacles in your head" every day, and we support them because what matters most is the individual potential. No matter where you come from, what you look like, or whether you live with or without a disability, your uniqueness is what nurtures our company.


Photo by:   Alejandro Preinfalk