Though it operates in 190 countries and 68% of its workforce is outside its home country of Germany, industrial giant Siemens has a top management dominated by white German-born men. That’s a problem to CEO Peter Loescher, who has complained that the company’s leadership is too one-dimensional.
So he hired a woman born in Singapore of Chinese descent, Jill Lee, a veteran of Siemens’ Asian businesses, to solve the problem.
Lee puts the problem succinctly: Siemens management does not reflect the diversity of its 2 million customers in the US, China, Latin America and around the world, nor its own work force of 420,000. The fastest growth for Siemens moving forward will come from Brazil, Russia, India and China. “With globalization you see Brazilian customers in China and Chinese customers in Brazil,” says Lee. “All companies need to be more systematic in sharpening their capacity in this area.”
Plus in short order there aren’t going to be enough European — or certainly German — men to fill the jobs they’ve got in the homeland. With the population aging, if Europe doesn’t get more women and foreigners into its own work force, it’s going to face a talent shortfall in the millions by 2040. Among the company’s most important posts are those in engineering. It employs 100,000 engineers worldwide, half of those in Germany. But that country is expected to have 200,000 unfilled engineering spots by 2017.
Lee’s focused early on increasing the visibility of her 3,000 high potential people worldwide, so they can be considered for jobs on a global basis. She’s also broadened the group doing the interview for key spots to include more women and international staff.
By systematic Lee does not mean quotas. She’s against them. “What we want is for everyone who joins Siemens to know they have every opportunity to get to the very top.”
But Lee herself is often the only woman, or Asian in many of the meetings she attends. The company staff is 25% female, but only 7% of the management ranks are women.
Do you think a rapid diversification of a workforce can be attained without them?
To see Lee’s style in action take a look at this appearance on Fox.
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