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By WiFi HiFi
The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Susan Uthayakumar, Country President, Schneider Electric Canada
Name: Susan Uthayakumar
Job Title: Country President, Schneider Electric Canada
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Years in the Industry: 13
The Quote That Most Inspires You: “Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” – Malcolm Forbes
What drew you to a career in consumer electronics?
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I initially joined Schneider Electric to drive acquisitions. The company was very active in M&A, and I wanted to be a part of a company that was focused on growing and creating value by adding different portfolios to its core business. I was also really drawn to Schneider because of the company focus on energy management and sustainability.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
I have been lucky that Schneider Electric is very focused on diversity and inclusion. Therefore, I see a large focus on ensuring women succeed within the organization. However, I have come across situations where I perhaps have not been openly welcome at the table and where I have felt that I needed to be more credible for my voice to be heard. My philosophy when I face this type of situation is to ensure that I have a strong presence in that forum, and to be outspoken. Others may not always be inclusive, but I make sure that I push myself to not let that happen.
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
Diversity, whether it’s gender or ethnicity, brings a unique viewpoint to the table, and that is beneficial for the organization. It also allows our company to understand the perspective of the diverse customer base that we serve.
Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs in order to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
When I look at technical fields, for example engineering, a significant number of women are graduating from these fields. Therefore, I see an interest in women to be a part of technology-based companies. I believe these companies, like others, need to attract, train and retain women to be competitive in the industry. I also believe that having an environment that is focused on career growth and inclusiveness will go a long way in retaining women within the company as they face the various stages of life.
A woman with a family may need more flexibility in terms of hours as she also focuses on family commitments. Providing innovative maternity leave policies with flexible return to work arrangements can ensure that women return to the workforce and are supported during times that are difficult to accomplish the career/family balance.
If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?
I believe it’s an advantage. These days, companies are looking for diversity. My advice to women is not to blend in. Be confident, believe that you belong in the industry, and bring your unique perspective to the table.
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
I am inspired by women who are pioneers in technology, like Ada Lovelace, who is considered the first person to write computer programming in the 1800s, and Hedy Lamarr, who invented radio frequency hopping. These women faced an environment that did not encourage them to educate themselves. Nevertheless, even in challenging situations, they pushed the envelope to make major contributions to technology and scientific fields.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
We need to eradicate the perception that women are not good at math and science skills, which form the foundation of technological advancement. In fact, more than half the graduates in technical fields are women.
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
We need to ensure the industry is truly inclusive. This means not just formal policies, but creating an environment where women are welcomed, involved, and supported. This approach goes to both formal and informal interactions. We should also educate the people in our industry that we can’t afford to not look to the female population as we seek talent for our companies. If we want to hire the best talent to differentiate our companies, we need to choose the best talent. This means that our talent pool should be both men and women. We need to ensure that we link our talent discussion with diversity and inclusiveness.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
I am very optimistic about the industry. There are a lot of things happening in our society today that is necessitating the focus on technology. Digitization, urbanization, connectivity – all of these are driving a need for technological advancement and innovation to achieve sustainability and efficiencies. I see a bright future for the companies that are focused on technology and that are building a diverse talent pool to leverage the opportunities in our industry.