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Social Innovation

Time to Power up the engine room of Innovation and Growth

By Lorena Dellagiovanna, Senior Vice President and Executive Officer, Chief Sustainability Officer, and CDEIO, Hitachi, Ltd.

At Hitachi we believe the key driver of innovation and growth is the diversity of our 320,000 global employees, which is why we are committed to ensuring an equitable and inclusive environment where everyone can truly fulfil their potential.

But diversity alone is not enough to tackle today’s critical challenges – from the race to net zero and preserving planetary boundaries, to harnessing the power of data and improving people’s wellbeing. To leverage diversity, we need to grant everyone access to the same opportunities through structural changes (equity) and ensure an inclusive environment where everyone feels accepted and valued, able to speak up and to contribute (inclusion). This is why we talk about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).

In 2023, we’re at a crucial point in our journey to net zero and DEI is a business imperative if we’re going to get there – in an increasingly complex world with increasingly complex challenges, it is more important than ever we have a range of perspectives.

If we look at society as a whole, we need to better understand the people we serve and the way to do that is through equal representation. Today, this is simply not the case – for example, women represent approximately 50% of the global population but hold a much lower percentage of the global workforce.

Consider the following statistics from the World Economic Forum and the National Science Foundation:

- Globally, it is estimated that only 20% of engineering graduates are women, and women of colour still comprise less than 2% of all engineering professionals (WEF)
- The lack of representation spans across all levels, but women are particularly underrepresented in leadership (WEF)
- In technology, women comprise about 24% of leadership roles and in infrastructure it is as low as 16% (WEF)
- Women earned half of science and engineering bachelor's degrees (50%) and associate degrees (49%). Women represented about one-third of the STEM workforce (35%), and their wages were consistently lower than men's (NSF)

To put these figures into wider context, WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report suggested it would take another 132 years to achieve gender parity based on the current rate of global progress.

So, we’ve got a long way to go. Like many organisations, we’re in the early stages of our own DEI journey, but the last two years have seen us progress and evolve and our focus now is very much on structural change (equity) and behavioural change (inclusion). It’s taken a lot of work to get here – from establishing a new global and regional structure and launching a global strategy based on five pillars (leadership commitment, culture, recruiting, retention, advancement), to setting DEI targets at Group and Business Unit level, embedding equity in policies and processes and setting up DEI regional and global councils and dedicated toolkits.

Today, we’re implementing a number of activities and tools to support women throughout their entire career path. Central to this is our programme of dedicated STEM initiatives and awards that we have been running throughout the world for over a decade. Some recent activities include The Hitachi Global Foundation Asia Innovation Award, an award programme to promote science, technology and innovation that contributes to solving social and environmental issues, and a major global science education programme that brings scanning electron microscopes into schools.

We’re really starting to see the impact of our work and we’ve set a target of 30% women amongst our executives by 2030. From my point of view, it’s crucial to start the conversation on STEM opportunities as early as possible. I’m lucky to spend a lot of time with the next generation of women coming through in the industry and we need to give them the tools to succeed – as the saying goes: “If you can see it, you can be it”. This means that the education system needs to support and be actively involved in changing the mindset, reducing bias and empowering women.

And there’s an important role for men here too – indeed, for International Women’s Day this year we teamed up with MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) to involve men in the discussion, include their perspective, see their challenges and get them more involved.

Of course, it’s vital that we are committed to all the pillars of diversity, whether it’s age, gender, background, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, disability, marital status, or thinking style. We are actively tracking our progress across gender, culture and generation and our work in the former is outlined in our most recent Sustainability Report (pages 95-102)

Our commitment to diversity is an everyday task and our work on it never stops. Only last week at the invitation of my colleagues at Gimajyo (a women's group within the Hitachi Professional Engineers), I spoke at the Asian Pacific Nations Network (APNN) annual conference. APNN is an international organisation of women engineers and scientists from Asia and Oceania, and it was a pleasure to support this inspiring group of people.

Ultimately, everything we do to support DEI is not only good for business, but good for our collective climate change ambitions. In summer 2023, I’d like to see companies adopt the same rigour and approach to DEI as they do for climate action because while we have inequality, we will never save the planet.