IoT Blog
IoT Blog

How Sierra Wireless is Working to Improve Gender Diversity and Inclusion

by Deborah Nicols, Director, Corporate Quality & Corporate Social Responsibility
A lack of gender diversity continues to be a problem for businesses. For example, according to McKinsey, only 79 women are promoted to a managerial position for every 100 men, and the gap increases at higher seniority levels. While most of us know that creating a diverse workplace is simply the right thing to do, it’s also good for business. Research shows that gender diversity leads to better decision making, higher ROI and improved profitability. Moreover, the tech industry in general, and the IoT industry specifically, are finding it difficult to recruit talented people for open positions and retain the employees they have. Given this, companies interested in leading the next phase of development of the IoT need to demonstrate to women that they are committed to supporting their career advancement and success. 

Findings on how diversity can improve business performance, in addition to reflecting our company’s corporate values, have informed Sierra Wireless’ recent implementation of a new plan to increase gender diversity and inclusion. We have implemented policies aimed at improving gender diversity in the past. For example, for the last three years, we have had a corporate mandate that 25 percent of the candidates for any executive-level position be people who identify as women. However, in early 2018, we formalized our desire to promote diversity and inclusion at Sierra Wireless by developing a plan with specific goals. To develop the plan, we reviewed research in the field, worked with partners, like Paradigm, and consulted with leaders from across our business in every region to share their experiences at other companies, as well as their thoughts on the gender diversity best practices we should adopt at Sierra Wireless.

Our 5-Pillar Plan

This effort resulted in a diversity and inclusion plan that rests on the following five pillars:

• Evolve our diversity and inclusion culture
• Hire more diverse candidates within our own pipeline
• Recognize, promote and compensate fairly
• Develop a more diverse leadership-succession pipeline
• Champion diversity and inclusion in our community

This ambitious plan will certainly take time to implement, but we are already making progress. For example, we have provided unconscious bias training to 80 leaders on our senior management team. And in June of 2018, Sierra Wireless paid to send every woman in a senior management role to the Art of Leadership for Women conference. This highly valuable conference was well received by the participants, who said it helped them hone their management skills and empowered them to be better leaders. In addition, they felt that for the first time they were being publicly recognized by the company as women in senior management positions. Based on their experiences, Sierra Wireless is planning to continue offering women at the company the opportunity to attend this and other conferences and is sending 37 women from different departments and at different levels of the company to the 2019 Art of Leadership for Women conference taking place April 5 in Vancouver.

In November 2018, we also established the Women’s Information Network @Sierra (WIN@S), an employee resource group to promote education, exploration and empowerment for women and celebrate their contributions to the broader goals of Sierra Wireless. The group has a global footprint with a steady growth in members, and it is not restricted to women, with many men joining the group and attending meetings as well. 

Although we are just getting started, WIN@S is already having a powerful impact. Women from around the world are writing to us to share how the group has provided them with a forum to communicate with and learn from others who are in similar positions. They have also written to tell us how the group has helped them take more initiative and be more effective in their jobs. For example, we started a book club within the group, and in one case, a woman who had resisted joining because she is shy and wasn’t sure she would have much to contribute turned out to be one of the most engaged participants in group discussions. She wrote to tell us how “pumped up” she is about WIN@S and its ability to help her be a more assertive leader. It is exactly these types of experiences we hope to foster with the group.

UN Women's Empowerment Principles

As a way to further inform our 5-Pillar Plan, while at the same time officially declare our intention to increase gender diversity and inclusion, Sierra Wireless signed onto the UN Women's Empowerment Principles (UN WEP) in December 2018. The UN Women's Empowerment Principles offer seven steps businesses can take to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. The principles emphasize the business case for corporate action and are informed by real-life business practices and input gathered from across the globe. The seven principals are: 

• Leadership promotes gender equality
• Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and non-discrimination
• Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers 
• Promote education, training and professional development for women 
• Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
• Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
• Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality

We are very excited about signing onto UN WEP and have begun to socialize both internally and externally our engagement with these principles, our effort to adopt UN WEP gender diversity and inclusion best practices and the impact these principals and best practices will have on our 5-Pillar Plan.

2019 and Beyond

In 2019, we plan to launch several additional initiatives as part of our diversity and inclusion plan. These initiatives include expansion of our unconscious bias training program to employees around the world. We will also complete inclusive leadership training for all senior executives to help them become advocates for women and other people from underrepresented groups at Sierra Wireless. We are currently in the process of developing a mentorship program with specific and measurable goals to help women at Sierra Wireless accelerate their professional growth and advance their careers. In addition, we have invited Sierra Wireless board members to speak at future WIN@S events.

Even though we are just getting started, there’s a feeling of confidence among the participants in our gender diversity initiatives that we are fostering true organizational change at Sierra Wireless. Still, we know that change takes time, and it will take years for us to realize our own ambitious gender diversity goals and contribute to building greater gender diversity across the IoT industry. But we are very excited that our journey is starting with so much promise, and we look forward to regularly sharing our progress with you.