November 14, 2022
SUMMARY: Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is critical to the future of the chemicals industry. Championing these principles allows businesses, like SI Group, to harness the full capabilities of a team and ensure employees can work as their authentic selves. In doing so, companies will also broaden their talent pools, attract more diverse talent, and bring new perspectives to the table. We are proud to feature DEI as part of SI Group’s foundation. As a business that values pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, ensuring employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas, experiences, and backgrounds is paramount to us.
In today’s dynamic environment, diversity of thought and creativity sets a company apart. At SI Group, our vision is aspirational and motivating; our intent is to foster an inclusive culture that helps employees create differential value to drive business results.
DEI in the chemicals industry
DEI isn’t just important to the chemical industry, it’s critical. Demographically, the industry is facing a retirement challenge that’s being felt across the entire value chain. To proactively address this gap, businesses must tap into the full extent of their broad talent pools. Data shows that diverse organizations are more innovative. By finding and retaining a wide range of talent, a business gains access to divergent thinking, different personal experiences, and a variety of working styles. These are the drivers to fuel innovation and sustainability within an organization.
Despite the need for better DEI practices, there are distinct challenges in promoting diversity within the chemicals industry. Many of these obstacles begin at a young age in schools. Businesses, however, can do their part to increase awareness. For example, businesses can work to ensure all genders have equal access and exposure to STEM curriculum, while also fostering internship opportunities at various stages throughout academic studies. This involvement is possible through education partnerships and activities outside the school environment; SI Group has sponsored science and engineering learning fairs, giving recognition to talented science, mathematics, and engineering students, and encouraging talent from the very beginning of students’ academic lives.
Connecting students to the importance of the chemical industry is also key, helping them form an emotional and intellectual connection to the sector and its many global benefits. After all, this is the industry that is bringing lifesaving medical supplies and treatments to people across the world, improving sustainability through innovative solutions, enhancing our everyday lives, and more!
Putting people first
My drive to create a more inclusive workplace is partially driven by personal experience. In my first role, I worked for an intergovernmental organization that owned and operated satellites providing communications and broadcast services to nearly 150 countries globally. My colleagues were from countries around the world, and I was fortunate to work as part of the Asia Pacific team in my first role. I reported to two leaders, one in Singapore and one in India, and worked virtually with colleagues overseas long before it became normal practice. The role required strong communication skills and a flexibility that deepened my appreciation for the importance of inclusion. These early career experiences helped shape my professional worldview – I saw first-hand the value that different cultures and perspectives bring to the table. Business was stronger when it invited views from everyone in the room. This is why it’s something I am keen to see reflected within SI Group.
To carry forward DEI principles, SI Group has worked hard to create an environment where every employee is heard, boundaries are pushed, and value is created. We recently launched a global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council which includes selected volunteers from across the organization who are both passionate about DEI and are reflective of our workforce’s background, ethnicity, gender, and tenure. Meeting on a regular basis, the Council exists to help map out DEI goals and priorities, ensuring all employee voices are represented and heard.
From the very beginning of the recruitment process, SI Group is also focused on fostering an equitable working environment. By changing our talent acquisition process, for example, we are ensuring more diverse candidate slates. We encourage our talent acquisition teams to be creative in where and how they post jobs and to use new technology and tools to ensure bias is removed from job descriptions and postings. We also provide hiring managers with training, including behavior-based interview questions and unconscious bias training, to create a more equal candidate experience.
Our commitment to flexibility in our hybrid work model also embodies our commitment to DEI. The policy prioritizes flexibility, allowing our employees to achieve their ideal work-life integration. By letting people have the flexibility to choose, our work environment becomes more inclusive of employees’ individual needs. Speaking as a working mom myself, flexible working means that I can stay up late one night to work on a presentation so that I can attend a dance competition for my daughter the following day. Similarly, other employees adjust their lunch breaks to accommodate a fitness class they like to take. At its core, the focus has shifted away from the number of hours one spends at a desk toward the value of what they are creating. Equipped with this new priority, we are building a more inclusive environment for everyone while remaining sensitive to individuals’ personal needs.
Another element of our DEI mission, SI Group’s leave policy, includes gender-neutral paid parental bonding leave in North America. Like our hybrid working scheme, the goal is to offer flexibility, helping new parents connect with their new family member following childbirth, adoption, or surrogacy.
The pathway to a more equitable workplace needs to be forged and embraced by leadership as a business necessity. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it also makes for a better workforce that considers business challenges from all angles. For us, SI Group is driving it at an employee level through the DEI Council and through employee-driven ‘culture crews’ being rolled out globally.
Creating success for everyone
At SI Group, we believe diversity fuels extraordinary. Our ‘Ignite Impossible’ culture is about pushing what’s possible to deliver the best for our customers and our employees. As a global leader in the chemicals industry, SI Group also has a responsibility to push forward DEI initiatives and lead by example. When people feel welcome and that their workplace is considerate of their needs, they are personally driven to deliver better results.
Looking to the future, SI Group’s DEI Council will help establish specific goals to benchmark our business’ performance against our competition. Our recently launched VOICE employee opinion survey brought us valuable insight into how our employees feel on a DEI front. We were happy to learn that 76% of employees agree with the statement ‘I can be my authentic self at work’ and 81% agree with the statement ‘I am comfortable sharing my background and experiences with people at SI Group if I want to’.
While results have been very positive, we are committed to using these results to further improve SI Group’s inclusiveness and employee satisfaction. The survey results will inform any future action we take, especially when identifying specific areas of our business that require additional attention.
Diverse talent is the best talent. Embracing DEI as a fundamental part of your business isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s necessary to consider all angles in a business decision and challenge pre-conceived notions. The chemical industry is changing the world through extraordinary solutions and by embracing diverse and inclusive organizations. By facilitating a better environment, new ideas can be unlocked, better cooperation can be fostered, and innovative solutions can be delivered faster.
Learn more about SI Group’s Diversity Equity & Inclusion efforts here.
Brooke Manrique is the Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources & Communications at SI Group. Graduating with a BA in International Relations & Russian Area Studies and an MBA in Marketing and International Business, Brooke has more than 25 years of experience in human resources, international marketing, and communications. Living abroad in countries such as Trinidad & Tobago and having taken advantage of multiple study abroad programs, Brooke has had the chance to experience a wide range of cultures, languages, and backgrounds. These experiences have shaped her views on diversity and inclusiveness and inform her role in furthering DEI principles within SI Group and SK Capital, where she sits on their DEI Advisory Board.