STEM, diversity, and today’s manufacturer
At the recent Danfoss Distributor Meeting in Orlando, I caught up with Eric Alström, the company’s President. The company is a year removed from the purchase of Eaton’s hydraulic business, and I asked him about some current issues facing manufacturers.
One area discussed at the meeting was the importance of diversity. Alström said that’s the first of their three main priorities — their people. And particularly, to further diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“We are doing a tremendous amount of activities now to shake up the organization … it starts with me and my leadership team. We have to walk the talk. So, no more excuses that, ‘Oh, we couldn’t find anything else but white males for these positions.’ Well, then start again — we’re just not going to approve those positions then. But we need to have a talent funnel that mirrors the areas where we do business, and it doesn’t today. We’re working really hard on changing that and step by step,” he said.
Alström pointed out that there’s empirical evidence that diverse teams produce better results — and have a much better innovation track record. One thing he said the company learned from Eaton is the idea of Employee Resource Groups. Alström himself is the executive sponsor for one called Multicultural and Nations, as he noted that this isn’t just a U.S. issue.
“Racism exists everywhere in the world and derogatory comments, those types of things, we take very seriously at Danfoss because it’s not really in our culture. Fairness is deeply rooted. So, we are really pushing this now. I’m happy to say that we actually are making great progress now, finally. Because we haven’t been great at it in the past, but now we’re really getting some traction.”
The company is encouraging STEM/STEAM careers for kids and hoping to get a more diverse cross-section of young adults into engineering. They’re working heavily with Iowa State University in Ames and have the Danfoss Innovation Accelerator in Cambridge, Mass., on the MIT campus.
But he said they also need to be stronger in other countries, such as Germany.
“Europe today is very diverse, but sometimes I think we’re not watching that pipeline well enough,” Alström said. “We’re really onto that now. One of the cool things about hydraulics is that it’s not the first on university students’ list of companies that they look at. But we try to open what I call the Danfoss box and let them peek in. And then they see that we are really environmentally conscious, DE&I is high on our agenda, and we have great technology, software, autonomous machines, and all sorts of cool stuff … it’s actually pretty easy to attract diverse talent in engineering.”
Paul J. Heney – VP, Editorial Director
On Twitter @wtwh_paulheney
Filed Under: DIGITAL ISSUES