New ways of working for Schneider Electrics Kara Mitchell

New ways of working for Schneider Electric's Kara Mitchell

 April 01, 2021

How do you embrace change in a pandemic world?

Schneider Electric Regional Project Manager Kara Mitchell reflects on how her way of working has changed, how her company has adapted, and how it forges a gender equal world.

Finding out how the pandemic impacted work

After returning from maternity leave in January, Kara felt disconnected with what was going on within Schneider Electric. She wanted to get more involved in areas she cared about. So, when Women in Schneider Electric (WiSE) held a recruitment event looking for volunteers to help plan a virtual event for International Women’s Day (IWD), she knew she had to sign up. It was the perfect chance to jump into a project she was passionate about.

On IWD, Kara joined her colleagues around the world sharing #ChooseToChallenge posts and celebrating locally. But Schneider Electric and WiSE wanted to keep the momentum going all month long, and part of that involved hosting a large scale virtual event.

This event featured Annette Clayton, North American President and CEO of Schneider Electric and Telva M. McGruder, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for General Motors, discussing the important topic of “Gender Equity in the Workplace.”

For Kara, this event was "so much fun to plan," and explains why. "I took part in reaching out to leaders within SE and asking them to record a video of themselves answering the question 'How did the pandemic this past year affect your ways of working?' Inspired by their responses, I have decided to share how my way of working has changed and the ways I’ve seen Schneider Electric help forge a gender equal world. For me, 2020 was all about embracing change."

Change #1: A new working 'normal'

Kara had worked for Schneider Electric for only six months before she was sent home to work indefinitely during the pandemic. At the same time, daycares closed. Her three-year-old son would spend the next two months at home. Suddenly, she had to find a new balance between work and family life.

"Boston College Center for Work & Family published an article about how COVID-19 impacted women in the workplace. It shared that “Over the course of the first 12 weeks of the pandemic, the number of mothers ages 25-44 not working due to COVID-related childcare issues increased 4.8% compared to no increase among men.” I can relate to the women who made the decision to leave the workforce," she explains.

"During this time, it was not uncommon to hear an episode of Paw Patrol in the background of a conference call or to find me with my computer working on the back patio while my son played on his swing set. This became my new normal. Schneider Electric was understanding and flexible during this time. I am grateful for the values in place that didn’t force me to choose between work and caring for my family."

Change #2: Pandemic baby

Kara gave birth to her second child. Having a new baby is a big change in itself, but overnight her top concern became her health and safety as she spent a lot of time in and out of the doctor’s office. 

"Working from home, even after our local hub reopened, allowed me to feel safe and limit my exposure to the virus. Additionally, the 12 weeks fully paid parental leave allowed me to soak up precious time with my daughter," she adds. "This past year, Schneider Electric was inclusive to all people’s preferences of work, whether they chose to report to the office or work from home. As part of our new ways of working policy, all eligible employees have the option to flex between working from the office or home, with two work-from-home days as the global standard. The freedom to choose my own work environment made me feel safe."

Change #3: Collaborating and networking 

Before the pandemic, it was not uncommon to see multiple in-person networking events a week hosted by different groups within Schneider Electric. It was easy to meet others in the company that were outside of your business unit. Once the pandemic arrived, this quickly changed. 

"I love that Schneider Electric has adapted to make things happen virtually instead.  I’ve attended a virtual baby shower, happy hour, and what one of our team leader’s likes to call our monthly group “water cooler” conversation," Kara says. "I will forge a gender equal world by showing my daughter you can have a family and a career no matter what challenges you face."

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Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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