November 21, 2017

Saint-Gobain creates more LGBTQ inclusion

Lauren Howe, senior manager of community relations with Saint-Gobain.

French building materials manufacturer Saint-Gobain, with a location in Worcester, scored a 90 percent on the Human Rights Campaign's 2018 Corporate Equality Index, which measures companies on their efforts to make the workplace friendly for the LGBTQ community. It was the company's first time submitting to the index. Lauren Howe, senior manager of community relations for the company, sat down to answer the WBJ's questions about the company's score.

Why is diversity and inclusion in manufacturing important?

Diversity and inclusion is more important now than ever before in manufacturing. In the next decade, 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to a shortage of highly skilled workers, yet demand requires 3.5 million candidates. At Saint-Gobain North America alone, 50 percent of our employees will be retirement eligible within the next 10 years. This means that we need to hire 30 to 40 people each week to meet our hiring needs for growth and replacements.

To help the company grow in North America, we're focused on creating a workplace environment with innovation embedded in everything we do. At Saint-Gobain, we believe innovation is born when diverse teams come together. In order to keep up with the current and future needs of our customers, we're focused on unlocking the innovation potential of the company -- which starts with diverse perspectives and ideas.

What has the company done to address LGBTQ issues in the workplace?

We're proud to be included on the Human Rights Campaign's 2018 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) for our policies and practices geared toward LGBTQ workplace equality. We're committed to addressing LGBTQ issues in the workplace to foster a safe and comfortable work environment and bring together diverse perspectives, experiences and ideas. Earlier this year, we launched LIVE OPEN, an employee resource group for members and allies of the LGBTQ community. This followed our inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Day last year. We continue to seek new ways Saint-Gobain can improve our benefits, policies and practices, and programs to ensure we are evolving to meet employees' needs -- just as our company has done over the last 350+ years.

Why are new ideas and personalities crucial to the changing world of manufacturing?

At Saint-Gobain, we encourage employees to bring their authentic selves to work each day. A diverse-and-inclusive environment entails more than gender and ethnic diversity -- it spurs innovation, creates a more engaging environment and allows our businesses to grow beyond expectations. If we are focused on and passionate about our purpose and caring about people then we can make a difference in the well-being of people and business success will follow. Embedding this thinking into a new generation of leaders will ensure the future of manufacturing.

Why did the company choose to submit to the index this year? Is this kind of inclusion and tolerance work a new initiative?

We felt that the launch of LIVE OPEN presented the perfect opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion – some of the goals of this employee resource group were shaped from some of the very same standards set forth by the Human Rights Campaign. Diversity and inclusion is not a new initiative, but it's becoming more important than ever as Saint-Gobain works to attract new talent and drive innovation. We want to cultivate a diverse workforce of people who think differently so that they're able to adapt to technologies that haven't even been invented yet, and we recognize that kind of innovation is born when diverse teams come together.

Why hadn't it in years past?

Workplace equality, diversity and inclusion have been important pillars of our company culture for years, but we thought that this year's launch of LIVE OPEN offered a good opportunity to submit to the CEI for the first time, knowing this will be an ongoing commitment to ensure we're evolving our policies and procedures to meet the needs of all Saint-Gobain employees.

What has been the effect of the company's inclusion and diversity efforts?

At Saint-Gobain, a career in manufacturing is not just about making a living, it's about making a life. We combine comfort and sustainability to produce materials to enhance the well-being of people all over the world, and we recognize that well-being begins here. We view diversity and inclusion as a competitive advantage helping us bring together unique ideas and perspectives to drive innovation so we can continue to create solutions meeting the needs of today and address the challenges of tomorrow.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Staff Writer Zachary Comeau.


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