AXSChat Podcast

#AXSChat with Maria Ferraro, CFO and Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer at Siemens Energy

December 10, 2021 Antonio Santos, Debra Ruh, Neil Milliken talk with Maria Ferraro
AXSChat Podcast
#AXSChat with Maria Ferraro, CFO and Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer at Siemens Energy
Show Notes Transcript

 Maria Ferraro was appointed Member of the Executive Board and Chief Financial Officer of Siemens Energy AG and Member of the Executive Board and Chief Financial Officer of Siemens Energy Management GmbH effective May 1, 2020. Prior to her appointment, she held several senior management positions in Corporate Finance within Siemens in the United Kingdom, as well as in Canada, Germany and the United States. Before being appointed Chief Financial Officer of Siemens Energy, Maria Ferraro held the position of Chief Financial Officer for the Operating Company Digital Industries as well as Chief Diversity Officer at Siemens AG. Maria Ferraro was born and educated in Canada. She is a designated Chartered Accountant and spent her early career with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Nortel Networks, holding a variety of roles in Canada and on a global level whilst gaining in-depth experience in European and Asian markets. 

Neil Milliken  0:02  
Hello, and welcome to axschat. I'm delighted that we're joined today by Maria Ferraro, who is the CFO of Siemens Energy and also the leader for diversity. So it's great to have you with us today. Antonio, and I constantly talk about our backstory with our former employer. So it would be nice to have people that are part of our history with us today and talk about the future rather than the past. I also need to say that Deborah is unfortunately not with us, because she's, we're doing this off scheduled. And so she's, she's busy elsewhere. But thank you and welcome, Maria. You're a Canadian living in in Germany. Yes. How did that happen?

Maria Ferraro  0:47  
Well, first of all, thank you, Neil and Antonio, for having me. I know, as you said, Neil's off schedule, so we're gonna bring the energy to the conversation. And yes, I am a Canadian, born and raised. And of Italian descent. So I always had a multicultural view, if you'd like in my household, was brought up with a very strong Italian culture. But of course, anyone and Neil, we just talked about how your you like your loved your visit to Canada before, let's say where travel was constrained. I mean, Canada is rich in culture. And I grew up with a multitude of, you know, people from all over the world. And that's all I knew. So yes, my time in Canada, and Canada still is, in my heart home. I've been before taking a pitstop, let's say where I was in the UK for three years, I've now been living here in Germany with my family. And what brought me here was, you know, kind of a little bit of a boring tail, right, you know, a lot of great career opportunities that was afforded to me, with my with Siemens AG. And then of course, since May of last year, I had the absolute privilege and honor to come over to Siemens Energy to be the Chief Financial Officer, this is an independent spun off part of Siemens AG. And what I took with me because I was the chief diversity officer, at that time of Siemens AG, and now, I absolutely am thrilled to be the chief inclusion Diversity Officer of Siemens Energy. And again, I think, Neil, why it's so important to me as maybe my upbringing, you know, and also part of that, let's say, sensitivity to the multicultural environment that I'm so used to. And yeah, so that's how it happened. Yeah, I'm here for work. And I'm loving it.

Neil Milliken  2:47  
Great. And so I think Antonia is mixed up with a question.

Antonio Vieira  2:53  
Now in Germany, and, and before in UK and Canada, but you're working in technology, so yes, what brought you here?

Maria Ferraro  3:05  
Yeah, I think, yeah, I mean, it technology is such. I mean, yes, I'm working in technology. And this was, of course, an integral part of technology and innovation. I think it's important, you always talk about both. And it's exactly what Neil was mentioning earlier. It's about looking forward. I'm fascinated. And, you know, this is what, you know, our, let's say, purpose was in Siemens, again, I've taken that here, even with the purpose of Siemens Energy is, you know, we're solving the world's problems, we're taking your we're ensuring that technology is there, that's helping us along the way, because we all know, this is a massive enabler, right. And that's why I think it's, it was always important to me to be part of these types of organizations, and hence why I've been with Siemens and the Siemens family. I can't believe it already. 16 years. So it's, it's to me really, really important. And, Antonio, you and I met a few years back, and I remember at the time why I also think it's so important, is it's absolutely imperative that we continue to focus on diversity and inclusion in science and technology, engineering and maths, you know, STEM at so important. It's something that comes from my heart as a mother of a daughter, you know, to ensure that we continue to, I don't know, encourage and, and, and I hope one day, it's not even about encouragement anymore. It's just that anyone who has the skill and the will can go into you know, technology and engineering or into STEM subjects and STEM areas. And I think this is why it's so important for us to have more role modeling and more women in science and technology. This is something I'm also personally passionate about. So it was a great tie in if you'd like solving, you know the world's problems using technology and innovation. Making sure that we have an inclusive and diverse influence not only internally in the organization, but also externally. This is what you know, drives me personally.

Neil Milliken  5:11  
Excellent. So a lot of your diversity initiatives, you talked about inclusion. But when we define inclusion, for me, for us, in general, we define inclusion is having disability as part of that. Why is it so important for organizations at scale like Siemens energy to recognize and support? full inclusion, as opposed to sort of segregated diversity initiatives?

Maria Ferraro  5:45  
Yeah, it's a it's a really good point. Because I I've noticed, I've stressed the fact that I see ID Oh, now so that that needs to be so firmly embedded, when it comes to, you know, looking at diversity initiatives. You know, an excellent colleague of Sarah nice, always says diversity is a fact inclusion is a choice. And I think this, this goes to it, or someone once said to me, it's, you know, whether you you're you're invited to the party, but whether you're asked to actually dance, and I think this is, you know, some of the differences why, yeah, it's not just about diversity is about inclusion, it is about creating an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, appreciated, and welcome. And this is where one of the main tenants of what we're doing with inclusion, diversity at Siemens Energy is this concept of, you know, this feeling of belonging. And that's I and that's why to me, it's, it's more it's really about the fact that diversity is a fact inclusion is a choice, and how do we ensure that everybody feels like they have a place in our organization, because only then, you know, the real value of having the different perspectives? You know, we just talked about technology, that innovation power, if everybody is from the same school does the same background, you know, how are we really looking at ensuring that we have technology that addresses all the needs, this to me, it goes hand in hand. So hence why it really is about, you know, ensuring inclusion as part of the agenda, not just diversity.

Neil Milliken  7:20  
And let's face it in organizations of the size of Siemens Energy are the size matters, where your presence spans across the globe, right? You are diverse already, by default, because you've got people from all kinds of different countries and backgrounds and races and ethnicities and religions and all of this. It's that, then it's that conscious effort to be inclusive, because because you've already got the diversity piece covered just to scale.

Maria Ferraro  7:54  
Now, absolutely. You're so right. I mean, we're 90,000 strong and Siemens Energy 90,000 people globally, and we operate in over 90 countries. So you're so right, and what a shame it would be if we were unable to tap into that power of that diversity by not ensure, you know, or my ensuring rather, let's keep it positive by ensuring there's an inclusive environment. So you're right, absolutely. And I think more I mean, large companies have to see this as, and we certainly see this as an advantage of ours, that that we do have that diversity already embedded in our global network of employees.

Neil Milliken  8:33  
So, on top of that, obviously, you do a lot of stuff in the field as well. So how, what are some of the challenges that you're facing around visibility, trying to be inclusive? In a non office environment? Because, you know, it's easy for me to say, oh, yeah, we can be included, we can throw technology at stuff. But you're doing big engineering projects. So so the challenge is the new fate around inclusion a different from say, you know, a, a, sort of what, how do we define that the traditional tech company, if you like, you know, the the ones where people are home based or home office based or, you know, are really sort of just doing programming. So, so So what are the sort of things that you could think of the the, the both help and some of the challenges there?

Maria Ferraro  9:37  
Yeah, no, it's a really good point. I mean, those 90,000 people globally, are in a mixture of environments, right. So they're in office environments, they're in manufacturing environments. Don't forget, we're also on project sites and so on. So that complexity for sure, Neil, is embedded in our organization. But, you know, just taking a step back, you know, how do we ensure that we're tapping not only tapping into the power of that all of those individuals around the world, like I said, but ensuring that they're able to, from a disability perspective are able to work as effectively as we would and they would expect to at a company like ours. And I think maybe just to take a step back, you know, we, we cannot, I really, you know, we cannot talk about diversity, or inclusion without including or, you know, focusing on disability, and, or ability, and at Siemens Energy maybe to frame it. And Sarah was talking about this earlier, when it was just the four of us, you know, we're looking at forming networks within the company, gender LGBTQIA, Plus, ethnicity and disability. And the reason why we've created these networks, Neil is exactly for the reason that you're saying we have a very complex environment within our company, and who better to tell us what needs they have, or what challenges and or opportunities that we have than our employees. So now we've set these networks in place. And those individuals are, you know, from all over the company in the different environments that we talked about, so that we can learn firsthand, on what we're doing well, on things, you know, and I think with a company, the size and scale of ours, that's also important to know, what are we doing well, so we can replicate that. And you know, and have these best practices shared. But more important, or just as important is, you know, understanding where we still have work to do, and we do, we still have work to do here. And I think, ensuring that we're leveling the playing field, so that everybody has an equal opportunity, in terms of disability, I think is key, even looking at health and safety, right, and ensuring that that's present on the project sites for people of all abilities, ensuring that you can access, you know, our buildings, access our sites, you know, I have, I have a personal wish here, because, you know, personally, I have been impacted, you know, in my family or somebody who has a disability, and in terms of this is accessibility, so, and you know, and it changes how you look at things, you know, you see it through a lens. And that's why these networks are so important, because they're the lens that we need to see how to address the areas that they see your concern within our company. And I have to say, my personal issues with my close family member who, like I said, it has late onset adult, a muscular dystrophy. And I mean, and it just changes, like I said, it changes your lens, and you take, we take things for granted. So we have to keep these communication lines open. And we must ensure that we're sharing experiences, because we also said is, it's, you know, what we see as a fix for something may not be effects. So, I think we need to walk the talk, we need to be having these dialogues with our networks, we're making them a part of the solutions that we're embedding. And I think this is a bit of a different, you know, not radical, but a very different approach. And I'm really proud about about what we're doing here.

Antonio Vieira  13:21  
We often observe diversity and inclusion initiatives from different organizations. And sometimes we see them being them being being very centered you know, someone is doing something at the Head Office. And then employees who are in other countries, they feel oh, it will be so wonderful if they were doing that here. How can you make sure that we reach everyone, and we don't create that feeling of disappointment from someone that is in a country that is not as privileged, as Germany or Canada?

Maria Ferraro  13:58  
Yeah, I'm Tony. Fantastic. Question. And again, back to Neil's point, for a company like ours, operating in greater than 90 countries. I mean, you're absolutely right. If you stratify even the you know, technological maturity of these countries, you're gonna have differences. You're so right. And that's why it's also important, and this is what we did with the group around me, maybe to take a step back. So what we did here at Siemens Energy is we took in place an Inclusion and Diversity Council. Antonio, why we did that is because I didn't want even if I'm a Canadian living in Germany, I did not want that we are sitting here in Munich or in Berlin or wherever we are and saying this is how we see the solutions to the to the Inclusion and Diversity area and not even the solutions, even the program essentials. I said no. And with the team, we wanted to ensure that we had representation that global representation. What does that mean different countries, a different areas. Different disciplines. And so therefore, we made this global Inclusion and Diversity Council. And, and I can tell you it truly is global. And then what we wanted to ensure is that's kind of replicated into those countries in, let's say, the first 20 countries or however many countries that were looking at, that they also have an Inclusion and Diversity council there. And why did we do that, essentially, to ensure that we're not going down that path, and it is a trap. And, and let's also be honest, Antonio, some of those programs are fantastic programs, the intentions are great, right. But it's just doing it from one perspective, and not necessarily taking, taking the essential necessities of the program from that country. And I always use Canada versus Germany as an example. In Germany, we do have different issues, even from a gender equality perspective. And maybe in Canada, I don't necessarily need a program on ethnicity, for example, where I remember in my, you know, when I started my career there many years ago, you know, I had over 30, imagine, in a team of 90, I had over 30 Different cultures and backgrounds in my or ethnicities in my team. So maybe we don't need to focus there. And that's why we want to ensure we have this council in place. So you have this bottom up communication, as well as ensuring that let's say the frame of what we want it to stand for, like I said earlier, you know, the sense of belonging, equality opportunity, that that kind of creates the frame for the entirety of the program. So that's the way we're trying to address it, Antonio, to ensure that we have the voices from the various countries that were able to, let's say, fine tune and are customized for those individual needs. And more importantly, and this is what I did not want us to do, there has been tremendous work in progress in all of the various countries, you know, when we were part of Siemens, he, of course, we had really great things going on already, at the pace, perhaps maybe not as fast as we wanted, but certainly addressing the individual needs of those of those countries and networks. And I did not want to say, Okay, everybody stop, that would be the wrong thing to do. So that's why we want to, you know, create a framework, make sure that the council's are in place, and that we have this dialogue upwards and downwards, and then coupling that with those networks that were forming in those four areas that I mentioned earlier. That's truly trying to get a comprehensive understanding of what needs to be done for ind within our company.

Neil Milliken  17:35  
Great, thank you. So building on top of that, I mean, you've already talked about your motivation, and why you're an ally. Yes. And that's really important, by the way, and thank you for that, because it's often goes unspoken. And one of the things that we're always trying to encourage these people to have these open conversations about why it's important and why it's personal. Because for the most part it is. And by the time you you take the 1.3 billion people in the world, and you attach friends and family members, it's hopefully it's pretty quickly everybody's issue. But, but and you've just talked also about the bottom up approach of the network's which is also really important because you're you're keeping it real. On the other hand, there is something to be said about executive engagement and executive allyship. And it's great that you just talked about it, how can we really make sure that it is on the board agenda and that, that that engagement at board level really percolates down through organizations? Because quite often it is talked about by the boards, but people don't see it. And one of the things that came out in the research done by by valuable 500 Was that that out of the CEOs in the footy. By the way there are no CEOs in the footsie 100 that have a disability, or are out about having a disability. And of the CEOs that responded to their survey. Those that said they had a disability, only 40% of those actually were open about their disability with their colleagues. So they're How can we we change the culture where leadership can send a signal to the rest of the organization, that this is not something shameful that don't. Disability is part of the factors thread in the fabric of society and life. And that it's something that we value because your experience of solving the problems that come through impairment also give you the perspectives that you need as a company to innovate. So how, how can you as a change leader in your organization, how Can your peers in other organizations change? Or facilitate that change? Because you're doing it by, by speaking now, but what else do you need to?

Maria Ferraro  20:13  
Know? I mean, Neil, it's, it's absolutely about the not only tone from the top, why I don't like that I don't like when people say it needs to be tone from the top. No, it needs to be more it needs to be we walk the talk. And I think, you know, I indicated how we're trying to do that in terms of our engagement with the networks. And one thing that became clear, is, is two things. One is, I think, from even a leadership perspective. You know, we have a lot of great things on going we have a lot of leaders who are allies, we have people that are fantastic allies all over the company. And then we also had the the question of how can I do more? How can we do more. And what was great was we decided that allyship is the way we would like to take this to the next level. And, and this is something that I you know, even though and I say this all the time, even though I'm the CEO of this company, I can tell you that I had 100% support from, you know, all the way from my board colleagues, to the next level of leadership, and what we wanted to do, because you're so right, Neal, on I, you know, if I'm honest with myself, like I said, you know, the person who has that disability is extremely close in my small family. You know, if that didn't happen to me, would I have been a sensitive would it have been as personal because, you know, it's, it's, at least for our family, it was completely disruptive, it was completely heart wrenching what happened, and how quick things change from one day to the next. So this also was part of the allyship, you know, campaign if you'd like, or how we wanted to launch that in our company, which was, let's talk to our employees, let's talk to our employees that have, how allyship has played a real important part of their lives, and how it has impacted them in our place of work. And I have to say, it was an amazing idea of the amazing individuals and team to do this. And it was quite an interesting concept, right? Because it was really going down all over. So Neil, to your point, all over the world, you know, looking at our employees and saying, Hey, how did allyship change? You know, whether it was in any area, by the way? LGBTQIA plus, or was it ethnicity, disability, and we explored that, and it was incredible. And I have never seen within, at least in my experience, and I'm not saying that, because it is our company, I'm really being honest here. I've never seen such an outpouring of, of emotion of that sort support, you know, from one of our employees in Brazil, having Down Syndrome and having, you know, their ally there with them to kind of take them along the way or for someone coming out as transgender and how that impacted them and the ally, that that supported them through their process to to someone who lost, you know, the ability their legs at the age of 18. And how did that, you know, how did their ally say, hey, you know, let's, let's work through this together, and kind of fight, you know, the discrimination, if any, and these stories were shared, so raw, so honestly, with the group and and I think, had the impact that even I was overwhelmed with how great it went, in the sense that the the acknowledgement of what being an ally is the acknowledgement that anybody can be an ally. And the acknowledgement that, you know, at the end of the day, we as human beings, you know, forget that you're an employee of a certain company, we as human beings have to support each other and have to be there for one another. And I think this, this allyship has our full support, our board is behind it. And we see this and Sarah, has she, she's there who's part of this, she always I always tell her, this is going to be a movement, and I feel like it's a movement here, because it's so personal. And it's so right in being anybody all of our 90,000 employees can be an ally and why not?

Antonio Vieira  24:35  
So, with with all that energy it's very interesting to observe our trend, but it's also interesting to very curious to see your take in the outcome. No, demons energy no as partners, customers, employees. all Do you see that energy going outside the organization? could be about an hour can that reflect in the way I've seen with energy creates products? And I'll Siemens Energy might influence their own procurement and and suppliers are do see that movement evolving?

Maria Ferraro  25:15  
Yeah, Antonio, you're also bringing it up an amazing point, because the influence is not only within the four walls of our offices or facilities and so on how can we use that influence and, and we are absolutely looking into that. But I would say, Antonio, this is more, let's say at the beginning of the journey, right. And of course, ensuring that our products are being you know, are able to be used by anyone, and so on. This has always been part of our, of our design if you'd like. But this, this ability to or not this ability, I don't want to misuse the word, this, let's say purpose to ensure that we're including that focus also on our ability to influence our supply chain, and also going forward into our offerings into the customer, into our customers is is something that we need to continue to drive on. And I think, to be to be frank, I know, on the supply chain, we're already doing that in terms of even, you know, ESG, and responsibility and so on. But, you know, we can certainly continue to drive that. I see that as the next step. But, again, you know, this allyship in the fact that this is the way we're going to approach this in Siemens Energy means that, like I said, that it goes beyond our walls, some of the stories by the way that the employees showed, you know, who their allies were, had nothing to do with an employee of Siemens Energy. But I think it's important to say that, you know, the intermingles into one's life, right, because it's not something that goes away, or changes after you leave the office, or production facilities grounds. So I think it's absolutely something that has an external component to it as well.

Antonio Vieira  27:03  
I think it's it's particularly important that employees are able to share those stories. Yes. Because I think the fact that you are able to arrive at work, and that's you, yes, you don't bring that wait, oh, I need to hide my part of myself. I think that that's very, very, very important. I think it makes people more productive, more open at work. I think it's, it's, I think it's a key element that organizations need to pursue and need to make happen internally.

Maria Ferraro  27:38  
Absolutely. Antonio. And, and I have to say, the, the reaction that I'm talking about is exactly that. The ability for people and all everyone who participated, but also those that have now kind of joined the movement, if you'd like, are in awe. I mean, it really in all of our employees that are sharing their stories, and I think it creates a tone now hearing your I'm using the tone, but it creates this acceptance within the organization to say, so what I mean, let's go, let's work together, let's do what we have to do. And I know that one of my colleagues said that about, you know, Canada versus, you know, how does Canada fully accepts individuals, right? It's not just tolerating, and this is what we're trying to say through this allyship. It's like, Absolutely, you have a place with us, you belong. And that feeling of belonging, I think is a huge part of what we're trying to achieve with the allyship component of Inclusion and Diversity at Siemens Energy.

Neil Milliken  28:35  
Right. And we started what we call the access chat community, because we are community builders, we wish to bring people together. And we've used social networks to have an inside out approach. I think, coming back to one of the things you said about ESG because it's part of the world that I live in, too. And the fact that you're Siemens Energy, and we're looking at things like decarbonisation, we've, we're actually I while back, latched on to the idea that inaccessibility is actually an externality in the same way that pollution is a weird treating exclusion like pollution. And we've actually built our our accessibility programs within our organization. Now, along the same kind of structures so that you can treat the the externality so that you can also do the internal external you can do the scope one, two and three, for your supply chain for inclusion and diversity and all of these things too. But and the reason we did this was because it was already a concept of business understood. And people also understand the the idea that pollution is bad and exclusion is like pollution there. Maybe we shouldn't be doing it. Maybe we should be included. and people embracing people, right. So it's not about tolerance, as you say, it's about embracing and community. So great that that's happening. And the ally ship is super important because that's, that's an area where we also found value, we actually have an allies network, which is like a network of network for people that support each other. So I think that that's absolutely, you know, creating that culture where people are able to reach out to each other get that mutuality of support, and it is really affirmative and changes, how you do business, how people perceive your organization as well. So great to hear that you're doing that.

Maria Ferraro  30:44  
Absolutely, absolutely. And just, you know, because I think maybe I didn't explain, I talked a lot about belonging, you know, there's three, let's say foundational pillars that we talked about, when we talk about inclusion, diversity, it seems energy, one is belonging. So it's that sense, the, the, the culture, the, you know, you with the skill in the Will anybody and everybody should be here and should be respected and should be heard, etc. You know, the quality, I think that goes without saying, and the society and partnerships, Neil, and I think this is where you're absolutely right, you know, it's this external lens as well, you know, how do we impact the communities in which we are present? You know, in over 90 countries, we're in a lot of communities, you know, how do we work with those into those partnerships externally, which we have formed over the years? And how do we continue to work with them, to ensure that we have, let's say, all resources available that we learn as well, and, and I think that humbleness in our program is also what I was trying to work on it because we we should be learning from, you know, others. And that's why what you're doing here in this chat is so great, that you're able to amplify some of the things that are happening and being able to discuss this in this forum is, is fabulous. So thanks for that.

Neil Milliken  32:02  
No, thank you. And we learned something new every week. So when we when we started, there was not much in the way of learning material. So how do you learn we have conversations with people. So it's been great having a conversation with you today. We really look forward to having the Q&A on Twitter, there's going to be great fun. I'm sure you're with Fab. And you can thank the people that helped us keep the lights on. No pun intended, will maybe. So Barclays access my clear text and Microlink for supporting us and keeping us going over these seven years. So thank you very much, Maria. It's been a real pleasure having everyone access. Jeff.

Maria Ferraro  32:44  
Thank you very much. Take care. Stay healthy, everyone. Thank you, Neil. Thank you, Antonio.

Maria Ferraro  32:48  
Preliminary captions by Antonio Santos