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Why inclusiveness is essential for STEM sectors


Anne Lillywhite, Vice President of Engineering – Eaton

February 14, 2022

Attracting, developing and engaging a diverse pool of young talent is vital to the future of any organization. If you build a team with a wide range of personal and professional backgrounds, you suddenly start to have much more creative solutions to problems. This is where the real innovation happens. Anne Lillywhite, vice president of engineering at Power Management Corporation Eaton, explains her beliefs about welcoming talent from all walks of life and promoting a wide range of career development opportunities for people to explore.

When people think of STEM employers, we often expect all of our employees to come from traditional STEM backgrounds, with years of technical training, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

To take Eaton’s as an example, although we are an engineering company, we are focused on looking beyond the obvious to support our business with a diverse set of important skills. We recognized that we needed to broaden our view of what STEM talent looks like, including attracting talent from a wide range of backgrounds. Incorporating this new perspective into our teams can help find more creative solutions to problems and foster innovation.

We call this the STE[a]Approach M with the ‘a’ for the Arts. STEM skills are, of course, extremely important and should be encouraged, but the beauty of STE[a]M is that it promotes problem solving, communication, analysis, creativity and teamwork abilities. All highly transferable skills that open doors to many opportunities across industries and functions.

As practiced in our business, when we develop new products or services, we don’t just want products that work effectively for our customers; we also need them to go beyond in terms of user experience. It is precisely for this reason that aesthetics play an important role in the development of products or services. That’s why we actively recruit people from the art and design backgrounds.

However, as an industry, much more needs to be done to ensure that we recruit from a large pool of talent. As is often the case, this work must start early. Too often students in schools and universities are taught that a career in STEM involves them studying a certain subject, be it math, engineering or science. Our experience has taught us that if you build a team with a wide range of personal and professional backgrounds, you see rapid transformation from solutions to problems. For HR leaders looking for these kinds of innovative thinkers, it’s crucial that they also think outside the box when it comes to recruiting.