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EPCA ’21: Diversity in chemicals industry a top priority that needs work

October 10, 2021

The need to promote diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) goals in the chemicals industry remains a pivotal challenge for the sector.

This was brought into focus at the European Petrochemical Association’s (EPCA) 55th annual event, in a virtual roundtable discussion.

The number of women in the industry has moved up marginally, with associate partner of McKinsey’s Munich office Chantal Lorbeer presenting research, showing a 5% increase in women to the sector.

Promoting further DEI within the industry is also a top corporate goal with Lorbeer highlighting that this is a top priority for 75% of chemicals companies, with the rest of firms considering it in the top 10.

“While D&I is on top of management and HR agendas there is still something missing when cascading down organisation. The further down you go the less of a priority it is, and the less opportunities along the way,” said Lorbeer.

“There are a few crit steps to make diverse talent included: you need a commitment, you need the transparency and tracking, but it is also critical to recruit talent retain and promote then.”

Part of the challenge is getting engagement from people to see the benefits that greater focus on DEI will bring, as LyondellBasell vice president, chief talent and DEI officer Jeanne-Marie Bowman stated this would require a “systemic and holistic approach”.

“Answering why is a great conversation opener, if we are more inclusive, we perform better and help us succeed and facing going forwards, we have clear evidence, they are compelling, they answer that bigger why,” said Bowman.

“Then we focus on the why within the org, talk about where rep sits right now and talk about ops to advance women for example at leadership level, that is another compelling reason that seems convincing internally.”

Odfjell’s vice president for corporate HR Ingjerd Morland Nettestad said that it will take time to move the needle to create a culture where everyone feels included, and the Norwegian shipping specialist was linking DEI goals with sustainability initiatives to attract talent.

“We are linking this to safet; how do we become so inclusive that it is just part of our culture, embed it into policy and programme making an impact more than always talking about it explicitly outside of regular business rather than outside of it?” said Morland Nettestad.

Vopak global director of HR Hernan Rein stated that there needs to be increased inclusivity at leadership level and making this visible, but also urged people to take initiative for themselves.

“Be more active: don’t just depend on legislation to change this for us, but to actively go for it,” said Rein.

“Focus on gender is universal, but trying to understand from leaders what are diversity challenges, what are the need the under-represented groups that need attention? We have defined diversity broadly for that reason.”

Focus article by Morgan Condon


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