Nov 26, 2021

Leaders in Action / Feature Story

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace - What It Means for Millennials and Generation Z

Celebrating Global Diversity Awareness Month, four future leaders from Panasonic's global offices engaged in a discussion on the importance of DEI and how to move the agenda forward in Panasonic.

Large organizations responding to emerging social movements must be agile if they are to make the most of the opportunities that accompany social change. One measure of agility is the degree to which companies successfully integrate the principles of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) into their workplaces. Effective DEI rewards companies by yielding tangible financial benefits through a diverse talent pool whose breadth of knowledge and experience can feed innovation while positioning these companies to attract and retain quality human resources.

DEI is particularly important for younger generations at Panasonic. A growing demographic of Panasonic employees and customers were born in the early 80s to mid-90s; known as Generation Y, or "millennials," this group now comprises a significant proportion of both the global workforce and consumer population. Members of Generation Z, digital natives born between the late 90's and early 2000's, were raised in an era of abundant information and interconnectedness brought about by the proliferation of smart phones and social media.

To better understand millennial and Generation Z perspectives on DEI, Panasonic held a virtual discussion session featuring four future leaders from around the world: Mateus Baptista of the US; Emilie Stumpf from Europe; Ana Carolina Nascimento from Brazil; and Joe Flynn from Japan. They shared their thoughts on why DEI is important for Panasonic, the challenges facing DEI, and how, as CEO, they would work toward tackling these challenges.

"If you don't have diverse employees and don't understand the world from diverse perspectives and backgrounds, then you're leaving innovation on the table."

- Mateus Baptista, Deputy Director of Strategy and External Affairs, Panasonic North America

Photo: Mateus Baptista, Deputy Director of Strategy and External Affairs, Panasonic North America

From a business perspective, promoting DEI makes perfect sense. Product brainstorming sessions featuring a diverse team will yield completely different ideas and you will gain insights into diverse markets. For example, in the United States, the African-American community is a vastly underutilized consumer market. This is because companies have been unable to fully understand the community's needs and wants.

Promoting DEI, then, is all about changing the culture. But we must accept that change doesn't happen overnight. Meaningful change takes time, must be authentic and must become embedded throughout the business.

At a global company like Panasonic, I firmly believe that we can leverage our global presence to connect employees of diverse cultures, experiences and ideas to create more opportunities for shared learning. My first move as CEO would be to introduce a program of global employee work rotations to help break down our siloes and foster a truly global mindset.

"Consumers in Europe are increasingly more demanding, not only about the product/service itself but also the values of the company behind the product"

- Emilie Stumpf, EU Government Affairs Manager, Panasonic Europe

Photo: Emilie Stumpf, EU Government Affairs Manager, Panasonic Europe

DEI is a great way for Panasonic to stay connected with consumers and to attract and retain top talent. Consumers and employees want to identify with the values of the companies to which they are connected, so it's critically important that Panasonic demonstrates that we truly care about people, regardless of their background or origin.

Female representation in male-dominated industries is a challenge that I face; sustainability sectors, tend to attract in general more women, but I still often find myself one of the only women in certain meetings. On the positive side, I learned about the Women Connect Network in Panasonic Europe - a business impact group launched by colleagues at Panasonic Europe. This group enables employees (not only women) to support the organization in establishing and promoting its DEI agenda, as well as to connect and leverage on women's potential to grow within the company and achieve leadership roles.

I'm really encouraged by Panasonic joining the 30% club in Japan. If I were CEO, I would like to carry on this momentum to make the 30% commitment a global one.

"Knowing that I'm in a place that's looking to step up its DEI efforts reassures me"

- Ana Carolina Nascimento, PR and Internal Communications Intern, Panasonic Brazil

Photo: Ana Carolina Nascimento, PR and Internal Communications Intern, Panasonic Brazil

As a black and LGBT woman, I don't see a lot of people like me assuming managerial roles, and I'm not looking to build my career in a company that won't provide me that opportunity.

DEI may be making progress, but the principle is still controversial in some regions. I'm particularly concerned about homophobia. Despite a law criminalizing homophobia coming into force in Brazil in 2019, advertisements featuring LGBT couples still face prejudice in society. I'd like to become a role model for future generations, changing perceptions of LGBT people and people of different ethnicities.

As CEO of Panasonic, I would devote particular attention to supporting transgender people in the workforce. In Brazil, transgender people face significant hardship and prejudice, leading to high unemployment and homelessness, so I'd like to create more opportunities to help this community.

"The addition of 'Equity' will have a meaningful impact for Panasonic."

- Joe Flynn, Global Communications Specialist, Corporate PR Center, Panasonic Corporation

Photo: Joe Flynn, Global Communications Specialist, Corporate PR Center, Panasonic Corporation

Japan is considered a homogenous society, so we tend to be big on equality. However, this approach overlooks each individual's unique characteristics. Being different is often regarded as a barrier.

In a global company like Panasonic, my experience leading global projects with colleagues from other countries has demonstrated to me that we are blessed with talented employees who bring different solutions and skill sets. As per our founder's words, we should make the most of our "collective wisdom" to solve complex social issues. To turn differences into values, we must shift from equality to equity to support the varying needs of each individual.

Inspired by Panasonic Europe's social impact group for women, as CEO I would recommend a global, cross-functional mentoring program where employees are matched with a mentor within Panasonic with extensive experience in a relevant area. Tapping into the group's large and diverse network could be an effective solution, particularly for underrepresented groups that are not getting the support they require.

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