“As Covestro continues to build a more diverse and inclusive culture, our strategy is rooted in three primary focus areas – colleagues, company and community. By engaging our colleagues, we strive to build a strong, diverse and innovative workforce. We look for bright people with bright ideas. And we aim to keep them here by fostering an inclusive company culture – one in which employees feel valued, supported and heard. But our commitment to diversity and inclusion extends beyond the company walls. We’re engaging customers, suppliers and the broader community, as we look for opportunities to develop genuine relationships that support our business objectives while strengthening diversity.” Dina Clark, Head of Diversity and Inclusion North America.
A company is nothing without its people. At Covestro, we strive to bring together colleagues with diverse backgrounds and expertise to create a workplace where everyone feels at home. In this issue, we meet Natalee Smith, Senior Associate Scientist, Product and Technical Services Group, CAS NAFTA, and hear about what diversity means for her within the workplace and beyond.
Natalee, tell us a bit about yourself and what life at Covestro is like
I’ve been at Covestro for three years now. I’m from Jamaica but came to the US for college and grad school so have been here for several years – though I’m still getting used to winters in Pittsburgh! My experiences at Covestro have involved glimpses into all business units, gaining lots of hands-on experience and meeting lots of new people in different functions, from regulatory affairs to production plants. It’s this mix of people and perspectives that makes my job so exciting.
What does diversity mean to you personally?
Diversity means different things to different people and also varies per region. But for me, it’s about being respected for your opinions, your contributions and your personhood, and being treated as an individual, free from assumptions based on your race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. A diverse workplace means interacting with people from all backgrounds. We’re a global company so we need to be represented by people from all corners of the earth.
How does Covestro foster a working environment that encourages diversity and inclusion?
Our mission is to be curious, courageous and colorful, which means active talent recruitment of people from all walks of life. It also means having strong networks in place to support employees. That’s why we set up Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for various communities from veterans to LGBT. Our aim here is to encourage diverse opinions and to develop members on a personal and professional level, either through workshops on things like unconscious bias or sharing practical tips on, for example, preparing for an internal job interview.
I’m a member of the Leadership Team for the ACCESS group, an ERG focusing on creating African American and African Diaspora cultural awareness within Covestro. One way in which our group actively supports the business objectives of Covestro is through community outreach. We visit elementary schools in Pittsburgh at least twice a year to encourage students to pursue a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Science is still a very male- and often white-dominated area and many children lack examples of females or scientists who look like they do. We try to challenge this view and to turn science from something elite or abstract into something fun and attainable.
Should diversity initiatives come from above or below?
The commitment towards a diverse workplace needs to be a communal effort, because everybody thrives in a workplace where they feel like they belong. At Covestro, our leadership team has played a major role in championing diversity initiatives and bringing everyone on board. Individuals like Dina Clark and Christine Bryant have brought fresh energy and purpose to our diversity mission and are showing that diversity is more than words but something we really need to live and breathe.
How do companies and employees benefit from diversity?
It’s simple: the more diverse our community is, the more enriching our work becomes. A variety of perspectives are so much better than one, especially when it comes to problem-solving and creative approaches. I also think a diverse workplace has a positive impact on much more than your day job. Once you encounter and appreciate differences in your workplace, you can view the rest of the world and the people in it with much more tolerance. So at the end of the day, by creating an inclusive workplace, we’re doing our bit to make a more inclusive world.
Diversity is our strength
Inclusion is our commitment
Innovation is our direction