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Tech In Her Words: Talking Diversity and Inclusion With Hitachi Exec, Lorena Dellagiovanna

Marlene Spensley
Strategic Partner Manager at Hitachi Vantara

May 12, 2021

For this special edition of Tech In Her Words, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hitachi, Ltd.’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Officer, Lorena Dellagiovanna. Not only does Lorena lead D&I, but she’s also the Deputy Chief Environmental Officer and Deputy General Manager of Government and External Relations Group of Hitachi, Ltd.

In our conversation, we talk about how Lorena’s experience working internationally across businesses exposed to her diverse cultures and fields, preparing her for this moment in her career. We discuss Hitachi’s approach to D&I and why it’s a business imperative. Lorena also shares her candid thoughts on how the Pareto principle may apply to minorities, including women in tech. Continue reading to find out how!

If you’re interested in hearing more from Lorena, be sure to register for our upcoming Hitachi Social Innovation Forum. She’ll be joining us on May 25, 2021, to talk about how diversity and inclusion is the growth engine and source of Hitachi’s innovation. Don’t miss her session: Powering Good for a Better Society.

Marlene Spensley: Lorena, you’ve had a long and successful career with Hitachi. Could you tell me about the roles you’ve held and how you think they have prepared you for your current position as Hitachi’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer?

Lorena Dellagiovanna: Yes, I’ve had a long career at Hitachi. I’ve had the chance to grow professionally in many different fields. The first phase of my career was in the finance organization. Early on, I was responsible for Italy, and later, the Southern Europe region. I then took a European role and moved to the U.K., where I touched diversity on a daily basis because I was naturally interacting with so many different cultures. So having experience in a multibusiness environment like Hitachi, which is operating in such diverse fields, and then adding the opportunity to work in different regions and countries and interacting with different cultures – I think that prepared me for my current role, because I really understand what diversity means and what it can bring in terms of benefit to the business.

Marlene Spensley: That’s fantastic. And how’s your experience in this new role so far? What does a typical day look like for you?

Lorena Dellagiovanna: What I love about my career is that every day is a learning session, because this is a new role and a new life for me, as I am living in Tokyo now. I have also been appointed as Deputy Chief Environmental Officer, so I’m now working more with environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and sustainability, which are kind of “new” topics for the company, and for me too. It’s all about learning and growing. I’m actually also learning Japanese right now because I think it’s very important to challenge yourself, especially when you’re in a new role, and to better understand the country you live in and its culture.

My typical day is very busy. I spend a lot of time meeting people at every level within the company, as well as external stakeholders. I’ve been leading a lot of roundtables to better understand the younger generation and the potential for new talent. For me, it’s very important to listen to the challenges, concerns and aspirations of everyone at every level, and implement a program which meets both employee and business requirements.

For me, it’s very important to listen to the challenges, concerns and aspirations of everyone at every level, and implement a program which meets both employee and business requirements.

Marlene Spensley: It sounds fascinating. Diversity means a lot of different things, including gender, ethnicity and age, which, as you point out, are all important. When we look at women, in particular, and especially women of color, we know they’re vastly underrepresented in the tech industry, having typically less than 25% of all jobs in the industry. Have you faced challenges as a woman in tech? And if so, how have they affected you?

Lorena Dellagiovanna: I’ve certainly faced a lot of challenges. But the way for me to overcome those has always been to focus on my goal. I’ve worked in a very male-dominated industry; Hitachi operates mostly in engineering, manufacturing, and is heavily industry focused, and so what I’ve done is determined that I don’t have to compete, I just have to complete.

I do think that if you focus on the goal, focus on your job, and focus on the passion you have, and work as a team, you can really overcome these challenges. I appreciate that women have typically less than 25% of all jobs in the industry, and that some work has to be done to improve that as well as other diversity dimensions, however even if in a minority, you can still bring an important contribution and make a difference. The Pareto principle (or 80/20) states that 80% of results usually come from the 20%. I like this concept as I think it could help to inspire and motivate minorities.

Marlene Spensley: Yes. And I love your comment, “don’t compete just complete.” I’m definitely going to use that! As a woman in a leadership position, how has your past experience in the tech industry guided your leadership style and philosophy?

Lorena Dellagiovanna: I think that the leadership style I have today is the result of interacting with so many people throughout my career — being in touch with different industries and with different cultures. Through my experience, I’ve learned that people are the most important asset for a company. If you’re able to engage employees and stakeholders in the right way, that’s when a company is really successful.

Marlene Spensley: And in that management position, how have you found it best to promote and nurture a diverse and inclusive workplace?

Lorena Dellagiovanna: The best way to cultivate an inclusive workplace is to create an environment where everyone can be his or her self and everyone has the chance to really express their opinions and their perspectives. One important dimension is the culture; if you don’t understand the biases that exist, you can never nurture a diverse and inclusive workplace. I always say that diversity is the strategy, but inclusion is the goal. Because you can appoint and recruit diverse talent, but if they find a hostile environment, they will never be productive or successful, which negatively impacts the company overall.

I always say that diversity is the strategy, but inclusion is the goal.

Marlene Spensley: Why do you think diversity is such a business imperative? And how does a diverse and inclusive organization cultivate a successful business?

Lorena Dellagiovanna: First of all, Hitachi is a listed company, and investors, not only the institutional ones, are using diversity and inclusion as a major driver in their choices, in the same way that they consider environmental issues.

Moreover, there are plenty of statistics showing that there is a strong correlation between the success of diversity and inclusion and a business’ financial results, in terms of improved performance in the market as well as engagement of employees and attraction of new talent. So, it’s not just coming from investors, but it’s the correlation in terms of business growth and financial performance. Customers as well are now selecting partners and suppliers based on the D&I element.

And then if we think of Hitachi’s aspirations — the mission of Hitachi since its establishment in 1910 has been to develop cutting-edge technology for social infrastructures to improve quality of life and contribute to society. And now that we’re a global company, we aim to provide solutions that help solve our growing global challenges in a rapidly changing market. You cannot do that with a monoculture anymore, you need diverse talent from across the globe for a successful business, because this will bring the company much closer to the customers and much closer to society’s needs.

Marlene Spensley: Yes. It’s absolutely critical. So what initiatives are being implemented by Hitachi to increase diversity and what are your primary goals for our D&I program?

Lorena Dellagiovanna: We are focused on five key pillars, based on internal baseline assessment and comparison with our peers globally: leadership commitment, culture, recruitment, retention and advancement. Starting with leadership commitment, our aim is to create value for internal and external stakeholders. We’ve made commitments with respect to communication, both internally and externally, because it’s very important to let people know what Hitachi is doing in terms of diversity. This helps attract and retain investors, customers and talent.

There are several initiatives around recruiting. For example, implementing blind recruiting where recruiters select applicants without knowing their gender, nationality, or age, and differentiated approaches across many non-traditional channels with better trained recruiters and talent sources. We also have a number of initiatives around retention, because again, if we invest in developing talent and/or in recruitment and then employees leave because of poor culture, we are wasting our time and losing money. One of these initiatives involves supporting employee resource groups, for example. We’re also working to implement talent exchange programs to give employees the opportunity to work in international environments and interact with different cultures.

And finally, in terms of advancement, we’re looking at programs to develop talent and cultivate leaders, with a fair and transparent process across the whole Hitachi Group globally.

With these programs, we’re hoping to speed up the development of young talent and to empower women to be more confident, take risks and take on new roles and responsibilities, even if they don’t think they’re covering all the requirements of that role.

Marlene Spensley: That’s fantastic. And my final question, I wondered if there’s any advice you would give to young women and girls today, particularly those that are looking to enter male-dominated fields and careers?

Lorena Dellagiovanna: Immediately get out of your comfort zone. I did it, and it’s been challenging, but it can teach you a lot. Take risks without being afraid to make mistakes – a failure is permanent when you stop trying. That’s the first piece of advice. The second is to be curious, open, passionate, and to push yourself to see things in a different way. I am a very curious person, and I try to surround myself not just with people who share the same traits as myself, but also much more diverse people, and take the best from each of them.

I am a very curious person, and I try to surround myself not just with people who share the same traits as myself, but also much more diverse people, and take the best from each of them.

Marlene Spensley: Great advice. Well, thank you, Lorena. It’s been fascinating talking to you today, you’ve certainly inspired me and I’m sure many more women, too! I wish you every success with achieving your D&I vision at Hitachi and all the amazing benefits that follow.

Lorena Dellagiovanna: Thank you so much, and I do hope we achieve our vision as well! It could make a big difference for all of us as individuals and professionals, and make Hitachi a sustainable, successful company.

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 Lorena Dellagiovanna is Vice President and Executive Officer, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO), Deputy Chief Environmental Officer and Deputy General Manager of Government and External Relations Group of Hitachi, Ltd. She is acting Chief Executive for Italy and Director of the Board of several Hitachi Group Companies in Italy and Hitachi Europe Ltd., the Hitachi European headquarters. Since joining Hitachi, she has worked in a multibusiness environment, gaining experience in different fields and business schemes. She was appointed Finance Director of the Group for Southern Europe in 2007 and in 2010 became the inaugural Director of the Shared Services business of the Group for Europe in the Hitachi European headquarters.

 Marlene Spensley is a Strategic Partner Manager at Hitachi Vantara, developing the UKI channel ecosystem to build incremental profitable revenues with our partners. Marlene has spent her career within the technology channel, working within a number of large partners and distributors. She has a background in hybrid multicloud, DevOps and digital transformation and is passionate about the potential of technology innovation. Marlene was a recent TechWomen100 winner and is an advocate for women in technology.

Marlene Spensley

Marlene Spensley

Marlene Spensley is Strategic Partner Manager at Hitachi Vantara.