Improving the diversity pipeline and promoting an inclusive workplace


Prasha Sarwate Dutra, Product Development Manager at Prysmian Group’s plant in Lincoln, Rhode Island, got the idea for her podcast “Her STEM Story” in 2017 when she tried to inspire a 14-year-old cousin by pointing out that all of the bridesmaids at her wedding worked in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math).

“There are so many amazing stories,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘what if I started telling them, instead of focusing on the gender gap and trying to reach the women not in STEM?’ I think the problem could be solved much faster if we focus on the women who are already here.”

Prasha has been named Deputy Leader on the Prysmian Group’s Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee, and will work closely with Committee Leader Aysun Kalmik to promote the Group’s policies and actions internally, and supporting HR in designing specific training and development initiatives to support diversity and inclusion.

Given the popularity of STEM careers in India for both genders, Prasha says she never felt like an outsider. She was good at math as a young girl in New Delhi, and encouraged by both parents to study and excel. Being an engineer was always a goal, and she wants to share her enthusiasm with other women who are thinking of a STEM career or are already in one.

“My dad encouraged me,” she recalled. “We used to watch ‘How Its Made’ on Discovery Channel.”

Prasha came to the United States in 2012 to earn a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas, and joined Prysmian Group in 2014. In her job at Prysmian Group’s plant in Lincoln, she is responsible for the development and design of the Carol Cable brand rubber cords.

It’s “urgent and important” to get more girls and women into STEM, as Prasha said in her TEDx talk in October 2020. The problem is getting them to stay, she pointed out – nearly 50% of undergrad degree programs are made up of women, but then women account for only 28% of the actual STEM workforce.

“We are getting more girls in a bucket that’s leaking,” she said at her TEDx talk. For women to stay in STEM, perhaps what they need are role models as they move ahead in their career, she says.

Her familiarity with women in STEM issues will shape her approach her new role, she says. She sees her goal on the Diversity & Inclusion Committee as “adding to the generational diversity, the diversity of our industry, the diversity of our region. And gender diversity on top of it,” she said.

Prysmian Group aims to have up to 18% of its management comprised of women in 2022, up from 13% in 2020.

Achieving these targets will a top focus for the 20-member Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which brings together the group’s regional chiefs, leaders of business units, Chief Sustainability Officer Maria Cristina Bifulco, Senior VP, Chief R&D Officer Srini Siripurapu and the Group’s Chief HR Officer Fabrizio Rutschmann.

The Committee will collaborate closely with the 12 “Local Sustainability Ambassadors” which are located in each region around the globe where Prysmian does business.

Creating a healthy hiring pipeline to get more diversity into the company is an area that needs attention. But that’s just the start, says Prasha. Programs for work/life balance are also important. And dealing with unconscious bias by helping people recognize their own blind spots is key to creating a workplace where everyone can prosper.

“I think diversity is just the tip of the iceberg. I think inclusion is the key,” she said. "You can have a diverse place with people with a lot of different backgrounds, but if people don’t feel included, then they leave. So, I think this conversation we are having  around inclusion and
how to recognize bias is important.”

Prasha Sarwate Dutra

Product Development Manager – T&I and Group Deputy Diversity & Inclusion Leader