March 13, 2014 — Welcome to the latest in our series of #WomenCan profiles, highlighting executives and experts who are transforming workplaces and are Catalysts for change within their companies and fields. This week, the spotlight is on Silvia E. Bohrisch, Global Diversity Networks Manager, Siemens AG, Erlangen, Germany.
Meet: Silvia E. Bohrisch, Global Diversity Networks Manager, Siemens AG, Erlangen, Germany
Early influences: When I was younger, I never really knew what I wanted, but I knew very well what I did not want. Coming from a rural, predominantly blue-collar village in northern Bavaria, I knew that I did not want to grow old there. With the “wall” right in front of me for nearly 19 years, I no longer wanted to feel fenced in. Nor did I want to end up like the women in my family—tied to the kitchen and having to ask for pocket money. That meant I had to put myself through school without much encouragement from family or friends.
Breaking barriers: Back then, the prevailing thought was that women would just get married and didn’t need an education. My escape plan involved studying hard and getting a good education, as well as a lot of courage, a bit of luck, and a lot of believing in myself and my dreams. With my high school diploma and a job offer in my pocket, I flew to the United States, which to me meant freedom and opportunity.
Unusual path: My career path has been an unusual one. It is characterized by taking chances, challenging myself, and exploring unfamiliar territory. After my studies in the United States and Spain, as well as some work abroad, I returned to Germany to get a degree in philology and started my career as Marketing Communications Manager at Siemens AG, where I have worked in a variety of departments and functions.
My champions: Throughout my career at Siemens, I’ve been fortunate to meet many outstanding, motivational people who inspired me. I learned a lot from them, but the best teachers of all were and are my direct reports. Each of them is different, each likes to be led differently, and each has made me a better leader. Each member’s uniqueness is what makes our team so powerful. That realization got me interested in Diversity and Inclusion as a business imperative and led me to the position I have today: Global Diversity Networks Manager for the Chief Diversity Office of Siemens.
Opening doors for others: With our Siemens Diversity networks, we bring like-minded people together to exchange experiences, share knowledge, create ideas, and support one another in daily business and personal challenges, thereby transforming the workplace into an inclusive and inspiring environment. Some of these networks, like the Global Leadership Organization of Women (GLOW) focus specifically on advancing women into leadership roles. In addition to the networks we have several programs and trainings to promote women.
Best advice: Trust your instincts, like what you do, accept challenges, and embrace change as something positive. Mentors and sponsors are great sources of feedback and advice. I found that listening to my mentors and sponsors and adapting when necessary, whilst maintaining my personal uniqueness, are two of the secret ingredients for success. Your story may take many different paths, but it always begins and ends with you.
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