ABB’s Deni Miller talks diversity and inclusion in Catalyst Q+A

Deni Miller talks about her role as leader of Encompass Women, one of ABB's employee resource groups.

Deni Miller joined ABB with the acquisition of GE Industrial Systems in 2018. She now works as Senior Vice President, Marketing and Sales: Electrical Distribution and is also the US leader of ABB’s Encompass Women employee resource group (ERG). Recently, Deni and ABB were recognized for her work in driving equality at ABB by Catalyst, an advocacy group focusing on gender equity in the workplace.

Deni sat down for a conversation with Andrea Tatum, Catalyst Senior Director, Corporate Engagement to talk about her experience at ABB and in particular with Encompass Women.

Deni Miller

How do you ensure the work you’re doing with ERGs at ABB isn’t in silo?

It’s been a journey. Over the past 18 months, we’ve actually built out seven ERGs under the Encompass umbrella: Black employees, LatinX, Pride, Military and Allies, Seniors, and Young Professionals. I think success comes down to intersectionality, how we come together.

For example, 50% of Encompass members are part of more than one group, and we’ve had activities sponsored by multiple groups like an anti-racism panel that was sponsored by four of our Encompass groups.


In terms of growing ERG membership, how do you partner with leadership and D&I teams to ensure ERG activities are in line with company goals?

That’s been a learning process, too. Things have ramped up over the past 18 months as the various Encompass groups have been built out. The key was having a local voice joining with corporate, and also having executive sponsorship.

I have to credit our CEO, Bjorn Rosengren—he came [in 2019] and was extremely vocal about equality. Gender equality in particular is very important to him personally. His 2030 D&I plan allows for autonomy among ABB’s local businesses on implementation but it’s all under a corporate-wide strategy.

ERGs have helped define what our policies need to be, based on local input, and our global head of D&I helped to set the framework. There are some things employees can do, but it’s still a heavy lift to manifest policy changes, so ABB launched a D&I Council at the end of 2020 that is made up of ten senior leaders who ensure that policy changes take place.


The pandemic has shifted the way companies work, how people interact, and how ERGs are able to function—how are you keeping momentum going?

It’s hard to remember what “normal” was, to be honest. We’ve learned to adapt, but actually eight of our 28 Encompass chapters have always been remote.

We had high aspirations for 2020, including a Global Encompass Summit that would bring all of our ERGs together, but most activities now are remote. For example, following on International Women’s Day, we have a speaking series every week in March with external speakers talking to us on topics like, unconscious bias, building networks and sponsorship, and how to be an ally.

We’re working remotely with our external partnerships [e.g., Girl Scouts and the Society of Women Engineers] too. In fact, participation has increased—people have learned how to flourish in this environment.


How will you keep engagement high post-pandemic?

That will be “Encompass 2.0” I think. We want to continue to see membership going up, to keep building executive support. Our top priority is connecting members to one another, building networks. Encompass is maturing, too—we’re looking at issues like governance now, by-laws, broader policies. We’ve shined a light on some difficult conversations, but they’re necessary. Employees want to get involved, but they want to know it’s a priority.

There are 1440 minutes in a day—it’s all about how you use the time. If there’s a priority, if you have a passion and it’s authentic, it becomes natural. The professional experiences with ERG have bled into my personal life. It makes you a more aware, inclusive individual—if we all did this, it would be a much better world.


What are you most proud of that Encompass Women has accomplished?

So many things. Our group has gone from 50 to 850 members in less than two years and we’ve put together programming that has touched people and given them the courage to make ABB and their local communities better. It’s an honor to be involved. It’s a testament to the employees at ABB and specifically the Board of Directors who’ve laid out not only a framework for policies but what success looks like. Catalyst has been a big help, too. If we learn from each other and implement best practices this will continue to grow.


Any final thoughts?

Looking back to 18 months ago, we didn’t have every answer. We didn’t know what the path forward looked like. The key is to get the right people together. Those who’ve gotten involved in Encompass have brought passion and leadership and they’ve sparked a movement.


Watch a video clip from the interview:

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About the author

Bob Fesmire

Bob Fesmire is a Content Manager at ABB, based in Cary, North Carolina. He has written more than 150 articles and white papers on a variety of topics including energy efficiency, industrial automation and big data. In addition to his work at ABB, Bob is also the co-author of Energy Explained, a non-technical introduction to all aspects of the energy industry.
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