We are pleased to introduce Krisztina Szigeti, ENERGY’s Senior Director of HR. As a certified human resources professional and high-ranking member of the management team here at ENERGY, we wanted to interview Krisztina about her experience promoting gender equality in the workplace. We also delve into some of the female role models that inspired her throughout her life and career.
So, without further ado, here is our interview with Krisztina Szigeti, CHRP.
Tell us a little about your background in HR
I was working as an assistant manager in a gas station, and it was then that I felt the call of human resources. In this role, I had the opportunity to assist the manager in human resources with everything from recruitment, hiring, payroll, and operational human resources management. I really felt this was something I saw myself doing as a career. So, I decided to go back to school. I enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program at HEC Montreal. It took me a while to complete my degree — I had three kids to take care of while studying but it was worth it.
Thankfully, my mother-in-law stepped in big time to help my husband and I take care of the kids while I was attending classes, studying in the evening (even at night) and my husband was working hard to make ends meet. I must say that without the help of my family and my husband’s family the road would have been much more difficult. I finally completed my degree in 2002 and had the chance to start my new career in HR.
It was an amazing sacrifice for my mother-in-law to give up working to take care of my kids while I went back to school to get my bachelor’s degree in HR. If it takes a village to raise a child, it took a family to help me go back to school.
Ten years later, after working in various HR functions and reaching management positions, I wanted to go back to school to consolidate my knowledge in human resources so I enrolled in a master’s degree in organizational development, which I completed in 2017 while working full-time.
Have you ever personally experienced, or had to deal with workplace discrimination because of gender? If yes, can you tell me a little more about that and the steps you took to address it?
I’ve been lucky in my career, and I haven’t personally had to deal with workplace discrimination because of gender. I am aware that while working in HR — which is a female dominated function — this could probably be less of an issue. Maybe it would have been different in a profession more male dominated. But it doesn’t mean that because it never happened to me that it doesn’t exist.
Not many will deny that women have made significant strides toward equality in the workplace, but we still have a long way to go until women are fully recognized on an equal footing with men for their contributions to the workforce.
Human resource professionals are in a unique position to provide the support that employees need to address gender discrimination and harassment. Our role is to ensure that there are proper checks and balances in the workplace to help to minimize even the appearance of gender discrimination.
Making sure things like promotions aren’t arbitrary decisions, but rather based on the merits of the candidate, and that everyone has their fair chance to apply for a position ensures that people have similar opportunities.
What challenges do employers face when trying to foster more gender equality, especially in more male dominated industries like transportation, and how can they overcome them?
It really comes to preparations, planning, education, and execution. But to enact meaningful changes, you need to act slowly and methodically. I never want to work in an environment that is confrontational, and I don’t want to start a crusade. You need to gradually set the stage and start the discussion.
And I owe a great deal to the many women who came before me. These women did a tremendous job setting the stage for me and now it’s my turn to set the stage for the next generation. There is no end. Trying to change the mindset is something that takes time and it’s a continuous process.
If changing the paradigm is part of your everyday conversations, it becomes second nature. You plant the seed, but you also need to water it. In change management, it’s always repeating and saying it in different ways.
You need to put in place actions that are disruptive, but not destructive.
It’s not about a show and then no follow-up. It’s continuous.
What does gender equality mean to you?
It’s about equal opportunities, based on what you bring to the table — not based on your gender. But to be able to create a world where that is truly possible for women, it must start with society.
If society doesn’t recognize equality for women, how can you expect companies to do the same?
The government has helped a lot to put in place different programs that recognize the place of women in the workplace. There needs to be strong policies that foster gender equality and to ensure employers cannot diminish mothers for going on a maternity leave or taking care of their children. You should never lose an opportunity for having a child.
Is there a woman, either historical or contemporary, that inspires you?
Of course, I’m going to talk about my mother since she has been my biggest inspiration. She was a working mother, and we had a similar path. Like me, she also decided to go back to school. In her case it was to law school.
My mother is a woman that has her own opinions and was always able to speak up for people who needed a voice. I think that’s why she went to law school, she wanted to give back.
I also admire the endless energy she has. She’s busier now that she’s retired than when she was working. She volunteers for three or four associations and one of them, the Association des Femmes Diplômées des Universités – Montérégie I also volunteer for. The AFDU promotes the education of girls and women from all backgrounds and it’s just one of the ways I like to give back to the community.
Why should someone work for ENERGY?
Because it’s the best place to work!
But what really motivates me everyday is how receptive the entire team is to differing perspectives. Also, the open mind and open door of senior management is both inviting and refreshing.
Like any organization, we still have things that we need to work on, but we have an action plan to make it better. And the highest levels of management at ENERGY back the plan — ensuring the changes we make will be long lasting and to the benefit of the company and its employees.
Interested in learning more about ENERGY Transportation Group? Get in touch with us today to discover the range of 3PL and warehousing services we offer.