Dyson is innovative, futuristic and disruptive. And despite already breaking boundaries in technology and beauty, Peggy Elsrode, President, Americas at Dyson, told WWD that the engineers behind Dyson products are always looking at what’s next, pioneering future technology and solving problems others seem to ignore.
This engineering mindset reaches across all areas at Dyson from its technology to its people. When Elsrode joined the company in early 2020, she was the highest-level female at Dyson – a challenge that inspired her to lead by example and make an impact. Before coming to Dyson, Elsrode told WWD she had benefited from having many strong female leaders to look up to and provide mentorship, male mentors that supported her growth and diverse experiences working abroad.
These different experiences provided a spectrum of understanding in the dynamics of socialization between males and females within different cultures. When you lead negotiations with big players outside of your own culture you must adapt, listen to understand and clearly communicate. These lessons in leadership have resulted in an empathetic, collaborative leadership style.
Today, Elsrode is no longer the only senior female leader at Dyson. She is now one of four women at the executive level and is heading up an Americas Leadership team that is 41 percent female. Her accomplishments in bringing more women in at a higher level is supporting Dyson’s mission to think differently and never settle.
“I decided to be the leader that I sometimes needed,” said Elsrode. “When you look at the responsibilities of family, career, complexity of our everyday lives, I’ve made a conscious decision to give support with those challenges.”
Chloe Jaji, Americas diversity, equity and inclusion manager at Dyson, says the most important work the team does is look at employees as a “whole person.” This 360-approach grounds the mission, ensuring that the company is always improving.
“It’s a constant challenge for ourselves,” said Jaji. “It’s not only looking at training and development, but it’s also considering having nursing rooms for mothers that are returning to work or asking ‘what do females need in the workplace? What policies, reward structures and internal systems really support our efforts to empower women in the workplace?‘”
“When you talk about women in power, it is the obligation for women and for all leaders to be open and honest,” said Elsrode. “I can tell when someone is struggling. They have huge ambition at work but there are moments when they need to prioritize what is going on at home/personally, which is where leading with empathy comes in.”
In her career, Elsrode said that some actions taken to empower women come naturally, while others are designed and a conscious choice.
“My biggest focus is providing opportunities that can either enhance or build skill sets and leadership capabilities,” said Elsrode. “I see the differences in male vs female behavior due to the way we are socialized, such as not being assertive because you feel the need to be liked, and that’s where I can provide coaching and feedback. I look for stretch opportunities to foster future growth and I never diminish other women. We may not always be on the same path, but I never want to minimize other women for their efforts, their contributions or their impact. That also means speaking out when you see gender bias, or any kind of bias.”
Dyson Americas has a strong representation of 55 percent female across all levels, but Jaji told WWD the company has also put in place programs that help everyone understand how to be more inclusive in every way. The goal of these programs is to create an environment where diverse team members can thrive together.
The company’s formal mentorship program, which pairs talent with other leaders in the business to give professional feedback, is a large part of this. Dyson also offers a global sponsorship program, which pairs talent with leaders in the business with the aim of making sure they have advocates that get their names in rooms where they are not necessarily present.
“The program is directly tied to our DEI goal to support more females in leadership positions across the company,” said Jaji. “While mentorship is really valuable in terms of the personal connection and development, ultimately, what we’re holding ourselves accountable to is how many of those women that are going through those programs are ultimately getting promoted. That starts with making sure that our senior leaders are aware of the female talent that we have in the organization.”
“We have an obligation within our industry, and we believe that it’s the right thing to do, to make sure that women are in positions of leadership. But we also consider all our employees and shift from this idea that you feel you have to hide who you are to fit in to become the person that we expect you to be at work,” said Jaji. “For us, no matter how you interact with us, you will see DEI reflected in the way that we treat you as a customer and the way that we treat you as one of our employees, and that you’re able to really show up as your authentic self and thrive. We believe that will allow us to continue to pioneer disruptive, breakthrough technologies and new categories.”
To that end, being in technology, Elsrode told WWD, it is vital we have diversity, because “technology is going to impact and disrupt every aspect of the economy. Diversity in leaders and teams make every business more innovative. We need more women in STEM – it’s the future and we need to be part of it.”
By creating an inclusive workforce, Dyson has been able to share diverse thinking with its consumers as well. The company stands as a leader in the industry for its constant efforts to listen to its consumers’ needs, considering people from all ethnicities, genders and nationalities. For example, with beauty tools, this has meant conducting focus groups with people with all hair types where Dyson engineers can learn from the consumer about their unique needs. Tangible results have included new attachments for Dyson hair tools like the Wide-tooth comb attachment designed to support styling for those with curly or coily hair.
Elsrode and Jaji enthusiastically agreed that Dyson’s strategy is always evolving, always growing and always solving new problems – they never settle.
“I can guarantee that Dyson is not a follower,” said Elsrode. “We lead, disrupt and challenge ourselves.”
“It’s just the beginning,” agreed Jaji. “But it’s a really exciting start and we believe that the work we’re doing is going to shape the future.”
Dyson’s continued commitment to pioneering its DEI initiatives through tangible impact, along with a dedication to creating a culture where women can thrive, is a model of women in power.