Shirley Dong at Schneider Electric: A Female Technical Leader’s Career at a Crossroads

Siew Kim Jean Lee, Xin Zheng, Liman Zhao

Research output: Other contributionCase Studies


This case depicts the critical decisions Xingli Dong (Shirley) made during her career transition from a female Ph. D. in engineering to Energy Automation R&D VP of Schneider Electric and sparks a discussion on her next key decision for a career change. In this male-dominated field, she met a barrage of suspicion and setbacks during her growth from a female Ph. D. in engineering to the head of the R&D Center, especially in carrying out an eight-year-long project. Shirley insisted on leading the team with open-mindedness and inclusiveness, making rapid and incremental iterations through trial and error. The successful project delivery earned her the trust of the headquarters and an opportunity to lead the company’s global R&D business. The new position, however, required her to balance work and family and manage a global R&D team while working in China. With authentic leadership, she won the trust and recognition of her 300-strong cross-cultural R&D team; with empathy, she managed to close down a site in Poland. Inspired by other excellent female leaders, she continuously reflected on female executives’ unique strengths. In October 2021, Schneider Electric organized a 360 Leadership Assessment for senior executives, during which Shirley realized her weaknesses in strategic thinking would put her in a weaker position to exercise leadership in the long run. Shirley began to consider whether she should leverage her existing strengths in her existing role or venture out of her comfort zone to seek new opportunities. However, she had doubts about whether Schneider Electric would support her pivot into an innovation-related role, where she had no particular advantage.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2023

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Case type

Field Case

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Published by

China Europe International Business School


  • women in tech
  • diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
  • career choice
  • women leadership
  • sincere leadership

Case studies discipline

  • Human Resource Management
  • Organizational Behavior

Case studies industry

  • Manufacturing
  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services


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