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Embracing Inclusion – Driving Innovation : An Introduction

Evolving Themes of Women in Technology

Back in December 2010, Anne Hardy, Vice President, Technology Strategy, SAP Labs and I presented a TedxTalk in Palo Alto on “Participatory Collaboration” in the context of innovation and innovation projects.

For many years now, Anne Hardy has been in the vanguard of a movement that motivates and promotes women in what is commonly called STEM topics – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

As an example, Anne created educational opportunities for young women and teens in a Bay Area event called Dare 2 B Digital.  Anne is a longtime active member of organizations celebrating women in Technology, such as Grace Hopper, WITI (Women in Technology International) and Anita Borg Institute (see Anne Hardy’s bio ).

While amplifying the voice of women in technology and promoting the entry of more women into the technology sector are core themes that Anne and I share a passion for, we both agree that changing the gender quotient isn’t only about advocating for fuller participation of women in the technology industry as a necessary demographic change, despite our keen interest in WIT (Women in Technology) agendas. 

We’ve come to think about the topic of women in technology from the context of the business value of such inclusion of a broader spectrum of professionals in the innovation process.  In the spirit of meritocracy, we see inclusion as more of a business imperative, a differentiator and a competitive edge rather than the act of correcting an existing social imbalance or a checkmark on some perfunctory and perhaps even arbitrary quota list.

SAP Community Evolution of Inclusion

Back in 2006 when I helped launch the Business Process Expert Community and again in 2008 when I created the first Process Design Slam, I had dreamed of creating collaborations, both virtual and physical at the SAP TechEd events and in the SAP Community Network, where process designers, enterprise architects and business owners would collaborate in a rich exchange of ideas, skills, and practical solutions with software developers, technical consultants and user experience experts.  The idea was that an inclusive and diverse design and development environment would produce better and more viable products and foster superior innovative outcomes and solutions.

With the additions of the Business Process Expert (BPX) Community and the Business Analytics (BA) Community, the original SAP Developer Network (SDN) evolved into an inclusive environment called the SAP Community Network (SCN).  Last year’s Innovation Weekend and this year’s ensuing Innojams are outcomes of that “dream” of including a broader spectrum of people skills, mapped to business cases, enabled by new technologies.  Anne Hardy’s team took ownership of these participatory collaboration activities and have proliferated them around the world.

Women in Technology @SAP

In April of 2011, at one of the Hana Olympics in Palo Alto, showcasing employee collaborations using HANA, mentorette Karin Tillotson, Anne Hardy and I met with EVP Sanjay Poonen to discuss the viability of creating a special event at SAP TechEd 2011 for an emerging community group : Women in Technology@SAP.  Sanjay voiced his approval and assured us of his strong support of such initiatives.

Over the past few months, our thinking has evolved further.

Rather than isolate our efforts in an exclusive environment of “Women Only”, we have decided to expand the activities of Women in Technology @SAP to create real collaboration opportunities that are inclusive and diverse.

To that end we will be announcing the launch of a new SAP TechEd event called: Embracing Inclusion- Driving Innovation which will include a strong focus on Design Thinking (introduced to us by SAP Design Consultant and Service Innovation Program Manager: Heike van Geel)  and focusing on inclusiveness to drive innovation. In addition we will be partnering with the Americas SAP User Group (ASUG)  and ASUG’s CEO Bridgette Chambers to provide a virtual environment for business women.

More details about the event: Embracing Inclusion-Driving Innovation to be provided shortly, including agenda, dates and registration information.

The event is free to all SAP TechEd attendees and the first one will be held in SAP TechEd Las Vegas on Wednesday September 14th from 6:45 PM to midnight.

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    • I do, but there are things that "keep me up at night" .  Lack of inclusion is one of them.  Lack of innovation and disruptive thinking are others.  I can always count on you Trevor to pay attention to things that matter beyond the obvious workday chores.  Hope to meet you some day soon.
  • This initiative would help me have a dialog with my daughter, a rising junior in High School; she is brilliant in Math and Science but believes engineering is not cool. I know she'll do extremely well regardless of what she ends up pursuing. However not sure why she embraces "Exclusion of Engineering/Technology" from her list of options to major in College. An act of ignorance or a wise move by daughter ? This event I hope would help me understand a bit more.

    I met Anne recently; I'm planning to meet her again with my daughter before she graduates from high school in two years. I'm convinced that meeting would be helpful for my daughter.

    TechEd 2011 is exciting. Should TechEd be renamed as LifeEd? I'm wondering. InnoJam teaches several important aspects of life. Now this initiative would add at least one more.

    Thank you Marilyn for organizing this event.

    • It's a thanks to Anne, Karin, Heike, Dennis, Sanjay, Vijay V. and countless others 🙂
      I'm more than honored to be part.
      I think this is one elephant in the room that we are all ready to talk about.  Anne's initiatives can help your daughter understand what an exciting industry she can choose, if she wishes to.  I have a daughter that is in the NJ Institute of Technology where the ration is 80/20.  She loves her environment and loves the inclusion that she thinks is her key to the future.
  • I'm looking forward to it.  I can't wait to get the registration information.

    I too - wonder if you ever sleep.  I can go with little sleep at things like Teched.  But to do it all the time?  Now that takes talent.

    I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at Teched.  I'm starting to vibrate in place, and find my mind moving to Teched more often than not.   It's THE EVENT I look forward to every year.  I wait with my breath held every year - hoping my work will let me go.  Hoping my project schedule doesn't interfere until I get approval.

    This initiative makes me look forward to it even more!

    Thank you for never sleeping,


    • Michelle, I know this isn't PC (politically correct), but when I first met you online and at SAP TechEd, I thought: Whoopee! A real Technical Woman (which is the name of a blog that Karin and another techie woman, Anne Petteroe and I helped launch externally through the prompting of Dennis Howlett: Technically Women ).  We've come a long way, baby.  Much more inclusion in our events! Constellation CEO and blogger/analyst Ray Wang told me yesterday that 35 percent of his employees are women.  That's cool in this sector. And what's even cooler are the smart men partnering with smart women.
    • Sue, I thoroughly enjoyed the first time I saw you in action leading a dynamic community day interactive session.  I'll post a link to Streamwork collaboration with Heike.  She has been inviting interested folks to step up to the plate to learn in advance about Design Thinking and take lead in the Breakout Sessions. Karin is already doing this as is newest SAP mentor Pratik Talwar.
  • Marylin,

    you are onto something here. it's been long overdue, but now you are helping SAP stay at the forefront of not only technology, but human progress.

    the latter is sometimes hard to find in the corporate world, which is very traditional and happy to avoid harder issues surrounding us beyond our workplace.

    i stumbled in one of your outreach sessions in Berlin last year and was truly impressed.

    i wish all the luck in moving this forward.

    • Luck? No, your participation Greg is the ask.  You add tremendous value to the topic of inclusion, unique perspectives, non-typical thinking.  I always am challenged by your posts and prompts so I have some expectations to see you active in this. 🙂
  • Hi Marilyn,

    This is very exciting and it has been a pleasure and honor to work with you on this event.  Women in Technology has been an important topic for me throughout my career of 20 + years in technology.  I like the direction toward "inclusion" instead of "diversity" as this description is more welcoming.

    I am looking forward to SAP TechEd even more because of this event - excellent job!

    Thank you Marilyn for making this happen!

    Best Regards,

    • It's to you Karin that we owe thanks for driving this forward with such focus and intensity.  Clearly we follow your lead.  It's been our privledge to work with you on this and looking forward to your leading.
  • Hi Marilyn,

    So happy that you are having the big stage for your inclusion event. Can't wait to learn more about the innovation advantages when a diverse group is working together.

    See you there, Mark.

    • I know Mark, that you have been a champion of broadening your own programs to be inclusive.  I'm sure you can speak to the advantage of that directly.
  • Hi Marilyn,

    Can't thank you enough for organizing this and highlighting such a GREAT discussion!  Looking forward to attending!  See you then

    • I know there was some glitch (I think there actually was a "rush" to register) You should be able to click through now.  Hopefully the event, which almost instantly sold out, will let you do that.
      Let me know if there is a problem please.
  • Hi Marilyn,

    This is pretty cool and exciting. Will this be also organised in Bangalore tech-ed 2011?

    All my regards for such beautiful initiatives.


  • Hi Marilyn,
      You can contact me via any of the methods on my SDN business card.  Just following up on the offer to assist with the "Embracing Inclusion – Driving Innovation:" event in Madrid (assuming everything works out and it can be staged there).

    BTW, my first question after reading your blog was "What is Design Thinking ?" -


  • Hi Marilyn,

    This is an exciting activity that I can't wait to attend. As I am a technical woman with a business perspective, I believe I can be doing something in this regard. Please feel free to tell me what I can do to make this event happen in Madrid.

    All the best,