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Why International Women’s Day Matters: She’s “bossy,” “aggressive,” “selfish,” or is she a great leader?

Like many working moms, it was a typical day – incredibly busy, intense multi-tasking and time for a quick call to my child’s teacher about a girl that had been bullying her.  In the teacher’s words – “That other little girl is bossy, and we say ‘take the saucy out of bossy.’ You can rest assured we are working on that issue with her parents.”  Saucy out of Bossy? I have no idea what that means – I fought every ounce of my desire to immediately lecture this teacher –jump up on my pedestal citing the many reports that I read on a daily basis about these gender stereotypes – especially damaging for young girls.  I can tell this is going to be a long school year, but I’m committed to doing what I can to help turn the tide with respect to these stereotypes.

This is why International Women’s Day (March 8th), and Women’s History Month (observed in the U.S., U.K. and Australia) are so important.

These gender stereotypes are powerfully illustrated in this Pantene commercial that went viral. Stereotypes start young. We grow up with them, and they are hindering us to become strong leaders, innovative organizations and a force for positive change in the world. Throughout March, we are delighted to share global perspectives from SAP’s Business Women’s Network (BWN) chapters around the world.   There will be a rolling thunder blog series in which each BWN will post a blog every day of March, highlighting a powerful story from a local BWN champion or highlighting a local program or event around women that’s driving impact.  

Please watch the Sustainability area of SAP’s Community Network and read our daily BWN blogs throughout March!

Please get involved and share your experience and insights on the gender diversity and gender intelligence front.


Nicole McCabe, Lead for Gender Intelligence on the Global Diversity & Inclusion Team

Also – please enjoy some fun and eye opening fast facts as we kick-off 2014 International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month:

1) The United Nations began observing International Women’s Day, March 8, in 1975

2) The World Economic Forum just reported that companies with the most females officers have returns 34% greater than those that do not have gender diverse leadership.

3) In 1910 the first international women’s conference was held in Copenhagen

4) LinkedIn’s WhatwomenWant@Work study, found 65% of women want flexible work arrangements – only 28% of employers offer them, 51% of women have no clear career path.

5) Mary Queen of Scots has been attributed to creating the world’s first golf course

6) Researchers have claimed that women speak about 20,000 words a day on average. It’s just 7,000 for men.

7) Women make up nearly two thirds of the worlds 759 million illiterate adults

8) On average, across 121 countries with available data, women account for 29 percent of researchers, and only 15% of countries have achieved gender parity.

9) In 2012, female full-time workers made only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 23 percent (IWPR).

10) Women make up half of the world’s population and yet represent a staggering 70% of the world’s poor.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      "Take the saucy out of bossy?" I wonder what was that supposed to mean- they plan to teach that outspoken little girl to keep her mouth shut and stay in her place? It is disappointing to read that little girls are still being put down in the schools as "bossy." I had hoped that things might have improved since all those many years ago when I was in school and assertive little girls were routinely labeled as "bossy." How common is it for a boy to be called "bossy?" Funny how they don't seem to think that little boys who demonstrate budding assertive leadership skills are a problem. The little boy grows up to be called a "go-getter" in the workforce, where the girl grows up to be labeled "unladylike," "a b*ll-buster", or worse. Thanks for fighting these stereotypes.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Gretchen - couldn't agree more! Has anyone else had this experience?

      Author's profile photo Moya Watson
      Moya Watson

      Excellent.  And I learned some provocative statistics on "women in tech in the rest of the world" at the amazing conference I attended last week -- --

      For example: the country with the highest percentage of women who study computer science?  Myanmar.  60%.  In the US, we're at a dismal 18%.

      Which country has the highest percentage of women as university students in general? Saudi Arabia: 60%.

      Clearly we can look to the rest of the world for inspiration during International Women's Month.

      thanks Nicole


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Wow Moya! Those are some surprising statistics thank you for sharing! Hear the Lesbian Who Tech event was amazing as well! thanks for inspiring us all!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Moya, interesting post with the stats and all, but I have to wonder if stats without perspective may be more misleading than anything ... Saudi Arabia is hardly a country that I would look to as inspiring for women. I would be happy to see them be allowed to do something as basic as a drive a car!

      Author's profile photo Moya Watson
      Moya Watson

      All too true, Linda.  And the basic concern is also that despite education, women aren't getting the jobs afterwards.

      Here was the additional perspective offered by Ann Mei:

      Perhaps the statistics in the Middle East are the most surprising as we have an image of the mideast as being particularly repressive for women.  That is certainly the case, but what’s interesting is that in many of those societies, as surprising number of women go to college and in fact study computer science.  This may be because men become entrepreneurs or head overseas more often.  Or, perhaps women see few other options available to them.

      Unfortunately, after college, women’s prospects remain bleak as there are significant barriers to finding jobs and severe limitations to their ability to contribute in the workplace.

      Let's hope the educational trend of the last few decades in the Middle East are a harbinger of the future for women.



      Author's profile photo Steffi Warnecke
      Steffi Warnecke

      Hello Nicole,

      this was a great read! I'm a big fan of "fun facts"-lists, so I appreciated the one given by you. That was a wide-spread list of facts I have to say. Very cool.

      I must admit, I didn't even know about "International Women’s Day", Well, I know there is a Women's Day, but I can never remember when those things are. 😀

      The story, you mentioned, is gladly not something I have experienced myself, but if we look at movies and advertisment, gender roles are visible everywhere. Just look for female heroes in movies or games and you'll see, that they are outnumbered by the smart/strong/whatever male hero by far.

      I'm very curious now to read the other blogs and will keep my eyes open for the rest of the month to not miss the rest, that will still be coming. Since I'm always interested in cool stories, I'm pretty sure I will like what I can find for this topic here. 🙂

      Oh, I have one small experience with gender roles in my work life:

      Some years ago when I was still working in system and network administration a meeting was scheduled with a (male) consultant for one of our new IT projects. My boss was there and me, too. And you should have seen the face of that guy, when we started the meeting and he realized, that I wasn't the secretary who was just writing the protocol, but that I was the project lead. 😀 My boss had quite some fun pointing him to me, because the consultant concentrated fully on him. I kid you not, for a moment he was speechless and completly confused.

      I just love that story. Still makes my day today. 😆



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Steffie! Your story made me laugh out loud.  Sadly this is too frequently true, but I loved that you and your manager really played off of I! Thanks for your passion and if you ever what more "facts" let me know - plenty more where they came from:)

      Author's profile photo Jelena Perfiljeva
      Jelena Perfiljeva

      Nicole, thank you for writing this!

      Women Day was celebrated for as long as I can remember in the USSR and was one of the major holidays. In the flower shops there were long lines of men buying first spring flowers (usually tulips or daffodils) for their wives and mothers. And if they didn't get those flowers they'd be in huge trouble. 🙂 On the same day men were also expected to do all the household chores so that women could relax (in reality this usually ended with my grandma cooking big celebratory dinner, but that's another story). However, on March 9th we were back to the everyday realities where things like the rape jokes were acceptable.

      The most important thing we can do is to stop propagating those stereotypes. To add to the Steffi's story - one of our lead network specialists is not only a woman but also a very attractive and well-dressed one. When we had the first meeting together and she started talking I immediately found myself surprised that she sounded very smart and sharp. But why was that a surprise? Simply based on her lookI've already dismissed her abilities ("meh, what could that bimbo say about the network infrastructure?"). And I'm a woman myself! Where did that even come from?! There is a lot of work for us to do, ladies. 🙂

      P.S. Maybe this month would be a good time for women of SAP to get a designated space on SCN, so that we don't have to share with the recycling initiatives? 🙂

      Author's profile photo Steffi Warnecke
      Steffi Warnecke

      I guess, even if we don't like it, the constant exposure to thoughts like that (good looking people can't be smart, too) have found their way into our thinking. But at least that is something we are consious about and can work on. I just have an issue with people, who think that and don't think, this is a problem.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      What a wonderful story of how it is celebrated in other parts of the world! I think we have come a long way, and there is a lot to celebrate, but we still have a long way to go. Thank you for sharing your story, sometimes I think us women are our own worst enemies! WE can really accomplish so much when we support one another and provide inspiration!

      PS - I will talk to the SCN tem about your recommendation 😉

      Author's profile photo John Appleby
      John Appleby

      At the risk of getting it all wrong... here's my perspective.

      I studied Computer Science in the UK in 1995. My recollection is that there were three women who started the course, out of some 100 or so students. Comp Sci just wasn't a cool course for women to do.

      Through my career I have always felt this topic to be a bit bizarre. Of course men want women to also be successful. We just can't get women into the career path to support their journey. Right?

      In my Malaysia office, we actually have a much higher percentage of women, and it is very pleasing. There is less of a stigma for women to study technology, and this really helps when it comes to recruitment.

      In recent months I have come to see just how tough it can be for women to get ahead in the workplace. Aggressive behavior that would be acceptable for men, is written off as unacceptable for women. Assertiveness makes men uncomfortable and recoil. Women are often placed at different pay grades than their male equivalents, even at big companies that promote equality like SAP.

      I'm not sure I would support a separate area to hide away the conversation about women in the workplace. Why not have this in SAP Business Trends, where it belongs? Is it the right approach, to have a specific space for 51% of the population?

      Just a bunch of random thoughts.

      Author's profile photo Matt Fraser
      Matt Fraser

      The smartest person on my team, a business analyst/configurator for HR modules who frequently saves the day, a former ABAP consultant who therefore writes the best specs for our developers, and the one most universally well-liked and well-regarded within the organization, is a woman from Malaysia.  I suspect she benefited when younger from the attitude there that you mention.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      John - you underestimate your blogging as I thought this was brilliant! Thank you so much for the insight on this topic, and the geographical knowledge.  The funny thing about "women " in leadership is that you are completely right - this is a discussion for all to participate in and would be interesting to see in Business trends! Thanks again for your insight and sharing your experience!

      Author's profile photo Corinna Bornhorst
      Corinna Bornhorst
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Encourage girls to lead: Ban Bossy

      I really like this short video, please spent very few minutes and have a look at it!

      Ban Bossy!