The SAP Netherlands Business Women´s Network kicked off in 2013, with the objective of inspiring women to be more self-aware, speaking up for themselves, encourage them to use their distinctive qualities to their advantage, and feel reinforced by the network.
Our first activities revolved around including women in the network and growing the community so that everyone could experience that it is worthwhile to invest time in themselves.
One of the payoffs from the start was networking. Getting to know your colleagues better, or getting to know colleagues you never work(ed) with, and exchanging perspectives and tips on career, mentoring, work-life balance etc. was confirmed to be very valuable.
In the second and third gathering, we invited female business executives who shared lessons learned in their working and private lives. However different these women´s backgrounds and careers were, their words of wisdom led to recognition, new insights, and often a good laugh.
The last meeting, on March 10, in honor of international Women´s Day, attracted over 40 participants. Guest speaker Alexandra Schaapveld, a senior business executive at several banks and supervisory board member at a few international companies, spoke on the different perception of the same behavior that men and women display at work (leader vs. bossy, committed vs. selfish etc.), that is also powerfully illustrated in the much-acclaimed Pantene commercial. With stories and anecdotes from her own life, Alexandra explained where she found herself and other women behave and decide differently from men, and turned this into explaining how women have specific strengths they can apply, and how that makes a difference. She stressed that we are all masters of our own destiny. Making choices is not always easy, but makes your live easier. During lunchtime, there was a lively discussion about how we as individuals can improve our work-life balance, and how SAP as a company, or our managers can contribute. Many women were so engaged in their discussions, that it was hard to pull them in for the afternoon “styling and image” workshop. We learned about the impact of clothes and colors on the (first) impression that we make, and also how our choice of garment and colors can reinforce our message. An impressive 55% of the impact we are making is based on our body language (how we look and behave). The variety of topics on this day extended the reach of the network. The participants said that not only they liked extending their network, but also enjoyed the meaningful discussions with coworkers.
We gave much exposure to our activities in the local organization. As a result, the local management team provided us with the Employee Survey results by gender, which helped the Dutch BWN ánd the local MT to define actions to better cater for the needs of the female workforce. And this makes SAP an even better place to work.