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Author's profile photo Tim Yannopoulos

Inclusive Leadership: Why Sehida Frawley Hires Differently-Abled Colleagues

Sehida Frawley leads Digitial Business Services for Australia and New Zealand and manages a team that includes about 500 employees and 90 direct reports. She has been working for SAP for almost seven years. When asked to consider her personal leadership style, Sehida said she is reflective, a life-long learner, and consultative. She said, “I think good leaders also need to be good decision makers.”

“It’s important to showcase that our colleagues on the spectrum are just as capable in some areas, and actually more capable in others.”

Team feedback is key for Sehida and she believes, “You don’t always need to have everybody agree with you, but you need to consider the impact that challenges and decisions have on your team.” Sehida constantly thinks about how she can improve her methods for enabling and empowering her team, which is where in Sehida’s mind diversity and inclusion factors in most. She strongly believes that leaders constantly need to consider their team’s strengths and weaknesses. Instead of placing blame or getting bogged down by a perceived weakness, Sehida focuses on how she can help her team members when they encounter challenges. She gives advice and feedback, shares enablement materials, and connects team members with people she believes can help them.

Sehida knows diversity and inclusion goes beyond gender and ethnicity, she is an avid supporter of SAP’s Autism at Work program and looks for ways to include differently-abled colleagues. Today, she has a few members of the Autism at Work program on her team. To prepare for their arrival, Sehida and her team took awareness sessions and trainings. Sehida mentioned she adapted her leadership style for team members with autism to communicate in a more structured manner.

When Sehida first broached the topic of hiring people with autism, most of her leaders were very supportive but some had concerns, primarily because they weren’t familiar with the program. She emphasized, “It’s important to showcase that our colleagues on the spectrum are just as capable in some areas and actually more capable in others. It’s important showcase success.”

Sehida’s childhood impacts her outlook on inclusion and helping others. She grew up in a strict Muslim family in a rural area of Australia, and believes this upbringing imprinted on her personality. She always remembers two fundamental concepts in Islam which are to give back with charity and always consider others. Sehida mentioned, “I have always been conscious to remind myself of what I have but I’m also conscious of the circumstances of others. I think about whether there is something I can do to improve those circumstances.”

In addition to her parents, Sehida credits her grandfather for influencing her personality and consequently her leadership style from an early age. Her grandfather was fundamental for her curiosity and academic life and Sehida remembered, “He was always curious about everything, and he and my mom were the ones who supported me to do the unthinkable in our community which was to go away to University. That wasn’t the norm or the expectation, but my grandfather actively encouraged me to be independent.”

Sehida’s early experiences translate to an inclusive leadership style where she is constantly thinking about how she can improve, and how she can help others around her.


Want to learn more about inclusive leaders at SAP? Check out the story on SAP’s new inclusive leadership campaign written by Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Judith Williams: Inclusive Leadership at SAP: How Leaders Drive Inclusion with Collaboration and… Goat Yoga?

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