Let’s celebrate Women’s Equality
At SAP, we care about women’s equality – in fact, we all need to care about this topic. Why? While it is one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – Goal 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.“ – it is much more than that: gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.
On August 26, we are celebrating Women’s Equality Day. It was first celebrated in 1971, designated by United States’ Congress in 1973, and is proclaimed each year by the United States President. Let me take this opportunity to share with you my individual perspective: Why is this topic also important to me as a manager at SAP – and as a father of four children?
Why is women’s equality – and diversity in general – important for companies?
Research studies have proven that it is essential for companies and their leaders to foster diverse teams if they want to be successful:
A McKinsey Global Institute report found that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than peer companies in the fourth quartile. Moreover, they found that the higher the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance.
According to a study by Deloitte: The rise of the social enterprise (Deloitte. Insights 2018), organizations with inclusive cultures in general are:
- twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets
- 3 times as likely to be high-performing
- 6 times more likely to be innovative and agile
- 8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes
Therefore, it is important to ensure that all employees across the entire company are aware that diverse teams are more successful than homogenous teams. Diversity and inclusion are important for both employees as well as the overall success as a company.
Let me share with you some of the insights that we captured during our recent video interview, facilitated by Tanja Höpker. In her role as our representative for diversity and inclusion in my Cross Architecture unit within SAP’s Technology and Innovation board area, Tanja talked to Sarah Ménard and me about our perspectives with regards to women’s equality. Sarah is one of the woman managers in my team, leading a global and inclusive team of more than 60 employees worldwide.
In preparation of the video recording, I had an in-depth discussion with some of the women colleagues within my technology-focused team. To be honest, their personal experiences that they shared with me were definitely an eye-opener to me: our open discussion helped me to better understand the challenges they have been facing during their careers.
Watch the video interview to gain more insights into this important topic.
Some of my personal takeaways from our discussion:
What is a crucial element to foster women’s equality?
Support – not only from women managers’ respective teams, but also from their managers and peers. It’s important that managers and people in positions of authority are looking out for those that report up to them. However, that support needs to continue when those individuals become your peers or someone you report to yourself. So, make sure to look out for those reporting to you, those across from you, and those you report to.
Where does support start?
An important element is to foster a regular dialogue and listening to women employees in order to better understand their individual needs. We must ensure women have the right career path where we as managers can support them during their individual journeys. And it starts not only with making companies – IT companies and beyond – attractive for women. Even for young women who are attending schools or universities: as a starting point, it helps to motivate even young girls to get engaged in IT-related fields when they can see how their careers may progress and where they can aspire to be.
What may help women on their career path from their employer’s perspective?
Helping support their private lives with partners and their kids by offering childcare options and working in part time – allowing both men and women to switch during their career between part time to full time and back. This will give women talents full flexibility – if and when required. In addition, learning opportunities and offering mentorships and coaching may also help them to be successful.
How can we reduce pressure on women leaders and support women in their career paths?
Two main elements to be aware of to reduce pressure of women:
- Be aware of and remove biases – Examples women often face include being subject to more criticism and higher expectations around better communication, being extra diplomatic, and more. Women may also be expected to take the same approach as men regarding their behaviour: while men may be successful when being loud or aggressive to make a point, women (and many men as well) may use other communication styles to achieve their goals. These expectations and biases cause additional pressure to be put on women leaders that makes it difficult performing their jobs and succeeding in their careers.
- Creating a psychologically safe environment is essential – For example: imagine that there are only one of two female representatives in a group of several male managers or employees. Group dynamics may have a major impact without intention and may impact the behaviour of those in the minority of any group setting: it’s much easier to remember it when you’re on one-on-one versus when you’re in a group space.
How can companies identify suitable women talents to fill open positions?
An essential element starts with the job description: make it unbiased and gender neutral. In addition, establish and curate a talent pool of potential women employees by attracting and retaining talents to fill open positions – whether it is with a focus on subject matter experts or line managers. Often it helps to pro-actively approach suitable women candidates and encourage them to apply for open positions – as women often only apply to positions if they feel that they are able to cover most of the requirements.
Building a more diverse team is not always easy. Sometimes you are about to select a candidate, that you feel really connected to. However, for more diverse teams, you may need to hire the person that’s maybe most unlike you. In long run, that can bring more diverse perspectives to your team, making your team more successful and fostering more open and collaborative environments.
How can SAP as a software company help customers and partners to foster women’s equality as well?
In addition to the ‘inner circle’ that your company can control, it is also important to consider and help the ‘outer circle’: looking a little bit broader into projects that we are running with partners and with customers. As a software company, SAP can also offer help from a tooling side: for instance, human capital management solutions, like SAP SuccessFactors solutions that offer recruiting software to attract, identify, and hire the right talents. In addition, we offer solutions to enable continuous performance management and monitoring of goals, as well as SAP Qualtrics Employee Engagement.
Also, by being a successful diverse team, we can both join forces with customers who similarly value diversity and inclusion as well as become the change that the tech industry as a whole is striving for.
In summary, making women’s equality your goal and investing in this important topic will be the foundation to build up a diverse team. Increasing awareness is a continuous process, which must be in the DNA of your leadership team and employees. Overall, it requires a complete mindset shift to actively drive and support gender diversity.
As mentioned above, a diverse culture enables us to not only be more innovative and agile, meet our financial goals much faster, but also be more successful thanks to high performing diverse teams. Let’s make sure that we foster women’s equality as a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.
What are your thoughts, ideas and your personal experiences with regards to women’s equality? Let’s start a discussion and work together to make the tech industry, our whole culture, and finally the global economic even more inclusive and successful!
Dr. Michael Ameling
Head of Intelligent Enterprise and Cross Architecture
Technology & Innovation, SAP SE