Silicon Valley is still a man’s world, with women making up just 20% of the workforce. Changing that percentage requires a new level of commitment, according to SAP CIO Ingrid-Helen Arnold. “It is no longer enough to ‘preach’ gender diversity. The time has come to live it,” said Arnold to a packed room at the SAP Digital Women reception, which was co-hosted by Light Reading, at the Mobile World Congress 2016 last night, as an engaged audience discussed the current status of women in the telecommunications industry.
Ms. Arnold noted the difficult challenges presented in changing behaviors, culture, leadership, and inclusiveness. The first step in overcoming those challenges is for companies to make a commitment to diversity that comes from the very top: the board of directors. Ms. Arnold referenced the SAP board’s commitment to raising the percentage of women in its management from 23% to 25% next year.
However, change requires more than overcoming corporate resistance, noted Arnold. Women must also live diversity – not just at work, but also in their daily lives – by becoming role models for others.
Ms. Arnold also referenced that SAP will be awarded the Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) certificate in the United States in recognition for its commitment to gender equality, the very first time a company in the technology industry will receive this recognition. However, according to Ms. Arnold, it is not enough.
“We have set a standard, but there is still much work to be done on this important issue. The next step for SAP will be to seek the EDGE certificate for the whole company globally. That way, every one of the 25,000 women at SAP will know that the way we hire, retain, compensate, and promote women is entirely fair.”
Launched at the World Economic Forum in 2011, the EDGE certificate is the leading global standard and is recognized across all industries. SAP’s certification process began over a year ago and was awarded after a rigorous third-party review.
The mood in the room was optimistic, and echoed Ms. Arnold’s sentiments. When asked whether she was optimistic about the future of women in telco, one attendee said, “Very. The flexibility and interconnectedness that technology brings allows women to work from home or anywhere while being connected with colleagues around the world.”
Another attendee responded to a question on whether the emerging digital economy will provide new opportunities for women by noting, “The world is changing for men and women. Women who are smart have every opportunity to take advantage.”
Questions on the most important skills women bring to the workplace garnered responses including communication, organization, listening, and patience.
When asked to offer advice to a young women just starting out, answers were consistent with the theme of persistence: “Keep looking for opportunities,” “Don’t be afraid to try,” and “Speak up and be heard.”