Of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, goal number five – Gender Equality – calls for ending discrimination and violence against women and girls, as well as ensuring equal rights to economic resources, full participation in leadership, and enhancing the use of enabling technology, among other targets to be fulfilled by 2030.
“We are not on track to meet that goal,” Yannick Glemarec, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, told the international audience that participated in the first UN Women Global Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship Forum on September 14, 2017 at the SAP Leonardo Center New York.
The one-day global conference, a first of its kind sponsored by SAP Next-Gen, inaugurated the collaboration of UN Women, an entity established by the United Nations to advance the goal of gender equality, and SAP, the world’s largest provider of enterprise application software. The partnership aims to accelerate industry-wide change and remove the barriers to the advancement of women and girls in innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. SAP has a proven track record on advancing women in technology and leadership as the first multinational technology company to achieve Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) certification. In addition, two of its eight Executive Board members are women.
While the main event was held in New York, numerous satellite conferences were held on the same day in SAP locations around the world and joined into New York in near real-time through live-streaming. The global conversation continued on Twitter at #sheinnovates. The event brought together UN representatives, business executives, social entrepreneurs, innovators, and thought leaders to share their ideas on advancing women and girls’ participation in technology.
UN Women: Addressing Barriers to Women in Tech
The keynote speakers at the SAP Leonardo Center in New York included Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women; Yannick Glemarec, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women; and Alicia Tillmann, Chief Marketing Officer, SAP. Although technical issues with Facebook live streaming made it difficult for the keynotes to be viewed in some satellite locations, the speech by Assistant Secretary-General Glemarec was well received at SAP in Walldorf. “The collaboration between UN Women and SAP will focus on advancing public-private partnerships; strengthening industry-wide engagement in innovations that accelerate gender equality and women’s empowerment; sharing leading practices, methodologies and solutions across innovation, technology and entrepreneurship; and promoting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said in preparation for the Forum.
In his keynote, Mr. Glemarec introduced the mission of UN Women and outlined its program to address barriers to women in technology by: raising awareness about the initiative; enhancing the design of innovation by creating Women Innovation Principles to guide industry in developing innovations that address both men and women; addressing the under-representation of women in STEM by partnering with educators and companies like SAP to promote women in STEM; and developing educational initiatives to address access to digital technologies and eradicate bias against women.
“SAP shares UN Women’s commitment to ensuring women and girls are fully empowered to capitalize on the 21st century innovation economy,” said Jennifer Morgan, member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Global Customer Operations. “Closing the STEM skills gap for the next wave of female tech leaders and entrepreneurs will be essential to bolstering economic growth and further unlocking technology’s capacity for social good. We applaud UN Women for its leadership in partnering with industry to inspire the world’s next generation of digital innovators.”
SAP shares UN Women’s commitment to empowering women and girls to capitalize on the 21st century innovation economy
“Advancing opportunities for STEM education, including digital technologies such as Blockchain, can help women and girls to design, shape, and benefit from the technological transformations and innovations changing our world,” said Ann Rosenberg, senior vice president and global head of SAP Next-Gen. “We are pleased to support the UN Women Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship Industry Forum, and to foster new connections among academia, corporations, startups, tech community partners, and purpose driven organizations to help accelerate achieving the UN Global Goals, including Goal 4 – Quality Education.”
SAP Walldorf Discussion: Why Wait Until 2030 for Gender Equality?
More than 200 people attended the after-work satellite event at the SAP headquarters in Walldorf on September 14, 2017, in the Canteen in Building 20. Bernd Welz, executive vice president and chief knowledge officer, Products & Innovation, SAP, moderated the forum, opening the panel discussion by asking, “Why wait until 2030 to give women and men the same rights?”
In a lively exchange, the panelists touched on topics ranging from education, confidence, courage to compete, empowerment, as well as structural enablers like good quality childcare, design for inclusion, partner selection, and adequate role models.
“I started my first job at SAP with this attitude of having my diploma in my hand, confidence in my heart, and this belief that I can change the world. I continue with this attitude,” said Hala Zeine, senior vice president, Chief Business Development Office, SAP, in her opening remarks. “I also realize that for 30 years now, we’ve been talking about women’s equality. We women change the world all the time. It’s very important for us to band together and not stop until the very last woman in the very last corner of the universe is getting her equal rights.”
Mayor Christiane Staab of Walldorf shared her experiences and observations from the perspective of an elected official who manages 400 employees and shapes public policy. A lawyer by training as well as a parent of four children, Staab entered politics because she saw the opportunity to affect real change on issues that mattered to her. Only 8% of mayors in Baden-Württemberg are women, Staab said, noting that it is important to have a woman’s perspective on local public policy issues. “I saw so many things I did not recognize before I had kids,” Staab said. “If you are a mayor, you are in the most powerful position in a town.” Staab emphasized the importance of good quality day care to help women participate fully in the workforce. She also stressed the importance of empowering young women to be willing to compete openly for new opportunities, such as in elections and in other arenas.
In her opening remarks, Christine Regitz, member of the Board of the German Informatics Society (Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (GI)) and vice president, Industry Cloud, SAP, emphasized the importance of self-confidence and good role models, especially teachers, who can show women the opportunities for a career in technology. “The teachers are the ones that are so important. It need not be at school, but you have to have the right teachers that help you, give you the understanding of the topic, and give you the self-confidence,” said Regitz. “At the German Informatics Society, we advocate today for these teachers – good teachers who can teach tech topics – because the digitalization will require people that love that field.”
During the panel discussions, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions and share their experiences and perspectives on the advancement of women in technology. “One topic the speakers addressed was the need for role models who give women trust in their own capabilities when it comes to pursuing a career in technology,” said Lena Bauer, a working student in the Talent & Organizational Insight Team at SAP, who studies psychology at the University of Mannheim. “As a student, I still have a lot of opportunities to shape my career path. The sharing of experiences gave me a better understanding of the current situation for women in technology and ideas for how to improve upon that. I am proud to work for SAP and to be part of a company that is aware of these issues and provides opportunities to young people from all over the world.”
Following the panel discussion, the crowd shifted to the buffet area for appetizers, drinks, and networking. As a symbolic token of the event, each participant received a simple, elegant black threaded bracelet with a rose-gold metallic charm displaying imprints of the symbols for UN Women and SAP Next Gen.
In case you missed the event, you can watch a recording (approximately 50 minutes) of the panel discussion here.
Panelists from left to right on stage: Christiane Staab: Mayor of the City of Walldorf / Baden; Christine Regitz: Member of the Board of the Gesellschaft für Informatik (GI); Hala Zeine: Senior Vice President, Chief Business Development Office, SAP; Rasha Al-Ababseh: Junior Professor at the German Jordan University, Amman, Jordan; Helia Schoenthaler: Technology Manager, technology transfer Heidelberg, GmbH; Jens Moenig: SNAP! – Architect; Jagda Huegle: SNAP! – Architect; Dr. Bernd Welz: Executive Vice President, Chief Knowledge Officer, Products & Innovation, SAP