Gender equality is good for everyone — men and women, countries, companies, children — says Michael Kimmel, an American sociologist specializing in gender studies, in a powerful TedTalk. It is important to realize that it’s not a matter of “men versus women” where one wins and the other loses. Promoting gender equality leads to happier societies, which is something both women and men equally strive for.
To get there it is very important to have men within our companies, societies, and countries who understand and embody this philosophy. Only by working together will we achieve gender equality, something that will benefit everyone, especially in technology.
At SAP, we feel so strongly about gender equality that we work closely with Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) to refine practices and policies that benefit both women and men. In the Products & Innovation (P&I) business unit at SAP, we are doing specific things to support the company’s goal of achieving greater gender equality. Among them, we are running programs to increase the representation of women in management and expert roles, we are participating in company-wide programs for leadership development, and we have created a “Women in Tech” movement, where we provide a space for women to talk about tech, practice being on stage, and raise their visibility inside and outside of the company.
As a result, we are having many conversations about gender equality with both men and women. In doing so, we hear that both sides have doubts about the value of a quota. While women are afraid to be perceived as the “token” woman and want to be recognized for their achievements and capabilities, men can feel that women get hired to management positions that they were entitled to.
The important thing is that people are recognized for their capabilities and are treated equally and fairly based on their passions, contributions, efforts, and hard work. We see this desire in every single person across all aspects of diversity, be it generational, abled versus differently abled, man or woman, gay or straight. It is always about feeling respected and included, which is a basic human need regardless of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, or age.
Based on the conversations we are having with employees, we wondered how men at SAP with daughters see gender equality. Does having a daughter change your perspective? Does watching the experiences of a daughter within society influence how a father promotes or does not promote gender equality in his working life? Does a male expert or manager have more awareness about his gender biases because he has a daughter?
Watching one’s daughter struggle in a society that still implicitly and explicitly promotes gender inequality through rituals, gender-specific toys and clothes, and having “boys” and “girls” domains in sports, schools, and games can instill greater awareness of the inequities, including those in the workplace, and provide a catalyst for behavioral change.
A Harvard study from 2015 concluded that having daughters had an influence on the way judges decided their cases. The study found that judges with daughters consistently vote in a more feminist fashion on gender issues than judges who have only sons. Similar results were found in a 2011 study of Danish companies, which determined that CEOs with daughters were doing more to close the gender pay gap.
We have work to do to ensure that our girls don’t limit themselves to “girls-only” activities. This shift in perspective starts with parents but it doesn’t end there — it falls to each and every one of us.