Inspiring the Next Generation of Women in STEM at SAP Labs China

Last year, SAP launched a Girls Power Tech program in China and India to encourage financially disadvantaged young women from remote areas in the world’s most populous countries by making technology accessible.

Its objective was to empower changemakers of today and of tomorrow in the largely marginalized rural populations of China and India, which make up 38% and 68% of the country’s total populations respectively.

In these largely patriarchal societies, access to technology is scarce and if available is often a luxury enjoyed by men. The program therefore aims to help these women pursue their dreams, make a difference, and find their way to success.

“At SAP, we believe in not only creating a culture of inclusion within the organization, but also in extending it externally to those who are not as fortunate as us,” SAP CEO Christian Klein shared. “Through Girls Power Tech, our effort is to go beyond the STEM initiatives in school and colleges and bring world-class technology experiences and career opportunities at the doorstep of these girls. That, in the true sense, would be completing the circle of inclusion.”

Teamwork During a Pandemic

SAP Labs China conducted the program throughout 2020, amid the global pandemic that crippled economic and social activities around the world. Schools in China were locked down and students were not allowed to do internships onsite.

Despite this, after four months of screening, 25 young women were selected to join the internship specifically for this program. Some participants came from the far regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, with most of them remotely onboarding with a welcome package and a computer. It was not easy for the students to begin the internship virtually, but their eagerness to learn, an undying spirit, and sheer perseverance made this possible. COVID-19 brought unprecedented challenges, but strong support from sponsors, the recruiting team, and volunteers, helped the program run smoothly.

25 Young Women Begin the Change

The internship began in June and a two-day Girls Power Tech bootcamp was held in Shanghai September 11-12. The young changemakers convened in Shanghai to meet their peers and share learnings from the three months of the internship. Most of them had to work remotely due to COVID-19 but were able to complete the assigned tasks with their creativity coming to the fore. After the presentation, the judges awarded “Shining Team” and “Shining Girl” prizes. The sessions also served as an introduction of the powerful concepts of teamwork and collaboration.

On day two, two panels titled “Search Inside Yourself” and “Gender Equality, Technology Trend, and Career” were held and gave the young women access to new information from the vast experiences of the sharp minds of the panelists. The interactions encouraged them to follow their hearts, believe in themselves, embrace change, and dare to try. Not only a wonderful learning experience, the panels also helped participants identify the areas for improvement, such as communication skills, and offered them new directions for future career development.

Strong Impact and Feedback

Students provided heartfelt farewell quotes on their experience, describing their challenges and many learnings. The 25 girls from 10 provinces and 19 colleges joined 19 R&D teams in Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’an, Beijing, and Dalian. They learned product knowledge, programming language, and methodology; participated in product development and testing; and experienced the culture and active community activities across SAP Labs offices. More than 28 volunteers supported this program in different capacities. Seven enablement sessions and a bootcamp were sucessfully delivered. Finally, five of the students received an offer to join SAP full time in 2021.

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