Each March, International Women’s Day offers us the chance to pause and reflect on the progress we’ve made from the prior year, set goals for the year ahead, and challenge the status quo to ensure gender equity and respect remain a priority of decision makers worldwide.
Globally, women are becoming involved in public office and holding public office for longer than in the past. Women in governmental leadership roles increased from 33.3% in 2016 to 36.9% in 2022, while between 2006 and 2022 women in ministerial positions increased from 9.9% to 16.1%. Although no country has achieved full gender parity, Iceland leads the top 10 economies in closing that gap at 90.8%.
But there is so much more to do.
Video by John Hunt
It is estimated that at the current rate of progress, achieving gender parity before the year 2155 is increasingly unlikely. This shocking statistic should concern everyone, not just those interested in women’s advancement. Investing in diversity is not just a nice thing to do; it is a business imperative. Companies that are focused on diversity outperform their non-diverse competitors, earning 2.5 times higher cash flow per employee. And it’s no wonder, when we know that diversity helps companies build better products, develop deeper solutions, create valuable experiences for employees, and deliver more lasting results that mirror our diverse world.
Supporting a Diverse STEM Workforce
SAP is keenly aware of the unique challenges women and girls face worldwide, but particularly women in tech. Women continue to struggle for representation in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, making up approximately 28% of the STEM workforce today. SAP has invested internally and externally in programs that help existing and potential female employees grow and thrive in their careers. Some examples include our Business Women’s Network, which has more than 90 chapters and 17,000 members worldwide; our internal development programs that help women gain visibility to senior leadership in their career journeys; the SAP Returnship Program in North America, which allows us to remove barriers for mid-career professionals returning to workforce through a 20-week “returnship”; and finally our many partnerships, including supporting the AnitaB.org Grace Hopper Celebration, aimed at growing the number of women and non-binary people in technology.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” closely aligns with SAP’s corporate and business objectives. We’re proud that in the last five years, we have made sustained and incremental progress in workforce diversity. We achieved our goal of 35% women in our workforce and increased the number of women in management from 25.5% in 2017 to 29.4% at the close of 2022. In addition, in 2023, SAP was reinstated to the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index, which recognizes a commitment to advancing women in the workplace.
Reaching these goals reflects real progress in our recruitment, hiring, and retention practices, as well as in the hearts and minds of our employees and leadership. We’re dedicated to leading the change when it comes to diversity. And yet we’re not finished. To get to 50/50 parity, we must continually push for change and encourage other companies, organizations, and governments to do the same.
The Next Frontier
This is an exciting and challenging time for tech. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT from OpenAI are spurring conversations about the future of work and are being leveraged to make business-critical decisions. As these tools become more readily accessible, their usage, as well as potential misuse, will increase. We know unconscious bias in AI is a result of those who develop it but by working together to combat this, we can actually advance D&I goals. Companies like Eightfold.ai, a talent platform and SAP SuccessFactors customer, saw a 19% increase in hiring of external female candidates by eliminating bias through AI to help companies meet their diversity goals. This positive outcome is just one exciting example of how we can use tech for good to advance D&I initiatives.
We have 365 days until the next International Women’s Day. This time next year, what will you have done in your company, community, and even your own family to advance diverse and inclusive behaviors? How can you be the change you want to see? I look forward to hearing your story.
Supriya Jha is chief diversity and inclusion officer at SAP.