Peter Lengler, member of the SAP Supervisory Board, People and Culture Committee, talks about the process of learning to see the barriers that others face.
In the latest episode of the AHA! Moments in Diversity & Inclusion video series, SAP Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Supriya Jha and Lengler discuss what inclusion awareness means to him.
As part of the SAP Supervisory Board, the People and Culture Committee is dedicated to fostering a culture of innovation, performance, diversity, organizational design, and integrity. It also maintains SAP’s network to universities and other stakeholders to support the company’s people strategy.
On the Trail
The World Economic Forum estimates that more than 150 million people are homeless globally and, for Lengler, meeting one of them further cemented his passion for diversity and inclusion.
During his 162 days on the Appalachian Trail, Lengler discovered that another hiker he met had been homeless for more than 10 years. Initially, he was a little apprehensive about this fact – and the hiker. However, he quickly discovered that sharing a common goal – in this case to complete the trail – meant that any preconceptions or concerns about this formerly homeless individual ceased to be relevant. They were to spend the next four weeks hiking the trail together.
“On the trail,” Lengler explains, “you have the same goal, and you are open to all people there.”
Unlearning Ingrained Behavior Patterns
Lengler reflects on those groups of individuals he refers to as “old white men clubs” who have never consciously suffered exclusion and have no understanding of the barriers that others face. Identifying unconscious biases and unlearning ingrained behavior patterns is critical to sustaining the success of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
For Lengler, the important aspect of inclusion is not just to increase the number of employees from diverse backgrounds but to create a culture of true inclusion. Passionately, he explains that for him true inclusion means 100% acceptance for all team members, regardless of their backgrounds. Only team members who are 100% accepted and truly included in all aspects of team life will be able to bring their best selves to work and can be “open in their voice and their mind.”
The AHA! Moment
On the Appalachian Trail, Lengler experienced first-hand how a common goal and common hardship can bring people together. Above all else, someone who has different life experience or is in some way different from the rest of the team will bring another point of view and, says Lengler, “will look at the same problem in a different manner,” crystallizing his conviction that when you share your goal, “you can reach it together more easily instead of making it alone.”
Diversity and Inclusion at SAP
In its 2022 Diversity and Inclusion report, SAP states its mission to become “the most inclusive company in the world.” In the U.S., for example, more than 40% of employees are from underrepresented groups. SAP is on track to achieve long-term gender goals and has a five-generation workforce.
One of the initiatives that the Global Diversity and Inclusion Office has launched to help further SAP’s progress towards becoming the most inclusive company in the world is the Inclusive Mindset Challenge. This challenge allows employees to learn about inclusion topics and the importance of becoming an ally for marginalized groups at their own pace. The challenge comprises a broad range of micro-learnings, such as menopause, transphobia, or sexism to name a few. In 2022, more than 11,000 employees completed this challenge. New challenges are added regularly; recent additions include indigenous inclusion and infuse D&I with AI.
SAP Inclusion Month
SAP has designated October 2023 as SAP Inclusion Month. All employees are invited to join the inclusion journey and to get involved in an Employee Network Group (ENG) journey, allyship journey, and, for leaders, the intentional inclusion journey.
With more that 40,000 employees, ENGs are voluntary, employee-led diversity and inclusion initiatives representing groups such as visually impaired employees, caregivers, or Latinos.
With the allyship inclusion journey, employees are invited to use their privilege and power to support marginalized groups. With the intentional inclusion journey, leaders learn about intentional inclusion practices that can help further advance SAP’s journey to become a truly inclusive workplace.
Top photo courtesy of SAP employee Celia Carillo.