In customer conversations and in the design thinking sessions we hold at SAP, we often take customer challenges and the needs of our customers’ customers as a starting point. By articulating what the end customer really wants if there were no limitations, we can then re-imagine how the company can change its business, products, and services to serve those needs.
As the global lead of SAP’s Business Women’s Network, I feel compelled to add one more angle to this, and look at customer challenges and needs through a gender lens. In design thinking sessions, I steer my customers to pick a female persona, whether it is a financial reporting manager, a supply chain employee, or simply a consumer. Very often, the female persona brings different perspectives and ideas, and our customers can develop ideas about how SAP as a technology company can help address those needs.
On one of my business trips, I began to think about the female traveler, as there are two distinctive ways in which women travel differently than men.
Research shows that women typically have other daily commute patterns than men.* Men usually commute to and from work while women generally do more “trip-chaining,” which is to combine work- and non work-related travel. As an example, you bring the kids to daycare or school, go to work, and, on the way back, run errands or go to the gym before picking up the kids (read about how SAP Chief Learning Officer Jenny Dearborn combines it all). This impacts women’s choice of products and services — public transportation versus a car that can be easily parked but should be big enough to bring the kids to Saturday’s soccer match.
Not only practical considerations but also the perception whether an environment is safe plays a large part in how people decide how they move about. Research shows that women restrict their movement or change their mode of transportation based on their concerns about safety and depending on circumstances like place and time of day or night. Why? Women are generally more likely to be victimized.
It’s easy to understand all of this from an individual perspective. But what’s the relevance to our corporate customers? Car manufacturers obviously know that people want beautiful, safe, and practical cars. But to what extent are smart city planners, public transportation companies, or elevator building companies aware of what women need when they design and plan products, infrastructure, and more?
Technology can help organizations to gather data and better understand needs, but also help to create better, safer circumstances. Some simple non-technology solutions have been around for ages, such as designated women’s parking places near parking garage exits. But what about making sure cell phones work in parking garages, or have adaptive lighting, based on movement, in public spaces?
The City of Vienna is a shining example. Not only do they offer straightforward services like a 24-hour Women’s Emergency Help Line, but they collect data and work on many special projects to make Vienna more gender-equal, more accessible, and safer for women, so they can fully participate in the economy and in city life. They work on topics like housing, transport, education, and political participation.
But travel extends beyond the daily commute.
Longer Distance Travel
“It is 100 times more dangerous to be a female than a male traveler anywhere in the world today,” says David Walsh, CEO of Prescient, a risk management company that delivers intelligence and technology solutions.
Women who travel are more likely to be harassed or victimized than men. That is why they may specifically look for a hotel in a safe area, ask for a hotel room near the elevator, prefer a rental car that does not stand out, etc. They also like to limit time spent in the streets in an unknown city.
There are several safety apps that help women alert their friends and emergency contacts. But you can also take a company view on this topic. SAP takes good care of its employees while they travel for business. Concur recently launched Concur Locate and Active Monitoring, which protects travelers by empowering their organizations to find, inform, and communicate with employees in just minutes during times of crisis and uncertainty.
The Prescient Traveler safety app, developed on SAP Cloud Platform, is a similar app that helps companies to maintain constant situational awareness of their travelers. It also helps employees travel more safely by alerting them about what is happening based on their exact location in relation to existing or emerging threats. The app combines SAP HANA text analysis and geospatial engines to assess and interpret situations. This is interesting for any organization that has workforce travelling the globe.
While we wish every person safe travels, the above are good examples of how you can look at a business issue from a female perspective and start thinking of specific solutions. Looking through the gender lens does not always translate into a direct financial benefit, but it may attract customers, increase satisfaction, or have a general effect on economy or society. In all the above cases, these solutions certainly help to make the world run better and improve people’s lives.