“Stephanie, how did you get into Diversity and Inclusion (D&I)?” I’m often asked this question. Here’s my story.
On May 24th, 2011, the executive board at SAP sent an email stating that by end of 2017, we will have 25% of women in management positions. At that time, we were currently hovering around the 18% mark. The first thing that came to mind was: how were we going to accomplish this goal? This, no doubt, would require major change in processes and mindsets. The second thing that came to mind was: how do I get into D&I so I could eventually contribute directly to this goal?
Traditionally, girls have not been encouraged to enter the field of technology. The stereotype is that girls aren’t good at math and, therefore, the field of technology. I believed and continue to believe that reaching out to girls as young as 10 would help combat this stereotype and with programs meant to encourage them, then perhaps one day we’ll be talking about a goal of 50% in management positions at technology firms like mine.
From 2011 to October 2014, I began discussions with the UBC Computer Science department to find out if they had an outreach program for young girls. Indeed, they had a Grade 6 program. I felt they needed a Grade 7 one. Fortunately, UBC felt the same way and we got to work. We started by conducting a design thinking workshop. This led to interviewing Grade 7 girls to obtain their input. The result was the GIRLsmarts4tech program. Since 2014, we have had 21 events run globally with over 1100 girls attending the program. Additionally, in 2016, parents told us that they wanted more information, and this led to the parent workshops. To date, we have had 7 parent workshops with different panelists sharing what it's like to work in technology. The GIRLsmarts4tech was run completely by volunteers from SAP and UBC. Without the volunteers, there would be no program and I’ll always be grateful. I’m certain the girls who went through the program and the parents were also grateful!
In 2015, I started my internal search to see what SAP had to offer in the D&I group. I reached out to the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to see if there were any opportunities. At the time, SAP was embarking on a global EDGE certification (http://edge-cert.org). It seems like a lifetime ago, but I still recall the day a colleague called me to let me know that she needed a Program Manager to run the certification program. That phone call changed my life at SAP and I’ll always be thankful to Nicole McCabe. Soon after, I was running the certification program in 12 countries with a tight deadline of 6 months. On September 13th, 2016, SAP became the first multinational technology company to receive worldwide gender equality certification. http://news.sap.com/sap-becomes-first-multinational-technology-company-to-receive-global-gender-equality-certification/.
Today in 2019, I get to participate in creating real organizational change that makes a difference in people’s lives. I get to talk to people about the competitive advantages of having a diverse and inclusive team. I get to smile a lot! Yes, I really do feel that I have the best job in the world.
So, when people ask me how did you get into diversity and inclusion? I say three things:
Do the job first before you are offered a paid role in D&I. What?! I know it's not fair, but if you want something, you may have to create the opportunity for yourself.
Education. Help yourself by taking D&I courses. Personally, I took courses at UBC. Read lots! Here are some of my favourites: The Culture Code,Connection Culture,Inclusion Nudges Guidebook, White Fragility, Inclusion
If you don’t have the time or resources to take courses, then books are a good starting point for an eventual role in D&I. They allow you to learn from others and provide real world ideas to implement within your organization.
The importance of Diversity and Inclusion continues to evolve every year and I see companies creating roles focused on inclusion and equity. Being seen, heard and belonging is everyone's right and we all have a role in creating change.
Good luck on your journey!