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Diversity and inclusion: Optimism bias or real progress?


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This year, I have traveled around the world, attending forums and visiting workplaces in Portugal, Prague, Japan, and the United States among others. Now, at home in Berlin, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on the past few months’ worth of insights from those activities and events. In doing so, I’ve become aware that I may have a bit of an optimism bias, thanks to my role and focus area.

According to a Time magazine article called The Optimism Bias, “To make progress, we need to be able to imagine alternative realities — better ones — and we need to believe that we can achieve them.” I think this “optimism” helps to motivate us to pursue our goals, work longer hours, etc. But I’d like to say that it’s more than that. I believe we are making very real progress.

When we support diversity and inclusion, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it favorably impacts the bottom line, we have progressed from a vision to a very real, practical and sustainable solution.

The case for hope

As SAP’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, I am fortunate to meet with many amazing women and men who advocate for women, underrepresented minorities, different-abled people, human rights and equality. These people are helping others understand the very real value of a diverse and inclusive workforce, tapping into the increased innovation driven by multiple perspectives that makes our world better. SAP is being recognized for its accomplishments and is winning awards for significant achievements.

Here’s a quick look at our journey over the last few months:

SAP China won the “2017 Best Employer for Women” Award in March at the Her Village International Forum in Beijing. Hosted by Ms. Yang Lan, the event theme was “Leading Innovation in a Time of Change,” which strongly mirrored SAP’s Cloud and Innovation focus in 2017. Mark Gibbs, President of SAP Greater China, showcased SAP’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy and initiatives, discussing how SAP is driving a business beyond bias.

Diversity matters: In addition to the award, SAP gained huge brand exposure – in the first 48 hours alone, five million people watched online, and there were 400 million page views, with extensive online and social media reporting.

Women20 in Germany was amazing! The goal of the conference, a new part of the G20 initiative, was to demonstrate that women’s economic empowerment is fundamental to a prosperous world, and is essential for economic growth, stable economies, and social development. With over 400 participants in attendance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made her support of #Women20 clear with three appearances at the summit.
The climax of the event was a discussion between the German Chancellor, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, head of the IMF Christine Lagarde, and Ivanka Trump. With much common ground combined and many innovative suggestions from various perspectives, the W20-initiative found great support for the proposed creation of a public and private sector fund to promote women entrepreneurs and their ability to stimulate economic development.
In May, diversity and inclusion were at the forefront of SAPPHIRE NOW. The tone of awareness was set with an incredible opening “Call to Lead” event sponsored by Jen Morgan, Co-president of Global Customer Operations, and member of the Executive Board of SAP SE. I’d like to point out that four years ago, this was a mere breakfast meeting at 6:30 am, in a hidden corner of the Orlando Convention Center.
Over the years, we pushed to raise awareness and build “Call to Lead” from a backroom activity to a sold-out event boasting a huge waiting list. Under Jen’s care the event has grown into a full-day summit, with diverse dignitaries, including former first lady Michelle Obama and former president George W. Bush, on stage talking about diversity and its relevance to leadership.

On the first day of SAPPHIRE, Bill McDermott reflected on the many accomplishments of SAP’s own diversity and inclusion initiatives. He noted that SAP was the first multinational technology corporation to receive the Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) certificate, recognizing SAP’s global commitments and actions in achieving and sustaining gender diversity and equality in the workplace. He also highlighted SAP’s Autism at Work program, and emphasized the need for all of us to have empathy for others – a key element of inclusion.

The buoyancy of change

Overall, for me, it has been terrific to hear these topics being discussed as critical components of a healthy and successful business, as opposed to a “nice to have” element. To see the conversation shift away from merely an HR discussion to a business imperative reflects the progress and commitment we have made toward creating the right environment and sustaining the right mindset. I am truly honored and proud to be among the optimists involved in helping these programs grow from seeds of ideas to where they are today.

This post was originally published by Anka on LinkedIn, and was republished with permission.

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