Workplace Culture

SAP Feted for Gender Diversity

By Rita Pyrillis

Mar. 28, 2016

In an industry notorious for its dearth of female workers, tech company SAP America Inc. received a seal of approval recently for its commitment to gender diversity with certification from EDGE, which stands for Economic Dividends for Gender Equality.

A team of scientists and diversity experts launched the international program at the World Economic Forum in 2011 and it is compared with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Certification, which recognizes environmentally sustainable building practices.

More than 100 companies in 31 countries have received EDGE certification, including cosmetics giant L’Oreal and oilfield services company Technip in the United States, but SAP America is the first U.S. tech company to be certified.

“We have a holistic diversity and inclusion strategy,” said Anka Wittenberg, chief diversity and inclusion officer at SAP, which is based in Germany. SAP America is a subsidiary of SAP SE. “It’s not about filling a quota. At SAP, we are very committed to finding sustainable solutions.”

To receive certification, companies are assessed in five areas, according to EDGE: equal pay for equivalent work, recruitment and promotion, leadership development, flexible working, and company culture.

SAP’s gender diversity efforts include a yearlong leadership development program, a monthly webinar series that tackles topics like negotiation, effective communication and political savvy, and a global business network of 8,000 female employees around the world, among other initiatives.

Women make up more than 30 percent of SAP’s global workforce and hold about 23 percent of all leadership positions. Wittenberg said that the company’s board of directors has committed to increase that number to 25 percent by 2017.

“You can do a lot of great programs, but if the commitment is not there, it’s just a lot of activism,” she said. “It feels like ownership has been shared in the leadership team and among employees. This is not a top-down effort.”

Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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