Working Mums in Switzerland: Vanessa Gentile, Alliance & Channel Lead at Salesforce in Switzerland, explains the importance of gender balance within a business and how she manages being a full-time remote worker and mother.
In Switzerland, only 11% of IT specialists are women according to Digital Switzerland, which is far too low. And, even though we have the best-educated generation of women in world history, we do not ﬁnd them represented in all industries, nor are they easily elevated to leadership positions.
Additionally, 1 in 7 mothers loses her job during or after maternity leave, according to the Swiss Workplace Place institution. Therefore, in order to empower mums returning to the workplace, Salesforce Switzerland launched the Bring Women Back to Work initiative. It provides employees with mentorship, training, and job opportunities in the Salesforce partner community. This program has seen great success with 18 women joining the program and 14 partner companies also being involved.
But companies now need to go above and beyond, as 2020 has made us rethink the future of work and sadly, the impacts have disproportionately affected mothers in Europe, placing an extraordinary burden on them by making them full-time employees, full-time teachers, full-time cooks, and full-time mothers. For me, I'm learning how to be super flexible and shift continuously between work mode and home mode.
Vanessa Gentile and her two sons.
Prior to the COVID-19 Lockdown, I would be able to open my computer and get started with my tasks. However, now I need to first homeschool my kids on maths and act like a "teacher" before I'm even able to answer an email. I've also learned how to be creative about managing kids and work. When I’m on a call, I created a play environment within my apartment to entertain my kids. I created 6 rooms, with one activity in each (puzzle, Lego, painting, magnetic games stuff etc.) and all the rooms were marked from 1 to 6. I reduced all my calls to a maximum of 30 minutes, and every time I had a call, my kids threw the dice and had to go to the room according to the number of the dice. After 30 minutes they came out and showed me what they created to gain 1 point. The more points the better.
A 'play environment' Vanessa set up to entertain her sons while taking work-related calls.
But while it’s fun to get creative about childcare during these challenging times, the real enabler of continued productivity in the ‘new normal’ is a working culture of flexibility and trust. At Salesforce we are able to have flexible working times, which enables me to be the teacher/cleaner/cook all at once, however it is still tough to balance all of the responsibilities that I have from lockdown. Salesforce has given me the freedom to decide when to do what, without feeling guilty that I’m taking care of the kids or ensuring that I am not limited because I cannot participate in the calls due to homeschooling.
Salesforce really encourages everyone to practice inclusive leadership and empathy and to also be extra mindful about timing of meetings. Salesforce Executives have also been open about their challenges and provided their 7 tips on how to be inclusive of working parents. And this flexible thinking is not just targeted at parents. I encourage my team members to get flexible with their own time and not just sit in their home office for video call after video call but to go out into nature if they can, and even remote work in the forest!
But I also mention a culture of trust, as the pandemic has meant that many office workers are working from home, and not visible to their managers. So businesses have had to learn to trust employees to get work done and manage by commitment and not by hours, gauging success by goals achieved not by hours logged.
I'm proud to work for a company like Salesforce who understands that flexibility and empathetic thinking are key to driving better gender balance within the business. Gender balance is vital to business success, and success in life and outside of work. The more gender balance in the actual DNA of companies, the way they think, plan, and operate, as well as the teams they deploy, the more innovation and productivity will follow.
For those moms who want to come back to work after a carrier break please apply for the program!