International Women’s Day 2021 (March 8th) is a great time to celebrate the achievement of women throughout the world, as well as working to raise awareness of and take action against gender inequality. It’s something that Salesforce as a business holds very important, as we strive to build a diverse workforce with equality at its core.
Of course, there have been many global advances in terms of gender equality, but we don’t yet live in a gender-equal world. For example, worldwide, 2.7 billion women are legally unable to have the same choice of jobs as men.
One of the equality groups within Salesforce is the Salesforce Women’s Network, and as well as the global network, there are individual branches across the world. We spoke to the co-leads of the Salesforce Women’s Network in Belgium, Senior Strategic Account Executive, Ilse Lemmens, and Customer Success Manager, Manon Verhaeghe, about women in tech.
Before joining Salesforce Ilse worked in the logistics industry, another male-dominated area, for 18 years. As a software engineer fixing satellite and computer problems on the container ships, she was in a highly technical role, surrounded by men and in an atmosphere that wasn’t always woman-friendly.
She’s always been passionate about equality and diversity, and has taken that passion into each role she’s had ever since.
“What I’ve always tried to do in all of my jobs is make sure that women’s voices are elevated.”
Manon came straight to Salesforce from her university as part of the Salesforce graduate programme in 2019. Part of the attraction of Salesforce as an employer was the strong emphasis on equality and diversity, and how open the company is about the importance of empowering women within the workforce.
The Salesforce Women’s Network in Belgium was set up in January 2020, and while Manon focuses on attracting and engaging younger women to the network, Ilse’s focus is on senior, executive-level women.
There’s definitely a taboo around women applying for jobs in tech, but why is that? Why don’t women apply as often as men do? It could be in part down to the fact it’s seen as a traditionally male industry, but there’s also a confidence issue.
Manon shared her experience of recent graduates being put off because they assume women in tech are all about coding or some other aspect of tech that they don’t have experience in.
There are of course coding jobs in the tech industry, which plenty of women excel at as well as men, but there are also other roles that don’t require a specific ‘tech’ skill set. There are other barriers to women in tech.
“I think a lot of young girls, particularly, are scared to apply if there’s one particular skill that they don’t have.”
In fact, research shows that when faced with a job spec, women often won’t apply unless they meet 100% of the requirements and qualifications, while men are likely to apply even if they only meet 60%.
Top-down support is essential for any workplace initiative to succeed, and the Salesforce Women’s Network certainly has that support. As one of only 7% of top 500 companies with a woman as CEO (Angelique de Vries, CEO of Salesforce Northern Europe), the focus on equality on equality and equal hiring is strong.
As well as elevating womens’ voices and providing personal and professional development, the Salesforce Women’s Network organises various get-togethers for the women in the Belgian office including sessions with top female leaders, networking brunches, and ladies’ nights.
Its objectives include giving women a platform from which they can be heard, amplifying customer success stories (many of which are of strong women), and, ultimately, breaking the glass ceiling – all significant issues that are even more on people’s minds during International Women’s Day.
The official theme of the day is #ChooseToChallenge. It's initiatives like the Women’s Networks that help to challenge gender inequality and bias, by supporting people and giving them the confidence to call out unjustness. Values are at the heart of Salesforce as an organisation, and the Belgian Salesforce Women’s Network is helping the global business achieve equality and diversity on a local level.
On a wider level, our Women’s Networks exist to push the message home throughout the Salesforce ecosystem that women in leadership is important, that women achieving their goals is important.