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Why We Need Women in Leadership Now More than Ever

Why We Need Women in Leadership Now More than Ever

Businesses must harness the skills & intellect of the entire talent pool to ensure true gender balance is achieved to gain a competitive edge.

I attended a fascinating seminar from the Harvard Business Review in October entitled, “Will the Pandemic Reshape Notions of Female Leadership?”

It touched on an urgent topic: during the COVID-19 pandemic, women-led countries (Germany, Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Denmark) have managed the best, with six times fewer confirmed deaths than countries led by men. The media has extolled these female leaders as pragmatic, competent, and humane.

This point attracted a lot of criticism, and it is debatable whether such a complex issue can be distilled down to simple male vs female leadership attributes alone. However, it did surface the importance of reframing discussions about business leadership in a post-COVID-19 world. These are discussions I very much believe need to be had if businesses are to be successful.

I believe successful businesses need to harness the power, skills, and intellect of the entire talent pool. They must ensure true gender balance is achieved quickly to leverage all talent for a competitive edge.

Understanding the issue is the first step to finding a solution

We know there is an issue. Women are underrepresented in the workforce, especially in the technology sector. In my country alone, only about 11% of IT specialists and analysts are women, according to the Swiss Federal Statistical Bureau. Even more distressing, in Switzerland, 1 in 7 mothers loses their job during or after maternity leave.

One of the reasons, experts claim, is that the 16-week maternity leave rule which protects mothers from being dismissed is too short for many women. Furthermore, small and midsize companies also struggle to find a solution for women with children, e.g., longer parental leave, part-time jobs, monetary support for childcare, etc.

So first, businesses need to address the imbalance as swiftly as possible — not just to seem ‘politically correct’ but because it makes strategic sense. Over half of global university graduates (60%) are women, which is affecting talent pools worldwide. In addition, women make the majority of consumer buying decisions in a range of sectors. Automobile, computer, real estate, and financial services companies are all seeing a huge feminisation of their customer base which is often not well understood or managed.

Our global efforts in helping to bridge the gender equality gap

Here at Salesforce, we are making progress. Women make up 34% of our global workforce but we want to make this 50% by 2023. We are also taking active steps to get women back into the workforce.

In Switzerland, for example, I lead the Bring Women Back to Work program which offers a 12-month learning experience for women who took a long career break and want to enter a new Industry. The goal of this program is to find job opportunities within our Ecosystem through Salesforce, Partners, and Customers.

With our partner and Salesforce community, women are offered training to refresh skills and overcome barriers to re-entry. They participate in technical and interpersonal workshops to prepare them for the new career path.

Within the program, we offer:

Second, we must ensure women and men are paid equally. On average, in Switzerland, women earn 18% less than men according to the Federal Office for Gender Equality. And as the Financial Times recently reported, there is a similar pay gap in many other countries. Salesforce has made good progress here, equalising pay (12.4m USD adjustments since 2015). As equal pay is being mandated by governments, laggard companies will need to address what seems to many an obvious inequality.

Encouraging companies to employ accountable senior leaders

Lastly, companies need to embed gender balance into recruiting and HR policies, pushing it into the very DNA of the company. To do this, it must be led by credible, accountable business leaders who are enabled to drive sustainable cultural change. It cannot be siloed in HR or interest groups.

Successful businesses should consider deploying C-level leaders to head a function whose role is to drive forward equality and diversity. We recently expanded the remit of our own Chief Equality and Recruiting Officer. This move reflects the relevance of diversity in our company values, as well as in our day-to-day operations.

For instance, senior leaders continue to receive monthly overall and VP+ scorecards, detailing headcount, hiring, attrition, and promotion data by Gender and Race. We pair our largest organisations with an Equality Board made up of their Recruiting, Employee Success, Equality partners, and senior leaders to drive prescriptive actions based on data.

There is still work to be done, but the future is promising

We know there is much more work ahead. We’ve seen a 7.6% increase in women leadership in the firm since 2010. Moreover, 11,000 more women are working here compared to five years ago.

Diversity and equality are central to business success, not just ‘nice to have’. When your talent pool is diverse, you are more successful, your people perform better, your employees stay longer, your customers are engaged more effectively and your net profits go up. Equality is not just the right thing to do, it is an important step towards business success!

For women in Switzerland who want to re-enter in the workplace, or in a new industry after a career break please apply to the program!

For Partners who want to hire more Salesforce Certified women in the workplace apply here.

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