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Equality

Salesforce CFO and European Leaders Stress Need for Representation of Women at Leadership Levels

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On International Women’s Day, Salesforce President and Chief Financial Officer Amy Weaver joined prominent European leaders at the virtual ‘POLITICO Playbook Interview — Women’s Day Special Edition’. Together, they spoke about the need to address the underrepresentation of women in businesses and public life, the need for a gender-balanced recovery after the pandemic, and everyone’s responsibility to help advance equality.

The event, organized by POLITICO and sponsored by Salesforce, aimed to shine a spotlight on the need for advancement of women around the globe.

Salesforce’s Amy Weaver

Tackling global underrepresentation

Weaver acknowledged that women have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.

The U.S. alone, women have lost a net of 5.4 million jobs during the recession — and the potential long term impact of this fact is devastating. According to Deloitte research, 70% of working women across nine of the world’s largest economies believe their careers will be slowed by the pandemic’s disruption.

With these sobering statistics as a backdrop, Weaver also highlighted the need to increase women’s representation in senior leadership roles — and what that will require.

“Fairness in treatment, equal opportunity, recognition of success and amplification of visibility will bring more women to the decision-making table and inspire more to rise through the ranks,” she said.

Women remain underrepresented in leading positions around the world. This includes the EU’s largest companies where only 8% of CEOs are women, as well as globally, where women hold only 4.4% of CEO roles.

“To truly build a workplace that looks like society, women need to be represented at every level, particularly in the C-Suite,” said Weaver. “This requires supporting women at all stages of their careers, through investment in leadership development programs and inclusive promotion processes. Fairness in treatment, equal opportunity, recognition of success and amplification of visibility will bring more women to the decision-making table and inspire more to rise through the ranks.”

Working toward a gender-balanced recovery

Cecilia Malmström, a former Swedish Member of the European Parliament and European commissioner for trade, spoke of the numerous ways in which women have been hit hardest by the pandemic across the globe, from job losses to rising levels of domestic abuse. When we think of the post-pandemic recovery, she said, “we need to have our gender glasses on” to ensure that these patterns do not become permanent.

“There is not one solution, but the need for a family-friendly workplaces is clear,” said Malmström. “As a society we also need to reconsider attitudes to parenting responsibilities so that neither mothers or fathers fall behind in their career.”

Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age and previously Denmark’s minister for economic affairs and the interior, highlighted the paradox that while many front line workers during the pandemic are women, many decision-making bodies have been led by men. She spoke of the need to tackle gender biases, including how leadership is defined, how a leader looks, and what a leader does.

“It’s important to re-examine our view of the world; by breaking down stereotypes we can have much more richer lives,” said Vestager.

On the path to equality, the work is never done

In what has been a challenging year in so many ways, this International Women’s Day was an opportunity to celebrate what women have accomplished.

It was also a chance to reflect on what steps businesses can take to advance gender equality and afford greater leadership opportunities.

On this critical path to equality, Weaver stated, the work is never done. “We still have a long way to go to realize our aspirations of equality for all. It’s conversations like these that generate the momentum we need to accelerate equal representation of women in leadership.”

You can watch the full POLITICO Playbook Interview – Women’s Day Special Edition event here.

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