by Lauren Bonneau, Managing Editor, SAPinsider
With the current global female population at 49.6%, and a growing and popular view that all things should be equal, one might imagine that half of available jobs are filled by women. However, women account for only 39% of the total global workforce. The disparity in the technology industry is even more glaring, with women holding only 26% of professional computing occupations in the US workforce in 2019.
To help address this imbalance, new initiatives, leadership councils, committees, and nonprofits have been steadily appearing worldwide over the last few years. For example, Women in Tech, an international organization, has a double mission of closing the gender gap and helping women embrace technology; nonprofit Global Women in Tech focuses on fostering diversity and inclusion in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); and Women Who Tech is a global network aimed at accelerating the number of women tech entrepreneurs and increasing the funding allotted to startups founded by women. These new additions to the movement join existing organizations such as Women in Technology International (WITI), which has been supporting and fostering women in technology for more than 30 years.
While the tech statistics show the hard truths that women are still underrepresented, underpaid, and often discriminated against in the industry, there has been an uptick lately in women-focused news stories, coverage, and conversations about diversity in the technology space. For instance, recently, within the same week, social media and news outlets publicized that a woman was credited with writing the first line of computer code, thereby inventing programming, and that the fairly new term “augmented analytics” was coined in 2017 by three women.
In the SAP space, specifically, there have been many newsworthy announcements about the contributions and impacts of women in the ecosystem. The news highlights share some notable updates about women working at SAP, partner organizations, and customer companies. At SAP itself, a string of appointments have been publicized, such as Jennifer Morgan’s brief tenure as SAP’s co-CEO and appearance as #49 on Forbes Power Women 2019 list and Jill Popelka’s new position this year as President of SAP SuccessFactors. (Read the cover story and watch the video interview SAPinsider conducted with Popelka’s executive team for more on her new role and journey.) SAP has also committed to increasing the percentage of women in leadership by 1% each year, with a target of reaching 30% by the end of 2022.
A Look Back at the Many Women Featured in SAPinsider
Throughout its more than 20 years of existence, SAPinsider has published many articles and stories (in the flagship SAPinsider Magazine as well as its former sister publications SAP NetWeaver Magazine and insiderPROFILES Magazine) featuring women as key protagonists. Over just the past decade, the magazine covers have featured a host of female executives in high-powered roles at companies running SAP software, including Donna Sylster, former CIO of CHEP; Denise Clark, former CIO of Hasbro; Kelli Such, former Global BI Director of Kraft Foods; Emily Lund, former Director of Shared Services for JMC Steel; Uzma Burki, former Vice President at Amtrak; and Liv Landblom, former Senior Program Manager at Crocs.
Over the years, SAPinsider has published hundreds of case studies featuring women’s roles in the success of projects in just about every industry, line of business, and SAP solution area. In one case study, Director of Talent Management Mary Sue Handel and Thayre Faust, Director of IT, shared how A. O. Smith created standardized, global recruiting processes and improved the job-seeking process for prospective candidates. Another showcased Mamatha Mitr, Senior IT Manager at Dolby Laboratories, who described how the business automated its SAP regression tests, reduced their testing hours by roughly 75%, and experienced the intangible benefit of giving users peace of mind. And in yet another, DeAnna Myers, Senior Manager of Learning and Development at Sargent & Lundy, highlighted how the power project services company created a culture of collaboration, streamlined employee training, and expedited the transfer of expert knowledge and cross-generational conversations to an increasingly global workforce.
SAPinsider has also featured insights from women with hard-won technical expertise in columns that dive deep into SAP functionality and technical concepts and offer how-to administration and development instruction. In one technical column, SAP’s Vandana Mansharamani, Product Manager – Security and Data Protection for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, shared insights to help SAP customers comply with data protection regulations. In another, co-author Swetta Singh, Director of Product Management at SAP, offered an approach to help SAP customers simplify, streamline, and optimize identity and access management across their on-premise and cloud-based landscapes.
Articles over the years have gotten up close and personal with SAP executives such as Executive Board Member Adaire Fox-Martin, who shared details about her career path and current responsibilities, and Tanja Rueckert, SAP Executive Vice President, Line of Business Digital Assets and IoT, who described her top priorities in her newly appointed role and her views on the state of the Internet of Things in business.
SAPinsider has provided a platform for independent consultants to reach the ecosystem with their message, such as Danielle Larocca, who shared her expertise on how human resources has evolved and what its future looks like, and Mico Yuk, who talked about what influences and factors led her to focus on the area of business intelligence.
SAPinsider has also published articles from women thought leaders at SAP partner organizations who have educated the ecosystem through their experience helping customers with their various SAP initiatives. Winshuttle’s Product Marketing Manager Jeanette Mifsud, for one, has been a frequent author sharing thought leadership on topics such as the importance of strategically automating SAP processes, among others. Marketing and communication specialists for Business Software, Inc. (BSI) Laura Jorgensen and Alla Umanskiy recently offered advice to SAP customers on how to navigate COVID-19 payroll
Dedicating This Edition to the Women Leaders of the SAP Ecosystem
SAPinsider has always shined a well-deserved spotlight on women leaders throughout the ecosystem, and we are proud to continue this tradition. This Q4 2020 edition of the magazine is dedicated to showcasing the amazing work women are currently doing across the SAPinsider Community. In developing this special edition, the SAPinsider team was honored to have an opportunity to speak with a variety of strong and accomplished women and hear their stories in oftentimes very personal conversations. Some of these conversations were reconnections with women we have highlighted in the past — such as Sharon Kaiser, CIO of New England Biolabs, who previously shared her experiences moving to SAP S/4HANA in this article. We also caught up with Birgit Starmanns, SAP’s Global Head of oCFO COE Thought Leadership Strategy and Programs for Finance and Risk, who is an SAP Expert and frequent author for SAPinsider. In addition, we had the pleasure of profiling some women who are new to the pages of SAPinsider Magazine, such as Deloitte’s US SAP Practice Leader Kelly Herod and Mervi Lampinen, Senior IT Executive at MSD Sharp & Dohme GmbH, who was a keynote presenter at the SAPinsider 2020 virtual event.
While each woman’s story and sentiments are distinct, some connecting threads weaved their way throughout the experiences they described. For example, nearly everyone attributed their success in some way to a strong family unit or upbringing from supportive caregivers. Herod and Lampinen, for instance, both spoke about their fathers encouraging them to try new things, even things that seemed more male-related, such as technology- or mechanical-focused tasks.
Sponsorship, and the impact it can have on a woman’s career, was a recurring theme throughout the conversations. According to Alison Biggan, Chief Operating Officer, Marketing Centers of Excellence and Operations at SAP, women tend to be over-mentored and under-sponsored. She described sponsors as senior leaders who go beyond being role models to being advocates and staking their own reputations on another’s success. Meg Bear, Senior Vice President of SAP SuccessFactors, offered an expanded view on sponsorship — suggesting that, as a sponsor, someone in a position of authority is not just supporting an idea for someone’s career, but also helping to make it happen, and that people simply don’t get to a senior executive level without that kind of support. Kaiser, for one, admitted that she would not be in a position to take advantage of the many opportunities open to her without her sponsor, who advised her on how to maintain her identity and grow her reputation and credibility as a leader and manager. Ivona Crnoja, Project Consultant, SAP AI Business Services, SAP SE, recommends that women make use of their company’s personal career coaching and mentoring initiatives, if available, to build a strong network of successful women they admire to support them on their way forward.
Another frequent theme was the importance of being a good communicator. Kaiser, for instance, recounted that several executives over the years have appreciated her ability to relay complicated technical information in business terms, in a way they can understand. And Starmanns said that strong communication skills have been a huge factor throughout her career, helping her succeed with writing, presenting, interacting with teams to ensure common goals, and accommodating different communication styles and focuses as needed.
Many also cited having a hunger for knowledge and a driving curiosity. Bethany Johnston, Corporate HRIS Manager at Northwest Pipe, said that her interest in the technology field stems from a desire to understand the “why” behind how things are done and to continually improve processes. In the cover story, Popelka — whose passion in college for learning about global cultures, history, and how people have evolved eventually morphed into a desire to understand technology and how to apply it to drive business outcomes — said that women should never stop learning, and that they should be curious and open to new people and opportunities every single day.
Inspiring Words to Ponder
Hearing about the work being done by the women featured in this edition — for example, how the massive workflow successes at Ascend Performance Materials were achieved by three separate women-led projects — certainly had an impact on the SAPinsider team. We believe their words of wisdom are bound to resonate with other women who aspire to leadership roles in the SAP ecosystem. Some of the team’s favorite recommendations found in the pages of this edition are:
- “If you’ve made your way up the ladder, turn around and lend a hand to help the next person. We should always be looking for those opportunities to help other women climb up.” — Heather Whitfield, Program Manager Head of Operations, Applied Materials
- “Individuals need to take a close look at what their team looks like and search for opportunities to sponsor someone who looks different from them.” — Judith Williams, Head of People Sustainability and Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, SAP
- “Leadership is about service. If you focus on providing the best service to your customers — your clients, teams, peers, family, or friends — the success will follow.” — Kelly Herod, Principal, US SAP Practice Leader, Deloitte Consulting
- “Accept the compliments for the hard work you have accomplished. Don’t hide, but be proud of yourself, and especially, don’t let others take credit for your achievements.” — Jana Wuerth, Senior Product Manager, SAP AI Business Services, SAP
- “As you’re struggling to make your way and thinking you’re an imposter, try to remember that you’re not any more of an imposter than anyone else, because they are making it up as they go along too.” — Amy Wilson, Senior Vice President, SAP SuccessFactors
SAPinsider has shared the stories of many successful SAP projects led by women over the years
Some of the standouts include the following:
Enterprise Applications Manager Ana Rodriguez shared (in an article from Q1 2016) how Skullcandy was able to bring on several new legal entities, achieve a single source of truth for transactions, and expand its customer base by integrating with third-party logistics providers and electronic data interchange vendors, all while minimizing the need for additional resources, IT systems, or a significant infrastructure.
JetBlue Airways’ Vice President of Financial Planning and Analysis Tracy Lawlor described (in an article from Q3 2015) how JetBlue modernized the airline’s financial processes, created more efficient and accurate financial planning and forecasting to help business leaders make better decisions, and produced more accurate reporting due to improved analytics.
Sandy Reisenauer, Senior CRM Business Analyst, shared (in an article from Q3 2017) how Nature’s Way decommissioned a homegrown application to provide field sales and customer service representatives with mobile access to customer account information and the ability to send automated requests to other departments and receive real-time status updates.
Laurel Johns, Manager of Finance Consolidation and Controls at Scotts Miracle-Gro, along with her teammates Shannon Randolph and Heather Lowe, revealed (in an article from Q3 2016) how finance was able to automate account reconciliation for 4,700 accounts, demonstrate financial compliance more effectively, and develop a more efficient way for financial analysts and auditors to prepare, approve, and monitor account reconciliations and attached documentation.