As SAP’s head of human resources for Great China for the past five years, Margaret Chen has worked tirelessly to orchestrate strategic HR initiatives that support SAP’s rapid growth and translate business needs into HR solutions. She also champions SAP’s diversity & inclusion and helps nurture future women leaders. With thousands of women employed in the region and having a front row seat in technology, Margaret has her fingers on the pulse of what is in store for women in the industry. Here she shares some of her insights.
Women’s future in work
The female workforce has a few traits that I believe would be important in the future of work. To begin with, they tend to be more collaborative and understanding. And in the future corporate hierarchies will be increasingly flat, with tasks being handled by organizational networks. Team members in these networks will come from different parts of the company and not necessarily having a direct reporting responsibility to the leader. Under these circumstances, they are not led with authority but instead leaders have to inspire team members to work together and collaborate to achieve a common goal. The collaborative characteristic of women is very conducive to inspiring team spirit for all to work together.
I also believe that women are more attuned to listening attentively, enabling them to better understand what’s behind the spoken words. They tend to take their time to digest information before reaching an informed decision. They are also more willing to foster two-way communication, rather than command and control. In a sense, they are good at personal leadership, not just people leadership.
However, I might add that any leader, regardless of gender, should have three core traits in the future of work:
1) a collaborative mindset for all to achieve a common goal
2) emotional intelligence to understand team members’ characteristics and how to handle unforeseen situations with resilience
3) the ability to empower others to multiply their success
Women in technology
I believe that women in the technology industry should be mindful that there will always be a discrepancy between the knowledge that education system instills and the demands in the real world. Thus, they need a heightened sense of curiosity to stay equipped for the future. Be hungry to know what’s out there and what’s coming up. Also, they should stay agile to learn new skills and technologies. I can’t stress how important it is to be able to learn to adapt to rapid changes.
It is quite common for women to have “mindset roadblocks” when it comes to technology. Some women might not be as willing to take as much risk as men and in a time of rapid changes, they may not be able to keep up. I would encourage women to start stepping out of their comfort zone by try things out to begin with. Females should have an experimental mindset and realize that there is no perfect solution. Instead of waiting, they should experiment and fine tune things along the way.
Maintaining a balanced life between career and home
Women often play a dual role between work and family, looking after their parents and children while trying to maintain a career. At SAP we have a number of flexible work measures to support our female colleagues on that front. They have options such as working part-time and starting a second career with us after retirement as well as sharing job roles between two colleagues, who cover the same duties with complementary time arrangements. They can also work from home. With a laptop and smartphone, women can work no matter where they are while looking after their family. All of these are already in place at SAP, and I am happy to share that our efforts in workplace gender diversity and equality have been recognized through Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) certifications. SAP China was the first company in China, the first company in Asia, and the second company in the world to receive EDGE LEAD, the highest level of the certification. SAP Hong Kong has been certified at EDGE MOVE and SAP Taiwan at EDGE ASSESS.