I personally dislike International Women’s Day. I find that limiting the celebration of the female population to just one day each year is derogative. On this day everyone, particularly in business, wakes up and talks about the rights and careers of women while kicking off special projects to improve diversity statistics. I can proudly say that in our Polish Business Services organization we do it differently – we support International Women’s day every day.
For me, there are three main barriers that can negatively impact a woman’s career. The first is an organizational culture that does not have clear promotion rules. In our organization we use a competency model throughout the entire HR cycle. Everyone knows that gender has nothing to do with how an individual is appraised or whether they will be promoted. What counts is having the right competency level and the potential to grow.
The second limitation has to do with maternity. Many women take a break in their careers to raise children. Thankfully, many countries have laws that require employers to support young mothers (e.g. paternity leave) and generally society accepts that women make a choice to take family leave (although it is still far from perfect). On top of the requirements set by the state, in our firm we have a program called “Business Parent” which maintains a social connection with our colleagues during their maternity/paternity leave while helping them upon their return to work.
The third boundary relates to the mindset that some women have where they may underestimate their own talents and ability to deal with some of the challenges that the role may bring. Why are such old stereotypes still anchored in our cultures? In my experience, women who believe they have equal chances and skills can and will accelerate their career development. And it is the role of the organization to continuously support them by creating the right environment that enables them to achieve their potential… and do so every day – not just on March 8th.
Capgemini Business Services in Poland has been historically and culturally a business that empowers women. Positions in accounting, HR, and customer service are predominantly occupied by women, and have been for some time. Over 70% of our center’s population (3,800+ professionals) are female. And how is it reflected at the management level? Of the 8 members of our Management Board, 5 are women. Additionally, the majority of our senior management community (45 people) are female. And let’s not forget that the CEO of the Capgemini Business Services global strategic business unit is Aruna Jayanthi, who Forbes magazine recognized as the most influential woman in India.
So with another International Woman’s day upon us, let’s not limit the celebration to one day. Let’s make it an International Woman’s year. Are you with me?