In a recent blog, Marek Grodzinski wrote that “limiting the celebration of the female population to just one day each year is derogative.” And while I completely agree with Marek, I believe that celebrating women on International Women’s Day serves as both a reminder that there is still a long way to go for women across the globe to achieve true equality with men, but it also champions the progress we’re making towards making equality between the sexes a reality.
Reading Marek’s blog got me thinking about my own personal ideas and experience around the issue of gender diversity. So in this blog, I would like to expand on some of the points Marek raised in his blog, look at how we are addressing these issues within Capgemini and give you some personal examples from my own experience.
Increasing gender diversity across the Group
I’ve worked in IT for my entire career. And although men typically dominate the IT industry, this has never been a barrier to my career path, because I truly believe that it is up to us, as women, to have the confidence to stand up and forge our own careers. Women need to learn to “dare” and ask for more, but we also need men to help us embark on this growth journey – this is all about mentoring, coaching and preparation. More of that later.
I recently attended a conference organized by Women@Capgemini, a program launched in 2012 by Isabelle Roux-Chenu (Senior Advisor to the Group Chairman and CEO and Head of Group Commercial & Contract Management & Women@Capgemini Program Lead) to increase gender diversity across the Group. The program focuses on recruiting, developing, retaining and promoting our talented women to help them to grow. It also aims to change the corporate mindset towards gender diversity through training and awareness.
One of the key messages that came out of the conference is that women don’t always have the confidence in their own ability and often have to “double prove” that we can do something. For example, even if a man doesn’t have the right skills for a particular job, he often has the confidence to apply for the job, whereas women don’t always have that confidence to take a risk and go for it. And men very often endorse men. When there is a job opening, you can be sure that men will contact their peer network and encourage each other to apply for it. So not only do we have to prove our ability for the job, we often have to prove to ourselves that we are capable of aiming higher.
As women, we need to leverage our personal network to encourage women we trust to join our organization.
Changing the gender mentality
I also believe that we need to change the mentalities of both men and women – women to be more confident, and men to give women space to grow. In some ways this is a generation problem. The younger generation – my daughter for example – takes gender equality for granted. But the reality once they enter a company is sometimes different, because the older, male-dominated management are often too set in their ways.
And this is where we can help our younger generation of women overcome this challenge – supporting our female peers through coaching, mentoring and the right training. To cite a recent example, two of our Business Services colleagues, Lisa Ross and Kari Maday, recently completed the 2015 Women’s Leadership Development Program (WLDP) – a part of the Women@Capgemini program – and have been promoted as a result.
Keep me motivated to keep me growing
Every time I’ve taken a big step in my career, it was because I sized up an opportunity and took a risk. For example, in a previous role at a different company, I wanted to change my job and asked for a promotion. But because the management team didn’t think I had the right skills, they refused.
What could I do? I was determined to prove myself, so I enrolled in a Marketing Strategy MBA program, studied hard in parallel with my job, graduated from the program and demonstrated to the management that I was capable of doing the job – and so they promoted me!
To stay motivated, I need to keep growing – not only in terms of new challenges and opportunities, but also in terms of recognition and promotion. Because we all need to be recognized for what we achieve, and recognition is about promotion. And if we don’t promote our people, they will likely become demotivated and leave their jobs.
It’s just a matter of organization
Going back to the point Marek made around women and maternity leave, I had two young children and I was doing my MBA at the same time. But I managed everything, and I believe that it’s just a matter of knowing what you want to achieve and being organized in how to work towards your goals. French law also supports this.
I don’t think maternity is necessarily a barrier to a woman’s career – just a temporary hurdle. Many countries provide support for young mothers to allow them to return to work, and I believe it’s just a matter of a woman being organized, understanding her support options and taking advantage of that support.
After having my second child, I wanted to stay at home to look after my children, but after a couple of months I realized that I was not cut out to be a woman at home and was dying to get back to work. I was a mother, I love my children, but I wouldn’t have been happily balanced if I didn’t have my job. I need both.
Women all have different preferences, but the company has a role to play in encouraging women to go back to work early if that’s what they would like to do, to help balance both their maternal and professional lives.
Stand up and be counted
As way of conclusion, my advice for any woman at work is to hold on to your dreams and ambitions, stand up and have the confidence to ask, and dare to apply for a job even if you think you’re not 100% ready – only by pushing yourself will you learn and grow. It might be a challenge today, but tomorrow you will overcome that challenge, and it will make you stronger.
And finally, I believe we, as women, need to work on harnessing the power of women. I challenge both men and women to think about the women in your team and how you can help them to grow.
Click here to read more about the Women@Capgemini program.