Photograph by FangXiaNuo—Getty Images
By Lori Mitchell-Keller
January 24, 2017

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you play a role in advancing workplace equality?” is written by Lori Mitchell-Keller, global general manager for consumer industries at SAP.

I am a woman in a senior leadership position at a tech company—and I am a minority.

This isn’t an exaggeration. Women make up just 20% of leadership positions in the technology industry, which is hugely disproportionate when you consider that women make up more than half of the overall workforce.

Though many people understand the important of workplace equality, it’s often unclear how bring it about. Below are a few important steps that you, your colleagues, and your company need to keep in mind to advance this cause:

Prioritize diversity

Workplace equality cannot live as an agenda item—increasing the number of women in senior roles needs to be at the top of every company’s priority action list. If you are at the top, make sure this organizational priority is never dropped. If you aren’t, find a mentor and work with them to make sure workplace equality isn’t pushed aside. SAP is one among many companies that has established internal networks for female employees. SAP has also set a 2017 goal of having 25% of its leadership positions filled by women by year-end, and I am proud to say we’re on track to meet that goal.

Encourage flexible work

Individuals and companies need to look internally to see what changes need to be made to achieve diversity. For years, women have been championing initiatives that add value for all employees—flexible schedules, telecommuting, and working virtually. Aside from benefiting current employees, these initiatives also make recruitment easier for the company. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), one-quarter of 18–24 year olds say companies whose mission and values match their own is important to them when considering a future employer.

 

While these types of benefits are important to potential employees both with and without children, they tend to have immediate value for and most impact on working mothers. The reality is that even when both partners work, the woman is more likely to take time off work when a child is sick or has a doctor’s appointment. According to the Network of Executive Women, 70% of women in dual-earner couples said they had greater responsibility than their husbands for routine childcare.

Compare yourself to others

It’s also important to look outside your company to see what else you can be doing better. As a board member of the NRF, my work with leading retail industry executives has given me insights on how workplace equality is handled throughout that diverse industry. This outside experience allows me to leverage these insights in my own company, as I can institute new ways of thinking or different programs to generate results.

It may seem difficult to change the workplace, let alone the industry, but by speaking up, demanding change, and holding others accountable, you can play an important part. Help pioneer change by collaborating with colleagues at all levels and work together with fierce resolve.

When other organizations see your success, they’ll be quick to emulate these changes.

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