Companies need to create a workplace environment where people feel they belong in order to foster diversity and inclusion. “We believe that belonging is a key aspect of diversity and inclusion and something that is not addressed as often as it should be,” says Andreea Baciu, Vice President of Global Talent Development at UiPath.
Through our webinar, “Women in Leadership/Tech Driving Change in the Workplace,” we wanted to mark and honour International Women’s Day 2021. We spoke to – among others –Irina Matea, Customer Service Department Director & Member of Executive Committee at Orange Romania, Andra Duta, Site Lead for Romania at Dell, Andreea Groenendijk-Deveau, CEO and Founder at Renard Group, Irina Mitrea, Head of Field Services and Acting Head of Service Delivery Unit at Ericsson, and Agnes Dalos, HR Director Eastern Europe at DIAGEO. Find below the highlights of our conversation:
- It is now more important than ever to create opportunities for women to work in leadership positions in the technology industry, especially within the AI sector.
- We can promote diversity and inclusion through recruitment but also through philanthropy, by helping vulnerable communities.
- The pandemic has had a big impact on women’s livelihoods and it will continue to take its toll for years to come.
- There are three important questions leaders can ask that will help them reach better gender equality: how can we use technology to minimise the effects of the pandemic on women’s lives? how do we encourage women who have made it to the top of their industries, to keep the door open for others? how do we encourage more girls to fall in love with STEM subjects at school?
- Diversity and inclusion should be an important topic in the media as well and companies should consider how they can increase awareness of women’s work.
Irina Matea: I am happy to share that Orange has been certified for gender equality at European and international standards for more than five years now. This year we are hopeful that we will again receive the certification that as we renew our focus on promoting greater gender equality in the company. As a technology company, I would say that we are steadily reaching our goals of gender equality.
Andra Elena Duta: I work for Dell and we have the same bold goals as the other technology companies when it comes to achieving gender equality. We have many programmes and initiatives to support and promote diversity and gender equality but I would say that we still have a lot of work to do as a company. We believe that it’s very important for us to empower other women and bee mentors and sponsors to the women in our company and within our community. So we organised a book club and discussed books such as Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Perez. After reading the books I was astonished to see how much gender bias there is in the world. For example, phones are made for male hands and medical research is carried out on men and car safety is based on male bodies.
The prevalence of bias struck me. I think now more than ever it is important to have women in these key roles, especially within the tech industry and within the AI sector. Far too often, others make decisions for women. So I think it’s extremely important for women to speak up and challenge the status quo and be champions of other women.
Andreea Baciu: For us at UiPath, we want to focus on creating a workplace culture where people feel they belong. We believe that belonging is a key aspect of diversity and inclusion and something that is not addressed as often as it should be. As a relatively new company, we are at the beginning of our journey in creating a more diverse and inclusive journey, so it has been an inspiration for me to listen to the views of all speakers today.
Andreea Groenendijk-Deveau: At Renard Group we support people’s mental wellbeing through technology and philanthropy. I try to put equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything I do and I am happy to say that I work with a team of remarkable women and brilliant men, because we can’t and shouldn’t have one without the other. I’m quite proud to say that we have a great gender balance and diversity in our team and we are striving to continue improving that with every new member. Apart from my work, I also volunteer with Asociatia Copilului, Romania’s largest NGO fighting for children’s rights and with Astriid, a UK-based charity helping people with long term health issues find meaningful employment. And now we also partner with the Romanian Diversity Chamber of Commerce and we are incredibly keen to put our backs into supporting their fantastic work.
As a woman in business, I believe that the biggest challenge we will face as women is the recovery from the pandemic. We are lucky and, in a way, privileged that we haven’t experienced the effects of the pandemic firsthand, but it has taken its toll on women’s finances, jobs, family life, mental health or gender equality in general.
My first question is: how can we use technology to minimise the effects of the pandemic on women’s lives? My second question is: how do we encourage women who have made it to the top of their industries, to keep the door open for others? I believe women at the top of their fields should be supporting, mentoring and championing other women. And my third question is: how do we encourage more girls to fall in love with STEM subjects at school? These are the three questions I would like to leave you with.
Irina Mitrea: I have worked not only in Romania but also in West Africa for seven years and that is where I became aware of how challenging it can be to talk about gender equality and how strong cultural biases can be. I’m quite vocal about diversity and passionate about the topic so I wanted to make sure to have at least one female in my team.
Agnes Dalos: We have talked a lot about how to help women get into organizations and the support they would need to advance in their careers. I think it is also important to talk about how women think of themselves when they’re applying for a role.
DIAGEO has worked hard to achieve gender parity in Eastern Europe. We have reached our 50/50 target for gender representation even in our top leadership.
To reach that we have created the right pool of applicants for these positions. For example, the majority of times one out of five candidates is a woman which creates a bias in the recruitment process. To solve this, we ensure equal representation not only within our pool of applicants but also within our teams. We have also talked a lot about how to make women more visible and I think that can be achieved through the influence of existing female leaders. For example, I have recently worked on a project that aims to increase the portrayal of women in media, advertising and leadership roles. I think once women are in a leadership position, we all have a voice and we all have an opinion.