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SAP Aims To Achieve 30% Woman Leadership By 2022

Kamolika Peres, Vice President and Head, Strategic Customer Program, SAP Indian Subcontinent talks to BW Businessworld about women roles in leadership, role in technology and economy. Edited Excerpts:

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Women participation in economy and leadership in India is comparatively quite low compared globally; even below than our neighbours Bangladesh and China. India ranks 108 out of 144 in the global gender equality report.

Kamolika Peres, Vice President and Head, Strategic Customer Program, SAP Indian Subcontinent talks to BW Businessworld about women roles in leadership, role in technology and economy.  Edited Excerpts: 

It is a general opinion that technology and sales are dominated by men. How would you like to differ on this aspect?

While it is true that men outnumber women in technology sales currently, however to my mind, we will soon see a dynamic shift to see more women in this domain. Sales, at a fundamental level, is all about understanding and dealing with people, which women can excel in. Some of the best sales people I have met in the course of my career have been women – although I will admit they have been few and far between. There is a prevalent myth that men are more attuned to a sales role – I have found it not to be the case always – women in sales roles have a stronger focus on relationships, on working as a team and are better negotiators, too. On a lighter note, we actually learn the fine art of negotiation as little girls, seeing our mothers and grandmothers drive fierce bargains in the market.

What are the initiatives that SAP takes to promote leadership amongst women employees and train them to be future leaders?

At SAP, we have championed the cause of diversity initiatives by making it work at a systemic level to create an open and bias-free workplace. Achieving our goal of 25 percent women in leadership in 2017, we are now looking forward to increase 1 percent each year to 30 percent women in leadership by the end of 2022 and are working towards creating numerous initiatives to reach the goal. To support the cause of gender diversity we have come up with one of the most unique and innovative leadership development programs in the industry that is Our Award-winning Leadership Excellence Acceleration Program (LEAP) for women. Women achieve domain expertise through trainings and working in the sector, SAP takes care of every aspect of training and support them in doing so. Assignments, mentoring and review to help her achieve her work goals is also our intention.

In addition, SAP’s commitment to gender diversity extends beyond its employee base. Through the Business Beyond Bias initiative, SAP employs business process expertise combined with machine-learning based biased language detection to prevent unconscious bias across the workplace – not just internally but even at our customer’s organizations. This milestone is the latest benchmark in SAP’s commitment to eliminate unconscious bias and enable an inclusive culture for all companies.

How to be a leader and yet have empathy and understanding with people?

I think to be a leader you need to have empathy and understanding – a leader who is not empathetic to the concerns of her or his people will not go far. As a leader you must necessarily walk in the shoes of the people on your team – to understand and support their efforts, to recognize and celebrate their success and to reaffirm their faith when they encounter failure. That to me, is what being a leader is all about.

How has leadership shaped you as a person?

I think being in a position of leadership creates an indelible impact on a person. For me, the single biggest lesson I learnt was to remain calm under pressure. Every leadership role brings with it the stresses and pressures of handling a job at the top level, and learning how to handle this is I feel the biggest skill of leadership. Courage under fire, to me, is the one defining character of leadership.

What are the current trends in sales which you would like to highlight?

The rise of digital has significantly changed the way we engage with our customers. Today, the CXOs of top tier corporate houses are extremely well-informed about the latest in technology trends. When engaging with such an audience, therefore, its critical we prove the value of business transformation that technology can bring. With the advent of new technologies – AI, Machine Learning, IoT – the canvas of possibilities has expanded. Each customer is evaluating the use of these in own context, based on their business realities. The successful initiatives in the future will be those that use these technologies successfully in delivering a positive business outcome.

Sales is all about strategy and timing, how should a worker be motivated in times of low period in business?

Let me say that I disagree when you say that sales isall about strategy and timing. I firmly believe that as sales leaders, if we can show value to our customers, then business will be good. While strategy and timingdo have a role, value-driven sales approach will always be received well by the customers. Motivation can be derived from the salesperson’sendeavor to consistently deliver value to customers.

Are leaders born or learning and adaptation plays a major role in shaping a portfolio?

This is an age-old debate on whether leaders are born or they adapt to situations to be one. I honestly don’t know whether good leaders are born with a predisposition to lead but I am positive that without learning and adapting, leadership is static. And static leadership is a not a recipe for future success.

For me twice in my career, I have managed a team of 300-500+ people, mostly in the delivery of complex technology programs. When leading such large teams, a few elements are critical – having a well-oiled governance mechanism which runs like clockwork, a no-compromise approach on hiring top talent, bearing down on the tough issues that crop up and most importantly, celebrating success and recognizing your people. A person can be born with qualities but it is experience and practical situations which can shape leaders.


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