Anka Wittenberg, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer and Head of People Sustainability for SAP SE
Innovation: SAP Global Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Program
Program Leader: Anka Wittenberg, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer and Head of People Sustainability for SAP SE
Introduced in 2011 and led by economist and global HR executive Anka Wittenberg, SAP’s Global Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Program is working to achieve a bias-free work environment through the implementation of innovative training, process, and technology. The Program focuses on the gender equity, cross-generational intelligence, culture/ethnicity and LGBT awareness, and the workforce integration of differently abled people. Program success is measured by conducting annual employee-engagement surveys, and tracking the company’s progress toward achieving predetermined business-specific goals on a quarterly basis.
Regarding the importance she and her company place on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Wittenberg explains, “At SAP, our commitment to diversity and inclusion—and building a business beyond bias—fuels innovation and allows us to better serve our customers, keep our employees engaged, and outperform the competition. By embracing our differences, reaching out to those who are under-represented, and using our resources and technology to reduce bias, we are not just imagining the kind of inclusive organization we want to be, but making it a reality.” Under Wittenberg’s leadership, SAP’s Global D&I Program is making impressive strides in increasing diversity and inclusion in its focus areas:
In 2011, SAP set a goal of increasing the percentage of leadership positions in the company held by women from 18 to 25 percent by the end of 2017. The D&I Program team worked with the business to increase the talent pool, develop talent, and increase retention. Using HR analysts and SAP’s own software, including SAP Digital Boardroom and Diversity Dashboard to track progress, the team reached its goal in June 2017. As a result of this effort, SAP became the first global IT company to earn EDGE Gender Equality Certification.
With five distinct generations of people working side by side at SAP, cross-generational intelligence is a must. The D&I Program is working to improve interactions among colleagues, customers, and partners by increasing awareness of generational commonalities and differences, addressing social biases and stereotypes, optimizing communication and feedback, and improving work-life effectiveness. Initiatives in this area include Focus on Insight training, which encourages right behaviors and actions, as well as Flex Work, Cross Mentoring, and Stay in Touch for employees on parental leave.
Culture & Identity and LGBT Awareness
SAP’s comprehensive Cultural Intelligence training provides guidance for working in an ethnically and racially diverse environment. Project Propel, an ongoing initiative dedicated to enabling Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) across the United States to build the next generation of technology talent. The initiative focuses on training students in the technologies and critical digital enterprise skills in demand in the SAP ecosystem.
[email protected], the company’s LGBT employee network, first launched in 2001 as a grassroots employee movement in Germany, now boasts more than 8,000 members worldwide. In 2016, SAP America signed the HRC “Equality Is Our Business Pledge” opposing anti-LGBT legislation in states across the country, and endorsed The Equality Act, a bill in Congress to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex.
Differently Abled People Workplace Integration
Perhaps one of the most game-changing Global D&I Program initiatives is SAP’s Autism at Work program. Announced in May 2013, it has so far been implemented in ten countries, enabling more than 120 people with Autism—who bring exceptional attention to detail, the ability to see patterns in data, and research skills—to add enormous value to SAP’s ability to innovate. The Autism at Work initiative earned SAP recognition as National Employer of the Year at The Arc’s National Convention in 2015.
SAP CEO, Bill McDermott, whose vision for the company is “helping the world run better and improve people’s lives,” fully supports the Program’s efforts and goals. “We embrace the unique magic of every individual at SAP,” he says. “It’s the differences that define our world view and create the fabric of our culture.”
- A global leader in the technology industry—an industry infamous for a lack of diversity and a culture averse to inclusion—SAP sees its 87,000 employees as a strategic business asset and champions diversity, inclusion, and equality for all.
- One of the first technology companies to sign the White House Technology Inclusion Pledge, SAP also received a perfect score in the latest Corporate Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign.
- SAP is active with UN Women, helping to drive sustainable development goals that aim to end poverty, combat inequalities, and promote prosperity, while protecting the environment.
- As part of its Business Beyond Bias movement, the company connects customers with SAP Success Factors machine-learning technology, which uses algorithms that detect and eliminate bias to help eliminate workplace inequality.
- SAP has played a leading role in the ongoing refugee crisis. In 2016, as part of its “Engaging for Refugees” initiative, SAP hired 105 interns across Germany and brought on 15 students for dual-study positions specifically created for refugees.
At the beginning of Anka Wittenberg’s career, she came to understand just how bias affects us all. Armed with a graduate degree in economics, she applied for positions with a number of companies in her native Germany. She didn’t get so much as an interview. The problem? She was the mother of three young children and hiring managers were automatically disqualifying her. Not to be deterred, she began to apply for positions with companies in the United States and was soon hired. That early experience made diversity and inclusion an important cause for Wittenberg—one she is still passionate about today.
As Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at SAP, Wittenberg is responsible for the development and implementation of SAP’s global Diversity and Inclusion strategy.
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