Last week I attended Nokia’s annual Greenhouse event in Munich, a women’s networking event for Nokia ladies and externals. There was a common agreement that diversity makes good business sense – an often discussed topic which even made it onto the agenda of the World’s Economic Forum in Davos. Birgit Königsheim from Nokia and Nokia’s Chairman Risto Siilasmaa opened the event with a hologram speech on intuition, inspiration and innovation – the key themes of the evening. Next on was Maria Varsellona, Nokia’s Chief Legal Officer and President of Nokia Technologies who really inspired the audience. She cited some analyst firms like Gartner who’s research shows that companies with greater gender diversity enjoy 27% higher return on equity and 42% higher ratio of dividend payments. Fortune 1000 companies with female CEOs outperform S&P 500 companies over the respective time of their tenures. Embracing diversity and inclusion can bring a broader range of mindsets and backgrounds into the organization, leading to more effective decision-making or drawing in a wider customer base. Forrester also found that diverse thinking supports cutting-edge innovation and delivers tangible business benefits. Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 33% more likely to have above-average financial returns. For gender diversity, that number is 21%.
The question is why? Why do we still see a gender gap in leadership roles and unequal pay? The awareness has obviously changed, but where are the results? Why do the efforts from the past years don’t pay off? A dedicated panel discussed exactly this. The panelists were a good mix of female leaders who reported on company strategies, their own experience and cultural themes.
From the left: Ashmi Banerjee, Association Female Tech Leaders, Bianca Lorenzen, Deutsche Telekom, Susanne Fettig, Nokia, Elke Benning-Rohnke, Fidar, Rocio Lorenzo, Boston Consulting Group, Sonja Zollner, Nokia (Moderator)
More Queens please!
It became pretty clear that the problem not only lies within the organisations: old boy networks or old fashioned role models. Yes, companies have to change their culture and mindset. They have to overhaul HR rules, where e.g. an incumbent stays in his/her role if less than 50% of the job description changes. This hinders renewal in organisations. But the discussion also showed that a lot of women behave like Princesses. They want to be liked and grant successes to their teams versus themselves. “I literally have to carry some women to the next step in their career”, said one panelist. “Have you ever asked for a pay rise?” We have Kings, but not enough Queens. As a Queen you might need to take tough decisions, you might have enemies – but you rule. Don’t be fooled by trying to be the better man. Be authentic, be yourself, but be bold. That was a key takeaway from the discussion.
For Nokia, diversity and inclusion are about both showing respect to each other and recognizing that they are important prerequisites for Nokia’s business success. We can benefit from diversity when we ensure that everyone can be heard, regardless of their background, personal preferences and elements of their identity. On Friday, Nokia signed the UN Global Standards of Conduct for Business, pledging Nokia’s support for LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people. These standards provide a framework for businesses to tackle discrimination against LGBT+ employees. You can read the press release here.
What can women do to improve the situation? Women should stick together, form networks and groups to increase awareness and impact, they should promote each other as Christine Lagarde does. Ladies – let’s step up. Let’s take the seat at the leadership table, but let’s take the step ourselves. It would look foolish if someone would carry us over.
Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @nokianetworks using #WomeninSTEM #diversity