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Anyone with any knowledge of the tech sector knows there is something of a battle on to attract and retain women. Increasingly Boards and executive teams are sold on the commercially competitive advantage of gender equality but real change is tough. Despite significant investment in policies to address systemic issues (i.e. workplace flexibility, pay equity etc), there is still low female representation and where women are joining organisations, they are often not staying around.

SAP, is the world’s largest business software company. Renowned for being forward thinking and a globally recognised brand, SAP wanted to tackle gender diversity head on. Under the leadership of John Ruthven (MD), Gina McNamara (now SAP ANZ CFO) and Lisa Christy (now APAC HRD Wolters Kluwer), SAP engaged Dattner Group and Fabian Dattner to explore opportunities. Lisa had previously sent a team of SAP women to do Dattner Group’s national women’s program, Compass, and decided the program would be more effective if it was tailored to SAPs specific needs.

Dattner Group redesigned its Compass program, normally seven days across five months, to a three-day intensive, with a focus on building an internal collaboration of women at SAP to drive Diversity and Inclusion. This represented a significant challenge – in compressing the program so much, would the women have the transformational experience? If Dattner Group ran the program entirely internally, would the participants get that sense of common issue/cause that emerges in a public program?

In the words of Fabian Dattner, founding partner and creator of Compass, “what emerged was possibly the best program I’ve designed for women and it worked like a rocket”. High performing, senior women from different areas of SAP who had no relationship to speak of got to focus on personal purpose and values, to share quality time exploring their sense of self in the context of a highly competitive sector and lastly to explore the narrative of business acumen as a means of accelerating their contribution to the SAP business.

The program was so successful that it has been repeated a number of times and Dattner Group has done alumni programs on new content to keep the women refreshed and connected. Further to their credit, SAP have increased their support for women and continue their focus on properly engaging their female workforce. The participants have also self-organized internal processes for staying connected in the months following the program to ensure the impact is felt long after the intensive three days is finished.

There are approximately 80 women who have done the internal Compass program through SAP. Several participants have taken on more senior roles in SAP, with greater influence and commercial impact. These women are clear about who they are, their boundaries as leaders, their voice and influence and the power of their unique approach to leadership. They also have each other’s backs in tough times. Participants feedback suggested that the program had been deeply transformational, had taken them by surprise in the nature of its content and had increased their effectiveness not only as employees of SAP but as friends, mothers and among their families and networks.

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