Women like Sanna Marin showed what good leadership is during the corona crisis – this is what companies can do now

By Angelique de Vries, CEO Salesforce Northern Europe

From New Zealand to Finland, how the female political leaders of these countries responded to the Covid-19 pandemic has been widely praised. Thanks to their leadership, they managed to prevent an increase in the number of infections and fatalities. They listened to different perspectives from experts and showed empathy and humility.

In short: role models such as Jacinda Ardern, Angela Merkel and Sanna Marin inspire young women in times of crisis. The message: they too can develop into leaders in the future.

In the Netherlands we have never had a female prime minister to look up to. Just as women remain significantly underrepresented in politics, their leadership skills are also desperately needed in the tech industry.

The urgency to tackle gender inequality could hardly be greater. Women and disadvantaged minorities have been disproportionately hit by the coronavirus outbreak. A figure from Deloitte research illustrates this: Seventy percent of working women in nine of the world’s largest economies believe their careers have been slowed down by the pandemic.

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Given these new barriers to women’s economic participation and leadership, it is only fitting that UN International Women’s Day on March 8 is dedicated to “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”

It’s good to celebrate what women have achieved. But this is also the time to reflect on the unique contribution of female leadership. What steps can companies take to give women more opportunities?

Looking at leadership differently

Many traits of successful women leaders during the pandemic show how the tech industry too can benefit from more women at the top. As a company in the digital economy, in addition to the so-called hard and technical skills, you also increasingly want to rely on leaders with emotional intelligence. People who are able to guide and nurture talent.

In addition, it is becoming increasingly important to have leaders who can solve complex problems by making compromises, challenging the status quo by listening and who can keep a common goal in mind with a diversely composed team.

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Creating a culture with equality as the spearhead is not only good, it is also downright smart. Studies show time and again that a diverse workplace makes for a more profitable business.Think of functions in cloud computing, engineering, data and AI.

If you really want to promote gender equality, we have to consider the entire employee cycle. From attracting and recruiting talent to how we invest in development.

Investing in opportunities

By opting for various recruitment methods and training programs that counteract prejudice, you as a company come into contact with candidates that you might not have thought of otherwise. The business community also has a responsibility to help women who have had their careers interrupted for a while on their way back to the workplace.

With the ability to work virtually anywhere today, flexible work arrangements can improve work-life balance. But if not handled carefully, they will jeopardize the hard-earned progress in the fight for equal pay.

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Do you really want to create a workplace that reflects our society? Then women should be represented at every level. Particularly in board and C-level positions. If you want to achieve this, you need support from women in all phases of their careers. You can do this, for example, by investing in leadership development projects and processes for more inclusiveness. This includes fair treatment, equal opportunities, recognition of success and strengthening their visibility. That is the way to inspire more women to move up the ladder and to get them at the table where the decisions are made. Because we live in a fully digital world, companies have an even greater responsibility to create an equal, fair and inclusive work environment. In the office and virtually.

This immediately reminds me of a wisdom from Neelie Kroes, former politician and EU Commissioner: “If you’re the only woman in the boardroom, forget about making a change. As women, we must show courage and make our voices heard. We need to claim our place at the table and enjoy it, and introduce other women right away. Good leaders create a culture around them with values ​​like equality and inclusiveness, and invite others to participate as well.

Bringing out the qualities we need

In a changing world, empathy, humility and diversity will be the cornerstones of good leadership. Just as we have taken advantage of these qualities in the global pandemic, we must also deploy them at every level in every business.To find better ways to find, develop and reward talent, and to take quality leadership to the next level. Simply because we need it.n.

Angelique de Vries, CEO Northern Europe, is responsible for the business operations of Salesforce in the Benelux and Scandinavia. She is an international tech leader in the software industry with experience driving business growth through a customer-centric approach.

This is an article from our “The Urgency of Digitization” series, powered by Salesforce. Salesforce helps enterprises and institutions build and maintain meaningful, relevant, and lasting relationships with every customer, partner, and individual employee. Transparency, equality for all, innovation and an obsession for customer success are the foundations for this. Do you want to know how? Look here!.

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