“Gender equality is everyone’s responsibility” says Salesforce SVP

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“Gender equality is everyone’s responsibility,” says positive business champion Andy Lawson, SVP and UK Country Leader at Salesforce. 

In an interview with HeForShe and published on WeAreTheCity, Lawson spoke about his views on the role of women in business and gender equality in the workplace.

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Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have you witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?

I believe that promoting gender equality is everyone’s responsibility. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to work with, and mentor, some amazing women. I have no doubt that diverse teams are stronger teams, better able to find creative solutions to problems and identify new opportunities. It’s my opinion that if the UK tech industry is to continue thriving, it must work to ensure there’s a strong, diverse talent pool.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

First, promoting equality in the workplace is the right thing to do. Second, it’s just good business sense. Companies that make diversity and equality a priority have stronger teams, more engaged employees and happier customers. It’s been proven that having women account for at least 30% of leadership positions adds 6% to a company’s net profit margin. You can’t ignore how significant that is, purely from a bottom-line business point of view.

At Salesforce, we just did a full salary analysis of more than 17,000 global employees to see if men and women were paid equally for comparable work. As part of that we recently announced that 6% of the workforce required a salary adjustment. In addition, our High-Potential Leadership Program, designed to provide leadership skills among female talent, has led to a 33% increase in the number of women who were promoted last year.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

Wherever I’ve worked, men have always been very much part of the conversation – and that’s certainly true at Salesforce too. More broadly, I think there’s a massive opportunity for men to join the conversation, and speak up for what’s right – that’s exactly why I support #HeForShe.

Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?

Quite frankly, if there are men who think that these kinds of groups exclude them from the gender equality conversation then I think they need to wake up. These groups are really important in terms of helping people forge strong mentor relationships, and to make female leaders more visible to those with leadership ambitions. With women underrepresented in tech, it’s all the more important to have strong mentors and inspiring role models.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

For me, I feel it starts at the top. Leaders need to set an example and take part in the dialogue – which involves not only speaking out about what’s right, but listening as well. It’s about being a role model too. For example, Salesforce.org is a big supporter of Stemettes, an organisation focused on supporting girls with talent in STEM subjects and supporting young female entrepreneurs. It’s important to me to be involved in the work of Stemettes to give my support and to show how important this issue is for us as a business and for the tech sector.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

Absolutely, and Salesforce is a huge believer in the power of mentoring. I truly believe that mentoring is a vital ingredient in everyone’s career success and is something that I’ve really tried to reinforce in the Salesforce UK business. I currently mentor several women at different levels within the organization.

Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?

Honestly, in my experience, not really. When it comes to battling comfort zones and recognising opportunities, it’s really about the individual and the particular situation he or she is in.

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