With an online event on 8 March 2021, Salesforce and eco #LiT – Ladies in Tech celebrated International Women’s Day, the 1st anniversary of Salesforce’s “Bring Women Back to Work” programme, as well as women from all around the world. We want to encourage women to achieve their goals, to think big, and to access and seize career opportunities in the Internet industry. The webinar included great role models from the tech scene including Tijen Onaran, CEO and Founder of Global Digital Women, Lucia Falkenberg, Chief People Officer, eco Association, and Petra Jenner, Salesforce.
Petra Jenner is one of the leading female figures in the tech scene. For over four years she’s been on board in top management at Salesforce as Senior Vice President, and was previously CEO for Microsoft in Switzerland. At Salesforce, Jenner is also an executive sponsor of the “Bring Women Back to Work” programme, which helps women in returning to work after parental leave. We spoke to her about career opportunities for women in the tech industry and what tech companies can do to attract and retain more women.
Ms Jenner, you’ve had a very impressive career and have succeeded in reaching the top management ranks of leading tech companies. At Salesforce you’ve been active for a number of years in executive management positions as Senior Vice President, while before that you were CEO for Microsoft in Switzerland. Where do you think we stand in terms of women in tech, and why should women choose the tech industry?
Petra Jenner: The times have never been better: the opportunities for women planning careers have never been so good. The tech industry in particular is a future-oriented industry with a myriad of different career paths. Especially for women wishing to harmonise career and family, the tech industry offers excellent opportunities and good concepts for integrating family and career. The opportunities are great, the employment relationships have become more flexible. In my view, we’ve achieved a lot in recent years.
You stand as a very good example of what great career options the Internet industry offers; yet women are clearly underrepresented in the tech sector. In Germany, for example, the proportion of women is just under 17 percent, and the gender gap is even wider at management level. While the digital industry is booming and new digital business models are emerging every day and creating lucrative jobs, women are still too often missing out on these. What can tech companies do to attract more women to the industry?
Petra Jenner: What’s important is to do away with the fear of technology. Many women are afraid to move into the digital/tech industry because they think they have too little expertise. Many women don’t (yet) trust themselves to take this step into another new industry and, on the other hand, the tech branch doesn’t tend to have job descriptions/specifications that are easy to get your head around. This is the first thing we need to change, because we also need to recruit more women from other industries. For numerous women, the pandemic hasn’t improved the situation. In particular, the pandemic has revealed how important applied and flexible working models are, and that’s exactly where I see the medium-term opportunity for the digital industry. That’s why we have to use every opportunity to draw women’s attention to their potential career prospects in the digital branch, and I find it particularly important to stress that we want to support women wishing to make their way back into the world of work. In my view, that’s where the greatest potential for change for women in leadership lies.
Salesforce is not only celebrating Women in Tech on 8 March, but also the first anniversary of the “Bring Women Back to Work” initiative. With this programme, you’re supporting women returning to work – for example, after parental leave – and offer Salesforce partners the opportunity to gain these female talents for themselves. How did the initiative come about and what’s your résumé after the first year?
Petra Jenner: This initiative was founded by our Alliance & Channel Lead Vanessa Gentile with a view to integrating more talent into our partner ecosystem. It’s still a very male-dominated domain and, with BWBW, we also support partners in locating Salesforce-certified women for their Salesforce field and in thereby building more diversity and gender balance into their teams.
Despite the pandemic, our partners are still investing in new talent, which is helping to sustain the programme and to train more women. In November, 18 women started the year-long programme and 18 more will join every quarter, so that in one year alone, we’ll be able to train a total of 72 women.
We’d now like to give you another job and make you the head of a prestigious creative agency. Your target is: More awareness + visibility for women in tech and women in leadership. How would you set about it and what would you implement?
Petra Jenner: Great question. I think that a series of short videos on personal stories would be very important and should be the first measure. You read a lot more about this in the media, but I have the impression that doesn’t change things enough. Secondly, I would start a broad advertising and PR campaign with women who have returned to their jobs in the digital industry. This second campaign would support Salesforce’s Bring Women Back to Work campaign – encouraging all women who are interested in the digital industry. Again, I would love to show-case role models, so that other interested women can see concrete examples.
Thank you very much for your time and the interview, Ms Jenner!