As a global organization with more than 100,000 employees, SAP has unique challenges and resources when it comes to implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy. Among other achievements, SAP has won Best Workplace awards around overall diversity and inclusion efforts, including initiatives for women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people with disabilities.
ASUG had an opportunity to speak with Margót Goodson, VP and head of North America Diversity and Inclusion at SAP, about her perspective on how SAP’s diversity and inclusion strategy has evolved.
ASUG: What does your role entail?
Margót: It’s building strategy and execution thereof for workforce diversification, supplier diversification, and ecosystem impact. My expression is, “Making diversity and inclusion our DNA” at SAP, because it has to be foundational to everything we do. It’s not just who you hire or how you hire. It’s the full hire-to-retire cycle. It’s the full succession planning and promotion. It’s the inclusive hiring practices. It’s creating a culture of belonging. Then once you have those things happening, where does it touch your customer? Where does it touch your partner?
ASUG: This sounds like a robust diversity and inclusion strategy. In the 14 years you’ve been at SAP, how have you seen the strategy change?
Margót: When I first came to SAP, we were diverse, inherently, because we’re a global, multinational company. You saw multiethnicity, you saw all genders, you saw LGBTQ+ individuals, so you saw it, but didn’t really see a strategy around it initially. We had our Business Women’s Network, and then some other groups—like Black Employee Network, Latinos@SAP, and PRIDE@SAP—but that seemed to be just employee, grassroots-led.
Where I’ve seen the growth and evolution come forth was about 10 years ago, where we began to make diversity and inclusion a departmental piece of HR. And it started with the talent piece. In 2013, our global CEO at the time, Bill McDermott, said by 2017 he wanted to see 25% women in management, and wanted to know what the leaders were going to do to try and make that happen. We started to have diversity councils pop up. We had a finance diversity council which I led at that time. With that, we asked how we could be intentional and strategic to attract women to the field, in finance at least. And that was starting to happen in other departments—how can we help the gender composition of our workforce?
Initially, that’s where it remained: gender. Then we had a leader, Anka Wittenberg, come on board and she began to talk about not just gender intelligence, but cultural intelligence. And cultural intelligence included ethnicity, LGBTQ+, and veterans. She also talked about generational intelligence. Her strategy was workforce related, but it was targeted. So, it went from being a peripheral philosophy to becoming a full-on strategy. Now it’s evolved even further under Judith M. Williams, global chief diversity officer, and me to where it’s about strategy and it impacts our ecosystem, it impacts our behaviors. Our leadership principles now incorporate embracing differences and building bridges, not silos. It’s more of a cultural evolution.
ASUG: How has the strategy changed in the three years you’ve been in this role?
Margót: I will say directly how I've contributed to it over the past couple of years is gaining visibility of it. Particularly in North America, we’ve been getting a lot of additional leadership support around diversifying our methodologies to diversify results. That it’s not just the “hire” piece, it’s inclusive of so many other aspects.
Another thing I've contributed to is people’s understanding that diversity and inclusion is not a nice, moral thing to do. It’s not a good thing to do—it's a business imperative. I socialize often around the innovation, productivity, and financial results that come from having diversity and inclusion. People never thought of it like that.
There’s a shift in our SAP culture: the shift in the level of education around diversity and inclusion as a business priority, the ability for people to engage and participate in helping us to make that happen. I've contributed to the hiring of a more diverse candidates from both a gender and ethnicity perspective, because of the partnerships that I’ve built externally.
We currently utilize our cloud analytics dashboard for measurement purposes, and we’re still working on expanding the data sets within our measurement tools and to drive accountability. We’re currently implementing on a quarterly health check with our leaders to keep demographics and operational practices front and center of their team conversations. The more time I'm in this role, the more comfortable people have become with understanding the need for that—if you don’t measure the needle, you can’t move it.
ASUG: You have a diversity and inclusion ambassador’s group, correct? What does that look like and how has it changed over the last year?
Margót: Anybody in the company who wants to help with the diversity and inclusion strategy—but it’s not their full-time role—can volunteer to be an ambassador. There’s no criteria to become an ambassador, just your willingness to participate, and I give them the opportunity to do so. We want to be a Level 4 Diversity company as defined by Bersin by Deloitte where everyone owns diversity and inclusion.
Between the June 4 town hall meeting we hosted after the killing of George Floyd up to the beginning of August, our ambassador network doubled from 180 to about 400 members, and now we’re currently at 456. I am excited and proud about that!
ASUG: What would you say to a leader who recognizes their company has a lot of work to do, but it’s an overwhelming task? They’re in, but what’s next?
Margót: Be intentional and be prescriptive. Tie diversity and inclusion to your overall organizational strategy. Take it bite-sized. What is your environment ready for? A lot of times gender is the first thing people are willing to talk about. It’s fairly easy to get people on board there. Maybe you already have an out executive, then maybe LGBTQ+ is something to start with. But talk about it from a business strategy perspective. Look at the business imperative without challenging anybody’s moral imperative.
If you don’t have employee network groups or employee resource groups, start there to say, “We’re all about our employees. We care about you. You’re our biggest asset.” I would say, if possible, don’t put it in HR. Have it report to the COO or CEO, depending on how large or small the company is, because it really is a business strategy and there are so many parts of it that don’t touch HR. If it’s in HR, it’s not a bad thing, but make sure it’s also still part of the leadership team.
We are in an ever-changing business. Just like we diversify our products and services, we must embrace positive disruption to our workforce by diversifying even more with our colleagues and embed inclusion in our everyday life. It is not enough to be equal or equitable. It’s the removal of systemic barriers. How do we measure it and see the accountability tied to it?
That’s what I need everyone to understand: diversity is not a destination—it’s a journey. Everyone’s in a different place on that continuum. How can we continue progressing?
Hear more from Margót Goodson about the SAP diversity and inclusion strategy at the next ASUG Women Connect webcast, Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matter, on Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT. You can also contribute to the conversation at the ASUG Think Tank later that week.