ASUG Women Connect recently convened to discuss collaboration and networking opportunities for the year ahead at the ASUG Volunteer Meeting, held Jan. 26-28 at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park.
The strongly attended session served to relaunch the ASUG Women Connect program, which exists to help women in SAP technology visualize and inspire success by organizing events and content programming that fall within four pillars of Education, Resources, Community, and Opportunities.
ASUG Women Connect, a community space that has grown steadily since its debut in 2017, exists to:
- Foster diversity and inclusivity
- Facilitate professional growth
- Empower the development of leadership skills
- Model effective allyship among SAP technology professionals
For many professionals in the SAP ecosystem, ASUG Women Connect has been a way to connect with a close-knit, supportive community. For ASUG Member Kimberly Sharp, Managing Partner, EverBlue Partners, the group has been supportive in a “different, more special” way than most professional groups, she said.
“Even in the 2020s, there are still not a lot of people who look like me in the rooms I sit in every day,” she added. “Women Connect has given me the opportunity to sit in a room and not be ‘the other,’ and there’s real power in that.”
ASUG Women Connect will have a consistent presence across the ASUG community in 2024. On the docket are sessions at in-person conferences, virtual discussions with guest speakers, and topic-driven thought-leadership conversations, focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion and shared through ASUG’s flagship First Five newsletter.
Sharing Unique Stories
In the session's first activity, participants divided up into groups and discussed questions aligned with the ASUG Volunteer Meeting's themes of success, inspiration, and collaboration. Asked how one might measure personal success, one group's representative answered that although the model may vary for each individual, “achieving balance, feeling valued, and being recognized” were commonly shared metrics for professional achievement.
Added Sharp: “From the beginning, Women Connect allowed us, regardless of title, role, job, tenure, or age, to share our unique stories with one another. We may not always see each other [in person,] but we always advocate for each other in what we’re doing on social media or at ASUG Chapters.”
Sharp proposed that ASUG Women Connect should serve as a “brave space,” establishing a platform for thought-provoking discussion of subjects such as eliminating marginalization based on self-identity, recognizing and elevating the voices of individuals who have not historically felt heard or seen in professional settings, and achieving equity in resources, education, and opportunities.
“If we don’t encourage the community to talk about the tough stuff, how can we advocate for each other?” Sharp asked the group, encouraging attendees to equip their organizations with these “brave spaces” where complex conversations can occur organically.
Rich Huhn, Senior Director of Customer Advocacy, SAP, commented during the session that this type of forward and inclusive thinking is an increasingly important model to emulate as the SAP community moves toward a future that advocates equity for all and considers the many different forms diversity can take.
A Collective Shift
As the session concluded, one audience member stood up to celebrate the achievements of Dr. Staci Baker, Ph.D., an ASUG member, who recently completed her dissertation on gender representation among women in top positions within tech consulting. Dr. Baker shared her research findings, revealing an uplifting commonality between men and women in the tech industry, which may be indicative of a collective shift towards a more equitable perspective.
"I can say a lot of my research was trying to figure out what was going to keep women in a tech role to make it to the top levels," Baker said, adding that her findings revealed "the things that were important for women to get them to stay were also similar things that were important to men to also get them to stay. There wasn’t a huge differentiation. That’s very encouraging."
The relaunch of ASUG Women Connect exemplified the power of collaboration, networking, acceptance, and communal support among ASUG members who attended. ASUG looks forward to harnessing the full potential of ASUG Women Connect and invites those who are interested in being part of this inclusive group to join.