This year has been characterized by uncertainty, which has left many of us tired, confused, and desperately hoping that 2021 will provide some stability. As 2020 came to an end, though, there was one thing the participants of the year’s final ASUG Women Connect event were sure of: there is power in women coming together.

This conviction catalyzed the launch of the ASUG Women Connect program three years ago, and it is this conviction that has been the throughline of all the virtual events that brought the women of the SAP ecosystem together in 2020.

Looking Back at a Year Full of Connection

ASUG Women Connect Presents: 2020, A Year to Reflect Upon was designed to be a reflection on what women accomplished during the year, as well as what we are hoping for as we turn the corner into the new year. Toward that end, the virtual call gathered many of the women who presented on webcasts, hosted Think Tanks, and participated in panels as a part of the 2020 ASUG Women Connect program that seeks to help women in SAP visualize and inspire success. We also had the unique privilege of hearing from Soledad O’Brien, award-winning journalist and executive producer, as a follow-up to her call with us in April 2020.

The call kicked off with Cheryl Parsons, ASUG CMO and Women Connect executive sponsor, encouraging the participants to acknowledge our successes along with the hardships: “2020 … many of us are saying it’s a year to forget, or maybe, ‘I can’t wait until it’s over.’ But I think we owe ourselves time to reflect … and celebrate that we’ve made it through all our bad days, that we’ve lived through our grief—and there’s been a lot of it— and that we’ve come to it together as a community and supported each other.”

Cheryl’s exhortations succeeded in setting the tone for the conversations that followed. As those of us on the call anticipated the arrival of Soledad, Cheryl was joined on screen by ASUG Managing Editor Sharon Rehana, who continued the conversation and opened some questions up to the audience, who were willing and eager to participate and connect.

Making Room for More at the Table Makes Us Stronger

We learned that for at least 10 women on the call, they were attending their very first ASUG Women Connect event—news that prompted enthusiasm and heartwarming welcomes. The inspiration continued when the participants were asked, “What is the power of women coming together for you and your community?”

I’ve thought about the answers to that question every day since: Inspiration. Support. Resilience. Tenacity. Unity. Perspective. Progress. Solidarity. Empathy. Inclusion. Empowerment. Strength.

To see their fellow participants share the value of the gathering seemed only to bolster the enthusiasm for the conversation, as Sharon and myself then transitioned the conversation to following up with our speakers from earlier in the year. We heard first from Liuba Loiko, who presented in August on equity in the workplace and her concern regarding the disproportionate load the pandemic has put on women. Next, we heard from Kimberly Sharp about the embodiment of empathy, and on the necessity of turning challenges into opportunities.

Firsts Lead to More, and More Leads to Progress

After hearing from Kimberly, Sharon introduced Soledad. Her insights led us down a path of expanded reflection, not just on our personal victories and losses but on those of all of womanhood. There was plenty for us to consider, as those of us in the U.S. have had to mourn a world without Ruth Bader Ginsburg and celebrate one where a woman will hold the second-highest office in the country for the very first time. “Kamala Harris is set to be the first woman vice president, first woman of color, first daughter of immigrants to hold this office,” Sharon noted. She went on to list just a few of many other firsts for women in the U.S. this year: New Mexico as the first state to elect all women of color to congress, the election of the first transgender woman into a state senate, the election of the first black congresswoman in Missouri, the election of the first openly LGBTQ state senator in Georgia, and the next congress having a record-breaking number of women lawmakers across party lines.

While Soledad validated the successes, her outlook isn’t all rosy. “I think the real win … is when women get to be mediocre, too. Wouldn’t it be great if [a woman] just kind of stumbled across the finish line, and there she is now running the thing?!” She expounded on her point, suggesting that women will really have made it when they’re not held to higher standards than men to achieve the same successes. “I’m really looking forward to the day when we don’t have to talk about firsts … there’s still a long list of things that are very concerning and terrifying.”

The participants in the chat voiced agreement with those concerns, and the rest of our speakers continued to give wisdom and insight into how we can keep equality moving forward.

Uniting Through Differences Leads to More Opportunity for All

Caitlin MacGregor, who launched our Women Connect digital offerings with her webcast in May, shared tips on how to lead with empathy for the sake of the flourishing of her employees. Jackie Grunwald gave an update on her company’s own diversity initiative, while Allison Boutilier spoke to identifying and closing the opportunity gaps that often burden women, especially in the tech industry. Rishona Harris wrapped up our speaker reunion by emphasizing the need for emotional intelligence as women navigate the challenges of working in male-dominated fields.

By the end of the nearly 90 minutes of reflection, if one thing was clear it was that the ASUG Women Connect network has some powerhouse women in its arsenal. The leadership of Cheryl, the insight of Soledad, the poignant questions asked by Sharon, and the wisdom given by each of our speakers were such a gift. But it is the presence, support and enthusiasm of the women who keep showing up to listen, learn, and grow that makes ASUG Women Connect so special and its gatherings so powerful.

Cheryl said it well: “These stories—your stories —are what move us and create positive change in our work environment.”

To participate in this powerful community, join us for 2021 kickoff event: “ASUG Women Connect: The People Who Shape Us

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