The Art of Networking: Anglo-Saxon Innovation in Gender Networks

Innovation in D&I can be found all around the world. On Gender networking, we have seen notable moves coming from the British Isles and slowly expanding from there. While Intel aims to strengthen regional ties with their ‘EMEA Intel Senior Female Network’, HSBC’s ‘Balance’ networking actively and visibly engages men and women in their activities. ‘Women on the Wharf’ does the same across neighbouring companies in London. SAP has also opened their ‘Business Women’s Network’ to include men.

The Intel network, established in late 2012, was set up to enable female leaders to make personal progress and increase collaboration and networking in the EMEA region.

The 33 women of the network are all successful in their own careers and comprise a mix of directors, factory and business leaders, among them currently four female vice presidents in the EMEA region. After the members had some virtual meetings they decided to come together in Paris and increase their interaction with the event titled “Unleashing the power of our leadership presence and network in EMEA”. According to the participants this unique meeting looked and felt different to standard conferences, it was not only an event to connect and network, it also focused on building key capabilities and business opportunities using the wider skill set people have beyond their jobs.

The first day started with personal stories as ice breakers. The opening session was chaperoned by a general manager and included a panel with corporate vice presidents from the EMEA region. External speakers delivered speeches about relevant aspects of leadership, mentorship and the future of Intel business. The second day contained concrete development work and discussions about the vision of the network and its mission as a corporate group. Future tasks and a general outlook need to be determined: Should the participants make it more inclusive and how can the numerous female Intel employees in the EMEA region profit by the network?

Those questions are not ultimately answered yet and will definitely be part of future exchanges. For the Paris event the 25 participants draw positive conclusions. Each member described personal key learnings and actions to share with their managers and teams. They strengthened their leadership capabilities by exploring their presence, vision and influence. The event has energised and encouraged their commitment to leadership and the personal advancement of women at Intel. Meanwhile, Intel’s competitor Infineon had built a powerful male-female network of key influencers, which has met several times, and branches out to local chapters to unleash additional energy.

Another example for the trend to inclusive approaches can be seen from HSBC’s Balance network, an award-winning employee network focussed on career development through gender intelligence for men and women. Founded in 2010, Balance aims at promoting gender diversity at all levels of the giant global bank. From the start, the approach of the network was based on engaging men and women in how activities were designed and delivered, including events, newsletter and outreach activities.

It comes as no surprise that companies surrounding HSBC’s headquarters at London’s Canary Wharf not only had similar ideas but eventually started a platform which is now called ‘Women on the Wharf’. This cross-company network of professionals from 11 corporations (including BP, Credit Suisse, HSBC and KPMG) was also founded in 2010. It’s uniqueness is the close proximity of its members: all participating companies are situated on the Canary Wharf in London. It thus encourages networking across company boundaries both face-to-face and online. The network aims at supporting women professionals’ career progression within the participating companies. They organise different events, ranging from theme-oriented networking events to panel discussions.

Although not Anglo-Saxon by origin but hugely influenced by global processes, SAP, Europe’s largest software corporation, also applies an inclusive model: Their ‘Business Women’s Network’ consists of 4,500 members worldwide, 1,400 of them working Germany. It was officially founded in 2006 and explicitly opened for male engagement from the very beginning as the participating employees have seen gender diversity as a strategic business topic rather than from a feminist perspective. They wanted to contribute to maintaining the competitiveness of their company by improving its company culture. Their credo: realising and unravelling the full potential of both men and women is an indispensable resource to drive SAP’s innovativeness.