I am proud to see the direction that Caterpillar is moving in relation to gender equality, diversity and inclusion. I had my own beliefs and motivation to join the Women’s Initiatives Network (WIN) Hamburg chapter a few months ago, but after the Breakthrough Leadership Men as Allies workshop, “He Said. She Said.” sessions and other WIN events, it was clear to me the importance of being a “well-intentioned man” on this journey.
Growing up in Brazil and living for the last 8 years in Germany, I have always tried to understand the causes of gender equality differences in various societies and cultures. It started when I was a child, seeing the difference between my parents. While my mom was finishing her studies, keeping up her work and still taking care of myself and my sister after school, my dad at the time was only “working.” I put in quotations, not to belittle the labor of my beloved dad, but I had the feeling that my mom’s efforts were undervalued, that society in general did not consider all her work as “work.”
Then, I saw the many challenges one of my cousins faced because she chose to be an electrical engineer. It was incredible to hear her experiences as a woman in a male-dominated field, including her frustrations at several interview questions such as “do you really think you can do this job being a woman?”
Throughout the years, I had the sense that gender equality was generally improving in the work environment. However, speaking with my lovely wife about this (who also works in a male-dominated environment), it became clear to me that we still have a long way to go, concerning common behaviors in the business environment.
A short TED talk presented during Breakthrough Leadership about privilege opened my mind about this topic. Men often don’t recognize our “privileged” position and have a difficult time foreseeing the challenges female colleagues may face daily. I’ve learned that being empathic as much as possible is useful to minimize any gender or diversity issue. I also find it helpful to avoid focusing on differences (e.g. gender), but focus on the individual and his/her skills to accomplish a determined goal. If we start by ourselves to avoid putting gender in the discussion, I believe that little by little a more equal environment will arise.
During the last International Women’s day pledge campaign, I committed to “being an ally in the gender equality journey and advocating for diversity and inclusion.” I believe that small actions and behaviors drive big outcomes and results. Leadership is, of course, the main driver for these changes, but each individual advocating at every level of influence can have a magnificent, quick and positive impact on our business and society.