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International Women’s Day 2022–Break the Bias

On International Women’s Day, we recognize and celebrate all the ways women have brought their insight, strategy and commitment to the opportunities and challenges we face as a planet.

Women have broken barriers this year. The United States nominated the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, while the first woman Vice President finished her first year in office. Sweden, Tunisia and Samoa elected their first women national leaders. In Canada, where OpenText is headquartered, a woman became the first Indigenous Governor General.

Women have also led much of the work that created COVID-19 vaccines, from groundbreaking mRNA research and the design of spike proteins to the world’s first COVID-19 clinical vaccine trial. And every day, lives are saved by frontline healthcare workers, 70% of whom are women.   

And in another crisis, our environment, women have been strong advocates for new strategies on climate. In 2021, women swept the UN’s Champions of the Earth awards.

Despite these strides, there is much work left to do. To have an inclusive and sustainable future, we need to continue our work to achieve gender equality.

Break the Bias

Around the planet, women’s rights and employment are challenged. Women face higher unemployment rates, and higher work-life imbalance due to the pandemic—42% of women say they are often or almost always burned out.

Women of color, LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities face an even tougher work environment. They are much more likely to face disrespectful behavior and microaggressions.

We Need to Create Flexible, Empathetic Workplaces for All

And in the tech industry, bias is the top obstacle keeping women from moving into leadership positions.

Such inequities are creating a crisis in retention—one in three women are thinking about reducing or leaving paid work. OpenText’s Executive VP, Customer Solutions, Kristina Lengyel recently called on companies to “embrace the challenge and develop a work environment that can provide the flexibility, work-leisure balance, and career paths that this often under-considered talent pool is looking for.”

In the tech industry, only 30% of women say their employer has increased their access to flexible work.

This is a new call to action for the Technology industry. Those companies that are creative in how they attract and retain this amazing talent will outperform their competitors.

At OpenText, we intend to lead.

OpenText: Our Progress on the Journey

Since I wrote about our efforts on International Women’s Day last year, OpenText has worked to listen to and support our diverse communities.

Following the 2021 theme for IWD, we vowed we would “choose to challenge.” And we did. We have expanded our approach to Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I), overseen by a new Vice President of ED&I. As CEO, I personally sponsor our program and lead our ED&I Steering Committee. We have also designed and delivered new ED&I training for managers, and Unconscious Bias training for all hiring teams. Our Executive Leadership team is now 30% female, and we have refreshed our global benefits programs to better support families and female employees for greater wellness and flexibility.

Our ED&I approach is shaping our incredible culture, and the results are clear in our accolades. We were recently named one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures and Canada’s Top Employers for Young People, and were ranked one of Forbes World’s Best Employers.

Here are just a few of the ways that we are supporting and celebrating women at OpenText:

Women in Technology

Our Women in Technology (WIT) employee affinity group has over 1,200 members—and growing. It is sponsored by myself and our CFO, Madhu Ranganathan. Our WIT group recently launched a global Mentoring & Sponsorship Program, which has been incredibly successful, with 45 different mentorship pairings this year.

WIT members also have access to complimentary leadership and skill-based learning, and an internal social platform to share ideas, stories and resources.

Our commitment to women in tech extends to our participation in the Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest gathering of women in technology in both North America and India. Over recent years, we have sent more than 60 OpenText delegates to the conference, where members of our WIT community volunteer their time to share their experiences and insights with attendees.

Women Who Informed & Inspired Us

Across the past year, we have been honored to be joined at our all-company meetings by some amazing women speakers who helped us expand our points of view.

On the National Day for Truth & Reconciliation, we were inspired by Roberta Jamieson, Canada’s first female Indigenous lawyer and an advocate for Indigenous rights. For Juneteenth, we hosted a panel that included Lucy Bremond from the Emancipation Park Conservancy, Dr. Naomi Carrier from the Texas Center for African American Living History, and Dr. Kathy Hogarth from Wilfrid Laurier University. And to celebrate Black History Month, we invited writer and activist, Aja Monet, to share her thoughts on history, art and resilience.

Women Who Informed & Inspired Us Throughout the Year

During other all-staff meetings, we heard from Dr. Leana Wen from George Washington University and Dr. Céline Gounder from New York University, who each shared some of the latest research and guidance on COVID-19 to help keep our employees safe.

And OpenText World featured a keynote from Founder & CEO of Thrive, Arianna Huffington, on how companies can prioritize employees’ well-being as we enter the uncertainties of the post-pandemic era.

This year for International Women’s Day, our guest speaker will be Dr. Tarika Barrett, CEO of Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology. And throughout this month, we will host numerous regional events at our offices. Last week, at our headquarters in Waterloo, we partnered on a special event with Women in Communications & Technology, a non-profit that inspires women to achieve their highest career potential in the digital economy. Our CFO and other local women leaders gathered to share their stories of how they broke barriers.

We Choose to Challenge

In 2021, OpenText employees responded enthusiastically to the IWD theme, Choose to Challenge. They celebrated women colleagues on our internal recognition platform, shared books and films about influential women in history, and spoke out against stereotypes in blogs and social posts.  

In an interview, OpenText’s CIO, Renee McKenzie, encouraged the tech industry to “re-evaluate our biases, and those micro-inequalities that may exist on a day-to-day basis within companies.” Renee also stressed, “We need more girls and women in computing.”

I hope our industry hears such calls to action.

This year, we are inviting employees to share on social media their pledges to help Break the Bias, and we are encouraging all employees to book a paid volunteer day with an organization that supports women.

Watch our International Women’s Day video below to learn more about how some of our employees in Canada and Europe are helping to close the gender gap. You can also watch our videos celebrating our women employees in the US, as well as India and the Philippines.

Celebrating the Women of OpenText

What’s Next: The Future of Growth

At OpenText, we believe in our core that the future of growth is sustainable and inclusive. We recently announced our new program, the OpenText ZERO Initiative—our bold plan to strengthen diversity at our company and support the health of our planet.

The OpenText Zero Initiative

We are committing to net zero GHGs by 2040, and zero waste from operations by 2030, to help tackle climate change, protect the well-being of our communities, and support a better world for all.

And by 2030, we are aiming to have the majority of OpenText employees identify as diverse. This includes diversity across all categories—gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and others. We will do this through new strategies for recruitment and retention, and by continuing to develop our inclusive culture.

We will also have gender parity by 2030, with women representing 50% of staff in key roles, including Sales, Engineering and Professional Services. And we will have 40% of our leadership positions filled by women by 2030. We will achieve this through diverse interview slates for leadership roles, and inclusive hiring and internship strategies. For example, we have partnered on recruitment with WomenHack, an organization that promotes gender equality in tech. We will also expand mentoring programs and place a continuous ED&I lens on succession planning.

Currently, 27% of our leadership positions are filled by women and 32% of our total employees are women. While this is in the upper quartile for tech companies, it is not enough, and we have publicly stated our ambitious 2030 pledge—The OpenText Zero Initiative.

Our Flex-First Workforce

We are taking a flexibility-first approach to work that will offer all OpenText employees greater balance and more control over their own time and space. Our technology teams come together for two to three days a week to fuel innovation. They can choose to work flexibility the rest of the time. Other roles will have even greater flexibility. We have invested in technology and additional resources to ensure that teams can collaborate from anywhere. Our offices are used in a purposeful way, for the times when bringing people together bolsters innovation, creativity, collaboration and celebration.

Our flexible-first approach allows us to leverage the talent advantages of a broad workforce, to hire—as we like to say in Canada—from coast to coast to coast.

We know that all employees, and especially women, can benefit from flexible work options, and organizations need to deliver every support they can for individual well-being and balance. Employers may want to shift from thinking about ED&I, to WED&I—to emphasize the importance of employee wellness.

We each need to embrace the value and reality of diversity, and believe.

I look forward to sharing our progress with you.

Mark Barrenechea

Mark J. Barrenechea is OpenText's Vice Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer. A prominent thought leader, he has extensive experience in information technology and his vision is to enable the digital world to help transform organizations.

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