By Kevin Peesker, President Microsoft Canada
For Microsoft, International Women’s Day has long been a moment of celebration and one of reflection. In 2021, a year into a global pandemic that has upended just about every aspect of our personal and professional lives, International Women’s Day feels especially poignant.
For many women, the pandemic has meant more than remote work and social distancing – it has also meant home schooling, managing care for parents and other vulnerable populations, and social isolation from support networks. Women are dramatically overrepresented among those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and many of those who are still at work report feeling like they’re losing ground. It’s an important reminder that we, as leaders have a responsibility to create policies that support women at every phase of their career.
While we haven’t always gotten it right at Microsoft, we approach everything with a growth mindset, quickly applying changes as we learn. The pandemic prompted us to have more conversations, open more feedback channels and to connect with our teams openly and honestly – not just about their work, but about themselves. This approach led us to implement changes such as our paid Pandemic School and Childcare Closure Leave, increased mental health resources and benefit, as well as Wellness Days so employees can take the time they need to focus on themselves. By having open conversations about what our team needs, without judgement and being vulnerable ourselves, we’re creating an environment for every person to be their best and do their best work.
These changes are just the latest, built on a strong foundation of policies to recruit, train and promote women at Microsoft. We believe in the transformative power of diversity and inclusion. It is embedded in how we think and operate. No matter what role, level, function, or business we are in, we’ve built it into our performance and development system to have shared accountability for creating an inclusive workplace where people can be, not just their best selves, but their whole selves. Below are just a few examples of how we are trying to do our part:
- We seek out female talent – the number of women at Microsoft has grown 41% globally since 2016, with more women coming into leadership roles and technical roles. In fact, half of the executives on our Canadian Leadership Team are women;
- We have inclusive hiring practices that ensure that pathways into Microsoft are as inclusive as possible, and where needed, we expand and create new pathways;
- We have several Employee Resource Groups that help employees build and foster communities, create support and celebrate the diversity of our teams;
- We support efforts like our recent announcement with Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, Npower Canada and Blueprint to provide in-demand digital skills training to unemployed and underemployed youth (18 to 29 years old) from communities underrepresented in the digital economy;
- We proudly support and work with organizations like WCT, Girls Who Game, and Technation that provide training, mentorship and networking opportunities for women in technology
Today, on International Women’s Day, we celebrate the collective impact that women have had in fueling our growth. We magnify the experiences of women across the full range of racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender identities, abilities, and backgrounds among us. Because when all women are empowered to fully participate and contribute, all of us benefit.
This video features women at Microsoft Canada sharing their experiences of joy, loss, and resilience. I invite others to share their learning and experience, so we learn from you. What was your greatest learning this year? Biggest struggle? What can you teach us?
It’s critical that we all lean in, women and men, to keep the dialogue going, learn more about how to be stronger allies and put words into action that better support and elevate all women. Our wives, daughters, nieces, and employees need it more than ever!