1. What does being a sponsor of WiDS mean to your organization?
As a company, Saab recognizes the importance of diversity within our own workforce, and within the industry as a whole. We understand that having a variety of skills, experiences and backgrounds makes us stronger and allows us to continuously innovate. Our Saab Canada team has a growing, but strong contingent of women who are leading the way for the next generation in defence and security. Our sponsorship represents our support for them and for growing opportunities for women in the sector.
2. Why is it important to support/promote the advancement of women in careers in the defence and security industry?
Diversity of opinion, background and experience are critical to the success of any company, team or industry. Historically, the defence and security sectors have been largely male dominated industries - I believe to their detriment. The skills and perspectives women bring to the table are essential to the success of the work we do. Saab’s motto is “keeping people and society safe”. Women are an equal part of that society and their involvement in defence and security will greatly assist in leading the industry forward with positive change.
3. What role do organizations like yours play in breaking down the barriers and cultivating an inclusive and diverse culture?
For many years Saab has focused on increasing the number of women in management positions within the company, doubling the number of female managers between 2007-2017. Saab’s current goal is to increase the percentage of female managers to 30% globally by 2025. Having more women ascend to these leadership positions creates role models and encourages more women, including younger generations, to follow in their footsteps. It is critical to Saab to involve women at the highest levels of decision making so that we lead the way on gender equality.
4. How have you and your team adapted to the changing world due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Given the global nature of Saab’s business, our team was largely accustomed to connecting virtually with colleagues and stakeholders all around the world. However, we have made it a priority during this period of remote work to find ways to connect and support each other on a personal level. Since we no longer have the opportunity to pass one another in the halls, we have scheduled weekly coffee breaks to gather virtually for casual conversation about our life updates and latest Netflix binges. We have also had to “pivot” our strategy around industry events which are normally key to our outreach and marketing. While there was some initial hesitation around virtual events, Saab has embraced change and is actively developing ways to connect with customers and stakeholders from a distance, such as the company’s ongoing series of ‘Saab Live’ events.
5. As a leader, what is some advice you would give to women entering this industry?
First and foremost ‘back yourself’. Many of this event’s audience are probably aware of the statement in Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book ‘Lean In’ that ‘men apply for positions if they meet just 60% of the requirements, while women only apply if they meet 100% of them.’ While the accuracy of this statement has been debated by many, and has likely changed somewhat over the past 7-8 years, the more women who apply for positions in defence and security, will result in a higher quality of applicants for these positions and a significant increase towards the positive impact they can have on the overall success of the industry.
Further to this, and to assist with working out which positions to apply for, finding mentorship is a great way to learn and connect in any industry. Reach out and ask for advice – you may be pleasantly surprised by the number of people who will go out of their way to help you.