Digital workplace
4 min read
18 December 2022

Talent deserve to be given a stage

Kelly van der Horst

That's the view of Sarah van den Born, COO at Workspace 365, who has just joined the Top 50 Women Leaders in SaaS.

Sarah isn't talking about herself. Despite her success, she remains modest. Her comment reflects her belief that people, regardless of their background, gender, age and experience, have enormous potential to learn and grow. As she says, they have many talents.

Sarah's belief in people is helping to fuel a remarkable expansion within Workspace 365. Employee numbers have grown from 34 to 75 in twelve months. For any organisation, doubling headcount so rapidly would be a challenge, but Sarah is an experienced leader in Talent Management. When recruiting, she looks beyond the borders of candidates' resumes, seeking key values and qualities that highlight both character and ambition.

Workspace 365 is on the road to scale-up in a sector that's growing rapidly. The Software Report's Top 50 Women Leaders in SaaS list reflects this trend. But, by highlighting the role of women in SaaS, the list's compilers are also raising awareness of the gender imbalance that's widespread in technology. Women are hugely underrepresented.

Misogyny or missed opportunities?

The causes have been studied and debated. While some point to misogyny or perceptions of a hostile male-dominated environment, others point out differences in learning styles and subject preferences in school. Whatever the causes, it's clear that for many women, the opportunity for a successful career in technology is missed.

The impact of the gender gap stretches way beyond the numbers of women compared to men in the employment statistics. With technology now intertwined in every aspect of our lives, there's a real danger that this lack of representation will have serious consequences for businesses. Devices and applications designed and built by men often fail to consider the needs, preferences or biological differences of women. The bias is not necessarily conscious, but for half the population the consequences could be very serious indeed.

One of the saddest aspects of this lack of representation is that many young women state that they are seeking a career where they can make a difference. Somehow the message that technology can drive meaningful change has been lost.

The role models

That's why lists like the Top 50 Women in SaaS are important. They provide role models: women who have made - and are making - a significant difference to the lives of others. The list includes women from many countries. They have diverse histories and ambitions but all of them are shaping our world.

Naturally, we're delighted that Sarah is included, but we know she belongs on the list. At just 23 she was already playing a key role at Unique HR and was their youngest-ever business unit manager. She joined Workspace 365 as Head of Talent in 2021, and by November 2022 had become one of the business's co-COOs.

Gender or personality?

What, then, are Sarah's views on inclusiveness and gender diversity within Workspace 365?

Her answer reflects her pragmatic approach: "I don't see that as a goal in itself. I think you can achieve a lot in this area by looking precisely at someone's qualities. Women are less often technically skilled, but almost all skills can be learned. By looking more at personality and someone's added value to the company, you will bring in more women for sure. I applaud that because equal distribution only makes our services better for end-users. That includes both men and women."

The focus on personality rather than technical know-how is relevant to the diversity issue. When surveyed, female students showed a preference for creativity rather than subjects that had rigidly defined answers. Sarah isn't a fan of rigid definitions or rigidly defined roles. She's more interested in what makes people happy and in what are they willing and able to do. If they're creative, great.

Sarah is more than willing to use her own background as evidence that this approach is effective. She doesn't have a tech background herself, and yet she's succeeded in the industry. It can be done, and done well, as proven by her inclusion in the list of women leaders in SaaS.

Within Workspace 365, the culture has changed under Sarah's leadership. It's less technically oriented and has become a true learning culture. Employees can shape and manage the organisation and the content of their jobs. It's exciting and highly motivating. Talent has its stage and people of all genders are flourishing.

Explore your potential

Workspace 365 is growing. If you're looking to explore your potential within an open culture that fosters learning, check out our current vacancies.

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