Sonia Webb named executive sponsor of Women’s Employee Network
- Posted on May 3, 2021
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Avanade Chief Financial Officer Sonia Webb is stepping into the role of executive sponsor for the Women’s Employee Network. For over seven years, the group has focused on accelerating the progress of women at Avanade through workplace inclusion, and in this piece, Sonia shares what the role means to her and what she’s looking forward to accomplishing.
What does it mean to you to be the executive sponsor of this group?
When Pam and Caroline called to ask me if I’d be willing to take this role on my first thought was, “Wow what an incredible honor.” And my next thought was, “Wow, also such an important responsibility!” I see my Chief Financial Officer role quite similarly: a privilege that comes with incredible responsibility. I didn’t get to this level on my own. I had incredible sponsors, mentors and peers who all contributed to my career. I take a lot of pride in the time I spend individually with others as a coach or mentor. I look at this role as another, broader way to give back. I once saw a speaker who said it better than I ever could: “When you get through the door, make sure you hold it open for those behind you.” Serving as the Women’s Employee Network executive sponsor is a both an incredible privilege and responsibility that I am looking forward to!
You’ve written and spoken about gender parity quite a bit since you stepped into the role of CFO. How does being a part of the finance world in particular influence your thoughts on gender parity?
Of course, gender parity means making sure that men and women are paid the same for the same job. But I also think a lot about financial acumen and financial independence. How much money you’re making is not the end all be all, but it’s hard, if not impossible, to see a world where we get to gender equality without women achieving financial independence. There’s so much history of women getting stuck in relationships because they can’t see a path away from their partner financially. So coaching women on financial acumen and independence is also a particular passion of mine, and my background in finance certainly influenced that.
What goals do you have for this group at Avanade? What would you like to do in your first six months?
Well the first thing I am going to do to do is listen. I want to understand from all of you what’s working well, what’s not, what your thoughts and ideas are. As I tell my finance teams, I don’t have a monopoly on good ideas – in fact it’s more often our teams on the ground that have the fresh perspective and the cool ideas! So in the first six months, I will do a listening tour to hear from you and learn what is on your minds.
One thing I will share right from the get-go is my philosophy on balancing programs to help empower, coach, teach and inspire our women with a similar level of attention on checking our own unconscious biases, myself included. If our focus is entirely focused on “helping women change to be more like men” we lose the power of diversity. Unfortunately, a lot of companies focus their gender equality efforts on having women assimilate versus ensuring that the ecosystem is built to ensure that systemic barriers are removed so that women can meet their career aspirations. I believe in joint accountability, so ensuring that our male colleagues are aware of the headwinds they create for women in the workplace and involving them in the solutions is key to an organization that works for everyone.
No woman is just a woman. Her identity is influenced by her race, religion, age, sexual orientation, family life, and more. How can the Women’s Employee Network encompass this intersectionality?
I still have a lot to learn and understand about intersectionality and how different identities in the same individual can pile up or compound to create an even more extreme barriers to equity. I see our Women’s Employee Network as an incredibly powerful vehicle to connect with and support all our Employee Networks. I recently connected with the INSPIRE, Adelante and BEYOND Employee Networks, partnering with Paul Phillips from our HR team, to talk about Avanade’s financials and our new ESPP program. I’d love to do more events like that going forward and would love to hear your ideas on how we can all work together!