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A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

As part of its continued growth and expansion, Xebia levels up its best practices and enables employees to do the same. 

As Xebia grows, its resources and opportunities increase. It's also taking steps to ensure that prosperity is shared with all its employees — by offering them similar chances to level up. In the context of its global ESG strategy, Xebia puts an emphasis on including more women in management roles. Within the Netherlands, the program “New Female Leader Accelerator” is one way the company is making progress towards that goal. Started this fall with 29 participants, three of them from Xebia, the program aims to help women develop personal authentic 
leadership plans.

A Cultural Shift

When I joined Xebia in 2014, I really only saw other women in supporting roles at the company. Senior leadership and the vast majority of managers were men. I never talked about this observation with colleagues but it stuck with me. That dynamic has really shifted over the years thanks to our “bottom up” company culture. Colleague Consultants demanded recruiters actively look for female candidates; I was not the only one noticing a lack of gender diversity. Having a better balance was a collective wish, expressed by both men and women, at the level of Consultants as well as management.

In recent years, there was a noticeable shift. We hired more female Consultants, and the amount of women on the leadership team increased significantly. This year, Xebia Netherlands appointed a female COO: Ellis de Haan. So, it felt really exciting when HR contacted all female employees to announce the inaugural New Female Leader Accelerator program because it was a clear sign that the company is proactively making a cultural shift. I immediately applied and nominated three colleagues.

Interest in the program was so high, participants were selected through a lottery. On a Friday afternoon, I received a message that I was selected. It was such a great start to my weekend! Two colleagues that were not selected in the lottery decided to use some of their annual training budget to participate. It really showed how much enthusiasm there was for this kind of program.

Fostering Authentic Leadership

During the accelerator program, each of us will develop our own authentic leadership plan. Through executive coaching, group sessions, physical exercises, and a lot of self-reflection “homework,” we are learning about ourselves. The goal is not to teach us how to fit into a traditional leadership mold. In fact, it’s the very opposite. We are figuring out what characteristics and behaviors feel genuine. The philosophy is that leading authentically is far more effective than following antiquated stereotypes. 

Unlearning that there is a “right” way to lead is an important part of the process. Just like Xebia has four core values, the program encourages us to identify our own values to guide our professional journeys.

Results in Action

Halfway through the program, I already notice changes within myself. I speak up more and raise my hand more when opportunities arise. The sense of adrenaline and excitement I feel as I start branching out is really motivating. We learned a helpful framework for approaching new challenges: to think of each one as a small experiment. An experiment can have a positive or negative outcome and then it’s over. It’s an isolated incident and you move onto the next one. This approach reduces the anxiety of “what if…” which makes trying new things much easier.

Simply knowing some of the information introduced has helped me be more confident. For example, we had a session with Emma Lok from WOMEN Inc. She told us that a gender-based pay gap is actually against the law in the Netherlands. Xebia does not have a pay gap but it was empowering to know that there are protections in place. Equality is something society values.

I notice that colleagues, both male and female, are supportive of this cultural shift because they have seen the data that gender-diverse teams perform markedly better, among other reasons. We now understand that being on a more diverse team will help us improve as a whole. Collaborating with people that have different ideas, values and leadership styles enables us to approach challenges with a wider variety of solutions.

Lifting One Another Up

What’s next? That’s not clear yet. I’m already feeling positive changes within myself and seeing them around the company as well. By offering this program, Xebia helped me, and all the program participants, level up. Our skills and confidence are increasing. With these new opportunities, we are better able to be our own version of a “rising tide.” Stronger leaders make stronger companies.

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