For Dan Bognar, General Manager at DocuSign in Asia Pacific, giving women a voice is something he is deeply passionate about.
Over his career, this has taken many forms. From mentoring and sponsoring high potential female talent, to creating a safe place for women to work and championing them to raise issues when they have been bullied or harassed, Dan has done it all.
Early in his career, he realised there were many talented young women who had the potential to be great leaders though often lacked the confidence in themselves to see this. He found by demonstrating his confidence in them, finding them opportunities to take on opportunity outside their role and encouraging them to go beyond what they thought possible, they were able to flourish.
One example he shared was of a young woman in the marketing team who became increasingly more uncomfortable as her stakeholder map grew. When asked why she was becoming withdrawn in meetings, he found out it was because she did not feel her voice mattered, that she did not always agree with everyone else and her ideas would not be accepted. Dan, who values a diversity of perspectives & ideas, was able to get her to understand just how valuable her contributions could be in getting the team to a better outcome. Armed with renewed confidence she slowly began to speak up. It didn’t take too long for her to be promoted and she has had a fabulous career trajectory ever since.
As their mentor, female employees have often confided in Dan about situations of harassment or bullying. They go on to share that they only want him to listen and not to act. The women are concerned that if they do speak up, change won’t occur and the worst case scenario is that they will have negative career repercussions a result. Dan openly admits he is conflicted. As a mentor, he must maintain confidentiality, but as a senior leader he does not condone activities that are counter to the company’s and his own values. He says he is often “aghast at the behaviour of some men”. The only solution has been to address this at the leadership level by being clearer about the values the company stands for and the behaviours which won’t be tolerated.
One situation he described happened after a customer dinner. The morning after, he was approached by the female account executive who confided in him that one of the male customers had manhandled her as she was attempting to leave for the night. It was an awkward situation because the account executive was working on a significant deal with that customer with commercial ramifications for the company. At the same time, this behaviour was contradictory to the customer’s company’s values too. Dan was concerned about ensuring the account executive have a voice and that she could share her story safely. His decision was to get HR and the other senior leaders involved. They all agreed it was unacceptable behaviour and they would back their values and their team member despite the potential negative commercial impact. They wanted the female account executive to feel they had her back, that she was in the driver’s seat and the decision to proceed with any formal complaint was hers.
Promoting a safe environment for females to work is something that Dan is very aware of. He feels privileged to have these confidences shared with him and is actively working to raise the awareness of his male team to the problems of female employees not always feeling safe. “Many men don’t even realise that before women will go to a social event, they think who will I be going with? Am I going to be safe? And how am I getting home? Whereas men only need to consider turning up at the event.”
His overall goal is to embrace diversity in all its forms and break down the barriers, not just around gender, but across experience. disability, religion, gender orientation and more. Dan is continuing to champion awareness with ongoing training on “How to have difficult conversations” & “How to Find your Voice”. There is no doubt his actions will continue to make a difference to his team and enable many women to find their voices.