Maria Pernas is currently the Vice-President Group Deputy General Counsel at ATOS and is in charge of the Atos diversity program. She works for the Legal and Compliance Department and has worldwide responsibilities that encompass the legal support to customers' deals (contracting activities), the bidding and delivery phases, the support to the Global Service Lines, the Atos Group Contract Management activities and the Legal budget planning and monitoring. She is a member of the WIL Board of Directors, and similarly has served on several other Boards.
Despite her busy schedule, WIL was lucky to catch up with Maria Pernas for a '5 minutes with' where we discussed her experience working with the diversity program and the Legal and Compliance Department with worldwide responsibilities at ATOS - take a look at the interview below for great insights from one of our insprirational WIL members- Maria Pernas!
WIL Europe (WIL): In addition to your role as Senior Vice President, Deputy Group General Counsel, you are in charge of the implementation of the Atos Diversity program. What is the diversity program’s primary mission and goal?
Maria Pernas (MP): The Diversity Program is one of the initiatives being implemented under the “Atos Group Well Being @ Work Program”, that is, the Program launched in 2012 that underpins the Atos transformation to be recognized as one of the best companies to work for. In Atos we think that Diversity (all kinds of diversity) has become a critical element of operational performance and our primary goal is to leverage Diversity in its social and business dimensions.
What impact do you project the program to have on Atos’s leadership in regards to women employees?
Gender diversity is one of the pillars of our Diversity Program. A substantial number of new opportunities for women are being identified in our Group. Despite the fact that Information Technology has been traditionally been perceived as a male industry (with lower presence of women in technical careers), Atos employs 28% of females globally and almost 30% of our new joiners below 25 years old are women. Atos wants to continue increasing these ratios as well as the female presence in Top Management positions. As of December 31st, 2014 the Board of Directors was composed of 36% of women.
What would you like to accomplish in the near future?
We want to continue further developing all the axes of our Program and contribute to our Group’s growth with more success stories in gender, disability…. And we are going in the right direction. For instance, in the Disability domain, the Accessibility & Digital Inclusion team in the UK has made huge progresses on the Disability domain and significant achievements on enhancing Inclusive User Experience for both ATOS staff and customers. ATOS UK is a Gold Member of the BDF (Business Disability Forum) and contributes to their Technology Taskforce.
WIL: With almost 100 000 professionals working in around 75 countries, Atos has created one of the most multicultural, multidisciplinary, diverse and responsive work environments in the world. What advice would you give to our emerging leaders about managing cross-culturally?
MP: In todays’ world, in order to manage teams cross-culturally, we first need to be able to establish “networks” that allow enhanced collaboration. In Atos we reached our objective by using BlueKiwi, our professional Enterprise Social Network. We also need to put in place a truly global environment where teams work in an integrated manner irrespective of their respective locations. Flexibility is also important. Expectations of the Milleniums, globalization are all factors that need a new approach in working methods. In Atos we have set up a Smart Campus and already 35 000 employees have adhered to the Atos Remote Working Plan. Finally time is of the essence. If we want to identify and retain the best we need to be agile in the way we manage our teams.
WIL: As you know, the EU Digital Single Market (DSM) Policy was unveiled on May 6th 2015. In your opinion, what impact does the policy have on Atos, and what changes and opportunities will the new DSM policy create?
MP: The Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy for Europe is a key initiative. President Juncker said that we lay the groundwork for Europe’s digital future. As you know, the Strategy is structured under three main pillars: (i) better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe, (ii) conditions for digital networks and services to flourish and (iii) maximising the growth potential of the European Digital Economy. I think that all the initiatives are important but the third one brings huge opportunities with the proposal around the European free flow of data initiave and the European Cloud.
WIL: Atos is a “business-technologist”, could you explain what that means? Business-technology is constantly evolving, so what is your company’s approach to innovation?
MP: Yes, of course. In Atos we say that we are Business Technologists because Atos professionals are as passionate about business as they are about technology. We say that “we bring together people, business and technology in order to power progress”. Innovation is one of Atos “Shared Values” and it is at the core of our business strategy. We welcome a creative environment with inventive solutions. The Business Technology & Innovation Center (BTIC), the Scientific Community and our Research & Innovation group are clear evidences.
WIL: You’ve been working for Atos for quite some time, could tell us about your company’s evolution over the last two decades.
WIL: What do you like the most about Atos and more specifically about your current roles?
MP: Atos Origin was formed in 2000 when Atos and Origin merged. In 2002, KPMG Consulting’s businesses in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands were acquired to establish Atos Consulting. In 2004 the Sema Group was acquired from Schlumberger and the acquisition of SIS in 2011 and, more recently, the acquisition of Bull and Xerox ITO is a continuation of the Atos strategy. I have been working for Atos for a number of years now and I did so because Atos has given me the opportunity to work on very interesting projects, growth and hold many different positions within the Group. What I lilke most about more current role is the truly global environment, the importance given to innovation and the proximity to the business.