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Giving women a seat at the table this International Women’s Day

Giving women a seat at the table this International Women’s Day

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This International Women’s Day, we spoke to 11 people in tech, from a variety of backgrounds and roles. They provided insight into their experiences of being a woman in a male-dominated industry and how the sector can continue to #BreakTheBias.

The theme for this years’ International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias.

“It challenges us to do something radical: imagine the world without prejudice, stereotypes, or discrimination,” said Gillian Mahon, Chief People and Places Officer at Totalmobile.

While the world has made progress in gender equality over the years, there is still a long way to go for true equality for all.

This International Women’s Day, Intelligent CXO spoke to 11 members of the technology industry, from a variety of roles and backgrounds, to hear how we can truly #BreakTheBias this year.

Breaking down barriers

Gender equality is an issue that impacts many different people in a variety of ways.

Donna Cooper, Director of Global Marketing at WhereScape, an IDERA Software company, said: “After thousands of years of conditioning with regards to the ‘role’ women play in society, systemic sexism has been ingrained into our psyche over a long period.

“When I look back at my career in IT industry, I can recall times where women’s ideas and opinions were dismissed only to be received positively when presented by their male counterparts; women openly criticised for ‘leaving their children’ and ‘putting work first’; men promoted and awarded a higher salary over women despite having less experience and industry knowledge.”

Markeith Allen, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Mission Driven Organisations at Diligent, added: “As a society, we have just experienced a ground-breaking period of social reckoning around all aspects of diversity, including gender, economic and education inequality, which all started well before the pandemic, but now have been exposed in a much more revealing light, as a result of a global crisis. We are all being called upon to lead in a new, technologically and globally-inclusive world where issues of inequality are at the forefront – and gender, racial and economic disparities must all be eradicated.”

Totalmobile’s Mahon said: “In the UK, every industry and business can greatly benefit from gender diversity, especially ones which have traditionally been seen as male-dominated, such as science and technology, but there are significant barriers to break down. For example, women not only face obstacles such as earning equal pay, but they are also disproportionately affected by new challenges, such as hybrid working. Recent research from Gartner demonstrated that women were one of the few groups unfairly disadvantaged by remote work.”

Gender bias impacts specific industries, such as the public transportation industry.

Krishna Desai, Senior Global Marketing Manager at Cubic Transportation Systems, commented: “Pricing, accessibility and safety are some of the many barriers keeping women from being as mobile as their male counterparts. The only way to affect change in the industry is to put women in the driving seat and give them the power to make a direct impact. Giving women a seat at the table will help transit agencies better meet the needs of female travellers and ensure they can get to where they need to go safely and efficiently.”

Leading the way to equality

Svenja De Vos, CTO at Leaseweb Global, explained why having women in tech as role models are so crucial: “With this year’s theme for International Women’s Day being ‘Break the Bias,’ I think it is critical for women already in the technology field to express their enthusiasm for a career in the industry. After all, if we don’t, how can we expect more women to be encouraged to be involved?

“Despite the fact that there has been an influx of women joining the tech workforce in recent years, being a female manager in the tech world is still considered ‘abnormal.’ I encourage women who are leaders in the industry to speak about their experiences to the younger generation to entice young people to get them excited about a technical education or career.”

“Crucial to retaining female talent, as well as encouraging new candidates, is clear career progression and leadership opportunities,” said Samantha Thorne, Head of People at Node4. “Gender bias is particularly prominent within leadership positions and we strive to challenge that – within our team, we encourage female participation in leadership programmes and empower women to spearhead innovation. These trailblazing women serve as role models to young girls to prove that women can be successful within male-dominated industries.”

The benefits of boosting gender diversity are huge. Bruce Martin, CFO at Tax Systems, added: “The more diverse the people in the room, the more varied the thinking, which will increase creativity and innovation and better the results. In fact, a study by McKinsey found that for every 10% increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5%. Workforces perform better in a more inclusive environment. Organisations need to open their businesses up to the large diverse talent pool that is too often overlooked – the part-time workers, who statistically are more likely to be women.”

Steps to a diverse future

For women to take on leadership – or any other – roles, it’s vital that organisations take the steps to support women throughout their careers.

“I found a renewed sense of confidence as my career progressed and a voice to go along with it,” said Sarah Schor, Head of Sales, Americas at SumTotal Systems. “Employers must ensure every employee has the opportunity to expand their role towards higher-paying positions.

“Women want opportunities to grow and develop as individuals and professionals and will seek out employers who help them do so. Succession planning is a great place to start for boosting gender diversity in their top jobs – identifying potential female leaders and providing them with a clearer pathway to the top of the organisation, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to pave the way.” 

“It’s so important to be conscious of what a balanced and inclusive team looks like, to integrate people from all walks of life with empathy and to be cognizant of what it takes to achieve this,” added Richa Gupta, Chief People Officer at Globalization Partners. “At G-P, we believe that our culture of inclusion starts with the power of the purpose of our company; it is co-created by our Dream team for care, community and belonging; further nurtured by our leaders with empathy, empowerment and trust; strengthen by listening and educating our teams, and supported by inclusive hiring and talent practices. Together we must champion and celebrate the successes of women around the world who are achieving great things.”

So much more to do

“Overall, women started 2022 at the highest rate of labour force participation (57.8%) since before the pandemic,” commented Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, CMO at Skillsoft. “Additionally, leaders are leaning on learning to drive positive change. Skillsoft’s new report found a 90% increase in enterprise consumption of learning content designed to help women thrive in the workplace last year. 

“Both women and leaders alike must seek continuous development, stay hungry for new opportunities and open up to new ways of thinking. Find mentors that teach, coach, and inspire and surround yourself with like-minded colleagues. Now is the time to put knowledge into action for equality. In return, the world will become measurably stronger, healthier, more secure and successful.”

Katie Kulikoski, Chief People Officer at Progress, concluded: “Every time I think about women in this world, whether we’re talking about advancing women in STEM, global human rights or battling deeply embedded cultural biases, five words come to mind: So Much More To Do. Every time I even begin to celebrate how far we have come, the gap we’ve begun to close, the advancement in opportunities – I remind myself to keep my eyes forward and focused on what is left: So much more to do.”

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