Five Surprising Words Shaping the Future of Women in Tech
March is an important month for women. This March 8th, International Women’s Day, rallies, demonstrations and celebrations around the world drew attention to the social, political and economic contributions of women and the ongoing fight for equality. As Women’s History Month, March was also time many businesses and associations came together to examine progress made and progress needed. Lucky to serve on the panel of two such events–ARA Chicago’s “Diversity of Thought” evening and the Women Tech Connect event at Ipreo in New York City–I was struck by how I now hear certain, and sometimes surprising, words in discussions about the urgent need to encourage and advance women in technology.
As we leave March behind and look to the future, I wanted to take time to consider five of the words I heard repeatedly this March and what they mean for diversity in IT. They may not be the first words that come to mind when you think technology, but for many decades women were not the first people who came to mind when people thought of technology. These women and their wise words are changing that.
Wendy Lewis, Chief Global Diversity Officer for McDonald’s who was on the ARA Diversity of Thought panel, was a powerful advocate for infusing faith into technology career paths and encouraging women and minorities to “stay the course.” The powerful Philip Yancy quote she shared spoke to the faith it takes to drive towards something with conviction that not everyone understands.
Are we self-aware in how we are shaping the profile of the tech workforce? Kathy Goss, Head of Inclusion Recruiting for LinkedIn, challenged the audience to think differently as they look to recruit and hire. One process she uses to create “aha” moments in recruiting (described below) helps hiring managers consider who they are looking to hire. Are we thinking differently as we hire or looking for more of the same? It takes self-awareness to understand the workplaces we’ve build and how we can change them for the better.
Self-awareness also struck a chord with Shari Aser, Director of Digital Sales for IBM at the Ipreo event. Aser shared how important it is for anyone in the workplace looking to move up to be aware of where they are at. She encouraged women in the audience to go for promotions and raises. However, she also reminded the audience to keep in mind that “if you ask for a raise after just three months, you might be disappointed.” Her advice was to always gather facts and evidence of accomplishments when asking for promotions, raises and other career opportunities.
Are you putting yourself out there? That was a key question at the Women Tech Connect in New York City where Bertina Ceccarelli, CEO of NPower, encouraged women to “get out of their comfort zones at least once a week.” If you aren’t vulnerable in your work, you aren’t taking risks and you will not grow. The message for women: Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and uncomfortable. Be afraid of stagnating and staying only in your comfort zone.
Another important word I heard at both events was responsibility. Panelists and attendees reminded women to take responsibility for their career paths and for approaching the roadblocks and challenges they face on the job with facts. As one panelists told the audience, “no one can get mad at you if you have facts and figures on your side.” It’s your responsibility to argue your case and promote your ideas with reason and facts. Passion that is underpinned by powerful facts is inspiring. Emotion without facts might get you attention but it will not win support.
Full disclosure. Mindset is one of the words I use a lot when coaching people in the tech sector. I think having the right mindset when you take on a role, enter a room, deliver a solution, lead a meeting or propose an idea is key to your success. A positive mindset that is open to growth and eager for challenge is a must in the fast-moving, disruptive tech environment. I have worked with many talented technology professionals who are staunchly set in their ways. They only advance so far before their rigid mindset limits them. My career in technology has spanned many companies, titles, solutions and industries. I have learned by experience how it takes an open and curious mindset to bend and grow with a changing industry and not break. Let’s face it– if you can change your mind, you can change the world.
EQ versus IQ
In studying these five words, what I see is the enduring importance of EQ (emotional quotient or intelligence). Women have proven they have the intelligence (IQ) and education (more women graduate college than men) to compete and contribute in IT. To continue to make strides in IT leadership and innovation, women in tech must also focus on the factors that shape one’s confidence, leadership ability and EQ. Words have meaning. These words (faith, self-awareness, responsibility, vulnerability and mindset) have might.