IWD 23 - the Top 10 articles to read as a women in technology or employer pursuing diversity
- For International Women's Day, a round-up of some of diginomica's coverage of women in technology.
Women in technology is an area we cover in detail at diginomica throughout the year, as is the case for all aspects of diversity, equality and inclusion. To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, I’ve put together this special report pulling together some of our best content on the topic from the past several years. These 10 articles are all just as relevant today as when we first published them, and still have important advice and learnings for women in the industry and their employers.
Never volunteer to be the note-taker! Leadership tips from Salesforce's Trailblazing Women Summit
This sticks in my mind as one of the most useful and thought-provoking sessions I’ve covered about/as a women in tech (and there have been a few). At the event last May, Hilary Headlee, then Head of Global Sales Operations & Enablement at Zoom, shared how climbing the career ladder for her entailed outworking people, putting in 70- or 80-hour weeks, and doing the work of two people. She didn’t slow down until she had kids, aged 35.
When asked the one thing she wished she had done differently, she replied realizing you don't need to have children or a family to stop working so hard. This really resonated with me, and I’m sure a lot of women of my generation (Gen X), for whom working flat-out to climb the career ladder before having kids was the norm, as there was little chance of progressing afterwards. Headlee summed it up nicely:
I wish I would have given myself that at 25, to travel and see my parents or my grandparents at the time. I just worked. I wish I would have realized that sooner, and started to scope in what I needed to do, because you don't need to have kids to slow down. You can have your own life.
What I’d say to me back then - Stacey Epstein, CMO at Freshworks, on not self-limiting your ambition
This was the first of an occasional series we started in 2022, in which women in tech discuss what's changed in their careers to date and explore what advice they’d give their younger selves as well as to women entering the sector today.
Stacey Epstein’s career in tech has spanned 30 years. In the article, she explains that while she didn’t struggle to progress from her very entry-level job in the early 1990s, there were not a lot of examples of women in more senior leadership positions at the time. Diversity initiatives were also in short supply,
What Epstein wishes she could tell her younger self entering the technology sector back in the early nineties – don’t live your life thinking about the bias or obstacles against you. She adds:
We should all be thinking about our careers not as - ‘Will I ever get that role because I'm a woman?’, or ‘I haven't seen another woman in that role, so are they really going to consider me?’. The focus should all be on being a high performer and the opportunities will absolutely come.
Also worth a read are SAP SuccessFactors Maryann Abbajay on her "stinking hard" return to work after a 10-year gap and Oracle UK Country Leader Siobhan Wilson on why it’s so important to banish doubts.
Learning from Grace Hopper and Madonna - career inspirations for CIO Sharon Mandell
Sharon Mandell has had a career in technology spanning 30-plus years, thanks in part to meeting role models like Grace Hopper and Adele Goldberg, co-creator of the Smalltalk language.
Since studying computing at university, Mandell has been mostly surrounded by men in her various roles, but has always felt that if she was delivering consistent results, people would want to work with her, irrespective of gender. She expressed her disappointment that women joining the industry now aren’t being offered the same opportunity. As she notes:
What dismays me a little bit today is, I hear that women don't feel that way about this career and that's not necessarily turning out to be true for them.
Lessons learned by three female business leaders during their 'guilt-free' careers
Three women leaders reflect on their careers and lessons learned in an article from 2021, which contains a heap of good advice that’s just as relevant today. One such tip from Shellye Archambeau, former CEO of MetricStream and tech board member, who implored women to stop being so hard on themselves and feeling guilty all the time:
The world wants to judge us on everything. Each of us needs to decide what we're willing to be judged on.
Advice I can definitely relate to.
ServiceMax shows how gender parity in tech can be done
Noor Tarin, then VP of Talent Enablement & Development at ServiceMax, explains how the business reached gender parity at leadership level without setting a specific target.
When ServiceMax split off from GE Digital in 2018, just 16% of its vice presidents were female. Four years on, there’s now a 50/50 gender split in VP roles at the business. Tarin outlines how the company achieved this, including accountability. She notes:
If you hold your leadership accountable and you just do a little bit of a rejig on what you're focusing on, there is a lot of female talent out there.
HP Inc aims to have a 50% female executive leadership by 2030. Here’s the plan
HP went public in 2021 with some ambitious targets to increase gender and racial diversity, including increasing the number of women in leadership roles from 31% to 50% by the end of this decade.
HP’s then Chief Diversity Officer, Lesley Slaton Brown (she started a new role as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at National Basketball Association last month) explained that by sharing its ambitious goals, HP hopes to foster a more diverse, equitable and inclusive tech industry:
It's important that we're reflective of our customer base, and so it's important that we bring in leadership that reflects that. We don't have to wait until 2040 and 2045 and 2050 for that to happen.
Some Sage advice - funding is the only way to get more Black women in tech
Dr Cameka Smith originally set up The BOSS Network to establish a community of professional and entrepreneurial black women, offering events, workshops and coaching to help this underrepresented group succeed in the business world.
However, Smith has shifted her focus more recently from conversations and coaching to funding, as the women she was working with weren’t able to access financial investment to actually implement the resources and learnings they’d been given.
This shift in focus is already having the desired results. Sage is investing $1.5m in the organization, with $10,000 grants awarded to 35 women so far.
Silicon Valley's secret underground - how Black women can get VC funding
Jade Kearney has faced many struggles as a Black female company founder. In response, she set up SheMatters and Black Girl’s Tech Day, in a bid to increase the share Black entrepreneurs and women currently get in start-up funding – just 1% and 2% respectively of a $137 billion pot.
Kearney shares her advice on how to level up the playing field, including white men acknowledging they fund based off of familiarity, backing a technology they understand or have seen before, and one where the founder looks like them:
If you're a Black female founder and you are trying to raise capital, usually people want your valuation to be lower than what it's supposed to be. You are going up this constant uphill battle to get things that white males and Asian males get for having an idea on paper.
How to tackle the tech skills crisis - send for a Supermum!
After the birth of her second daughter, Heather Black had a light bulb moment. Having built up a successful business as a freelance Salesforce consultant, Black realised the potential to use the flexibility of working in technology as a hook to get other women retrained and back to work after having children. In 2016, she set up Supermums, an organization offering Salesforce admin training and recruitment.
As of May 2019, when our original piece ran, 115 mums (and a few dads – the training is open to either parent) from five different countries had taken the course.
Since 2016, Supermums has taught over 700 parents across 10-plus countries, delivered over £1 million of free training to charities through work experience projects, and helped over 200 companies to recruit better talent.
A great example for anyone wanting motivation for a career change.
Hiring for diversity is hard, but worth the effort - practical tips from the CEO frontline
These equality tips from women CEOs may be from 2019, but they’re definitely worth a read for women working in tech today. They discuss how to break the wheel, leave that jerk boss behind, and why you shouldn’t always be hiring the best person for the job. Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-founder of digital-first investing platform for women Ellevest, explains her views on the latter:
I won't let people say, 'Hire the best person for the job'; it's got to be the best person for the team. It could well mean that we don't hire the person who had an A-plus average at Princeton, that maybe we're hiring someone on an A-minus average at the University of Virginia.
It’s what are we missing on our team right now. Do we have too many women? It'd be good to have a guy. Do we have too many introverts? We need an extrovert. Do we have too many Caucasians? We need a person of color. And that actually makes hiring much harder, but when you blindly go for just the best person, then you're often just going for yourself.