“sexism is holding back over 50% of the population from reaching the very top.”
EB: Despite workplace initiatives and laws, sexism in the workplace still occurs. How would you advise a women facing sexism in the workplace, especially in the male dominated sector of tech?
JdR: Having worked for in the corporate sector for my entire career, I would say that education and culture plays an enormous part in how collaborative a workforce is together. Teamwork is really important and if that is part of the DNA, then there generally appears to be less sexism.
My personal journey has evolved over the years in terms of my confidence and I would offer one piece of advice – you do not have to become an ‘alphazilla’ in order to win or compete. In the earlier part of my career, I would go at a problem with all guns blazing. I now take a more thoughtful route to success.
EB: Would you agree that women in tech have to challenge their own perceptions about their sex? For example, I recently talked with someone who expressed anxiety about going on maternity and how that would ‘look’ to her company/team.
JdR: I think that it is a woman’s right to have children and a career. At least, that’s the way I look at it. I would also say that companies are made up of people and, in my experience, behaving in a transparent and open way about my plans always stood me in good stead.
The other amazing thing about the technology sector is that it is growing at speed and recruitment is definitely ‘on fire’. So if you are confident in your abilities, then you can expect to find an opportunity in this sector. The business community in this country is crying out for great people especially as we continue to face such a digital skills desert.
One of our biggest issues as a country is to try and identify women returners to the workplace after a maternity break. Getting trained and savvy women back into the workforce after a break is, I believe, a fundamental way of boosting our competitive advantage as a global country.
EB: You say its vital to identify women returning from maternity leave. Would you say that the lack of women at the board level stems from the struggle to come back from maternity? How can businesses break this barrier and get women to the top?
JdR: Flexible working would certainly help. Part of that is ensuring that the technology infrastructure is in place, but the other aspect is very much cultural – ensuring that flexible/home working is perceived and accepted as a valid mode of working. I also think that there needs to be better education around the potential productivity gains of flexible working for the entire organisation so that women are not inferred to be "special cases".
I think businesses should ensure they include appropriately qualified women on candidate short lists so that gender diversity is addressed. I do not believe in quotas but I do believe in creating a talent pool of diverse opportunity.
Finally, it’s important to foster a culture among the senior women who have made it to the top to send the elevator back down to women who are starting out on their journeys – a collaborative and supportive culture is invaluable.
EB: In short, do you think discrimination regarding maternity is still prevalent?
JdR: I do think that the situation has improved immeasurably over the past few years, and that the government has taken significant steps to ensure that businesses do treat expectant mothers fairly by introducing tough employment legislation. There are still sadly incidents of discrimination but the law now does also work to adequately protect those put in that situation.
EB: What other factors do you think are stopping women from advancing to board level?
JdR: I think that the talent pool remains small, pay is still often not equal and even the way that job descriptions are written could be described as very "male" orientated in the language used. For example, most men look first for the job title and salary, whereas most women look at job location and the opportunity for career development.
EB: What would you introduce into the workplace to address the challneges we have indentified facing women?
JdR: Among other things, I think that some solutions include:
– Job descriptions written in a more balanced way that appeals to both men and women
– Better mentoring for women already in the business to help them grow into senior positions
– Address equal pay
– Have role models so that aspiration is embedded in the organisation’s culture
– Support diversity in ALL its forms
– Talk about the issue!
EB: As a woman who has succeeded in technology, what sacrifices have you had to make?
JdR: I missed out on seeing my daughter as much as I would have liked when she was very small. That was not so great. On the other hand I have had the luxury of working in a highly paid sector which has enabled me to give her all the opportunity that she and my boys need.
EB: Looking back on your career, would there be anything you would have approached differently on your rise to the top?
JdR: If I go back to my early career and give my younger self some advice, it would to have been to be really clear about my personal brand. I am hired by enterprise software companies to create accelerated growth and I do that by unlocking the potential of the teams of people around me together and ensure that they can operate under pressure.
My social media presences reflects that, my body language reflects that and the way I strategise reflects that. It would have been good to have known it when I was 30! Interestingly since I have been clear about my brand, I have never had to go looking for a job, they have always come to me.
EB: What advice would you share with women who are thinking of, or have just entered, the tech industry?
JdR: One of the key pieces of advice is that if you are looking to progress you have to create your own opportunities for success. Part of this is understanding what your personal brand is, what you want to be known for, and putting yourself in situations where you can be acknowledged for that.