In celebration of International Women’s Day, CBR asks female tech leaders on the key to success as a woman in the industry.
This Sunday, 8th March, marks International Women’s Day, a day which has been observed since the early 1900’s. As we approach the day of celebration for women, we can take stock of the many achievements since the 1900’s. But we cannot celebrate this day without looking, and reflecting on, the core issue for which this day stands – equality and recognition.
You only need look at the numerous stats, figures, reports and research papers to conclude that true gender equality has not yet been achieved.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the technology industry, stereotypically seen as a ‘male’ job or career. The disparity of women versus men entering the profession, indeed getting to board level, is evident across the sector. The tide, however, is most certainly turning – there are women in the IT and technology arenas who have reached the top and are lobbying, mentoring and urging more women to join the ranks.
CBR has reached out to these women at the top of their game to get their advice on how to enter, approach and succeed as a woman in the IT and technology sector.
1. Ursula Morgenstern, CEO, Atos UK & Ireland and Global Executive Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise Software
"An alternative view gives you an edge over people"
"I was on the panel at a recruitment event recently when a female student asked how she could find the ‘right’ technology company to work in. By this she meant an organisation that wouldn’t discriminate against her as a woman.
"There were five or six other senior women on the panel – who all saw the technology industry as a relatively modern and forward-looking environment with promising career paths for all. That was our experience. But, the student clearly had the idea that the industry was in some way prone to bias.
"The technology industry is a fantastic place to be a part of. It is young and fast moving with great opportunities. It would be great if more women would join this industry and benefit from it as I did. I studied business and organisational behaviour at university.
"I have used the knowledge I gathered on this course to understand how organisations function and how one can make them work effectively. It was my first exposure to technology and how it can impact businesses.
"IT can actually be a great enabler of a positive workplace. It can bring innovation, better collaboration and work-life balance and also enable higher productivity. So when I had the chance to join the technology industry as my first job, it was an exciting opportunity.
"Having an alternative view gives you an edge over people, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box – bringing people skills and a different viewpoint is valuable for any business, but particularly in the tech space. Remember that you have a right to be in the room and have the conversation – and that your voice matters."
2. Sarah Eccleston, Director, Cisco UKI, Enterprise Networks and IoT
"Ignore anyone who who tells you you can’t, or shouldn’t, do something you really want to do"
"One of the most common career tips is that people should do what they love. The great thing about IT in the 21st Century is that it touches almost all areas of our life – so whatever we love, we can have an IT career that aligns with our passion.
"With the Internet of Things, everything from cars, cows, shops, our clothing, and our running shoes will be connected to the Internet. So whether your passion is travel, animals, retail , fashion or sport, a career in IT will enable you to work in that field."
"The best advice I personally would give to someone embarking on their career is to ignore anyone who tells you that you can’t, or shouldn’t, do something you really want to do.
"When I said I wanted to connect elephants to the Internet in an effort to reduce ivory poaching, many people thought I was crazy and told me it couldn’t be done. I just booked a flight to Zambia and did it anyway."
3. Vidya Ranganathan, SVP of Engineering, Accellion
"You can only get what you want by working hard."
"Growing up in India meant that I was not expected to do well in school. Women are perceived as second class citizens so in order get accepted at a good engineering college, I had to remain in the 99th percentile for all of my subjects throughout my schooling.
"This meant that from an early age I learnt that you can only get what you want by working hard. What can sometimes seem like a mountain to climb in front of you can be conquered if you divide it into smaller more manageable steps. This is what I tell my team every day.
"Set goals above and beyond what you can achieve because if you work together and work hard you will get there and you may even surprise yourself along the way.
"My advice to young women starting out in the industry would be to ignore the fact that people will tell you that the industry is "male dominated". This may be the case for a lot of industries but it should not stop women. Work hard, do your best and don’t live by labels and stereotypes, because they are daunting, especially to younger women entering a new field.
"By constantly thinking of the challenges women face in a "male-dominated" industry, it’s possible to spend more time being held back mentally, rather than exerting that extra energy to achieve far beyond what you imagined possible. If you focus on your work and achieving your personal goals, you might surprise yourself.
"Hopefully the less that women allow stereotypes to hold them back, the closer we’ll get to eliminating gender labels on any profession."
"A woman in IT is an outlier, but it shouldn’t be that way. It shouldn’t be odd for a woman to want to be in IT. The real problem is that most women are almost never encouraged at a young age to pursue "male-dominated" fields or interests. To make matters worse, young kids are always worried about their social perception.
"Without the encouragement from parents, teachers and other role models young girls may potentially turn away from the things, such as math or science, that could make them appear "geeky."
4. Sally Reade, EMEA channel manager, Tintri
"If you’re not passionate about your technology, you should find one that can motivate you."
"The IT industry is one of the most forward-thinking, innovative industries of the modern world. However, there’s a surprisingly low number of women that work in the sector.
"As EMEA channel manager at Tintri, I’m working for a technology that I’m excited about. Passion, I’ve discovered, is key. If you’re not passionate about your technology, you should find one that can motivate you.
"The IT industry is a small community and I have found myself working with the same people directly and indirectly, in various places. It’s important to get to know your colleagues and build relationships with them.
"Listen to their ideas: we can all learn a lot from people with different backgrounds and different perspectives, they can help define our strategies in a more well-rounded way. Across my career I’ve had various mentors, who have held a mirror up to me. It’s important to be a mentor to others too – identify the rising stars, and get them to be part of your team!
"The channel, in particular can be a tough arena. If things go wrong, the channel manager can quickly become the ‘whipping boy’, so it’s important to deal with issues immediately. Never be above apologising to customers, even if you’re doing it on behalf of others.
"For anyone, whether male or female, this is a competitive and incredibly fast-paced industry, so it’s important to stay focused, keep motivated and absorb information from others. Ultimately, customers value working with someone who is knowledgeable and effective. No matter what their gender.