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Celebrating International Women's Day 2020

International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on March 8th.  And that day of celebration has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering taking place in 1911.

This day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action - whatever that looks like globally at a local level.

As part of that celebration, VMblog is sharing advice and thoughts from women in technology, including how to succeed in a male-dominated industry.

This is important because according to Women in IT awards, "the amount of female IT leaders globally remains at 9% - a figure that has changed very little in the past few years despite one third of organizations claiming to have diversity initiatives. Stereotypes surrounding the types of roles available in the tech industry has added to the steady decline of women entering the tech workforce. As a result, both recruiting and retaining female tech talent has become increasingly more difficult for companies."

Harumi Akimoto, Partner, Pegasus Tech Ventures 

"For women in tech, it can be intimidating to get people to respect you upon first interaction, let alone sell your business concept to VCs. I've been fortunate to be part of a company that breaks these norms, with women led startups making up around 40% of our portfolio and women making up 40% of our team. To inspire the next generation of female leaders, International Women's Day should be celebrated as a day to teach our daughters to worry less about fitting into glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings. It's also a great day to emphasize the benefits and success stories of pursuing STEM educational pursuits for more female representations in the tech industry. My advice to young women entering tech is be fearless, be articulate, ask for constructive criticism, look for role models, and pursue what you're passionate about. For female founders looking to grow their company, find investors who have consistently supported other female-led companies as they will have the experience to best support you in your endeavors."

Caroline Puygrenier, director of strategy & business development, connectivity, Interxion:

"Over the past year in particular, I've participated in conversations around elevating women in the technology and telco industries - highlighting leaders, connecting over unique challenges we as women in the technology industry face, and identifying room for improvement despite progress we've made -  particularly through focus groups and speaking forums. I enjoy these discussions and believe they are critical for achieving greater diversity in the industry.

However, something we must constantly remind ourselves of on our quest for gender equality is ensuring that these conversations truly reflect equal representation. For example, a panel on women in tech consisting only of female participants is not truly an inclusive conversation; rather, it excludes the male community, which, in my opinion, won't help long-term goals of forging a gender equal world.

By having more inclusive conversations, all parties can work together to make changes that promote greater equality. The same goes for greater diversity too in terms of ethnicity and age - all parties of interest need a seat at the table to participate in meaningful discussion that will bring us closer to an equal world, sooner. More inclusive representation allows for more interesting conversation, not only helping achieve our goals for equality, but also allowing for various perspectives to add to the value of the conversation."

Heather Ames, Co-Founder and COO, Neurala

"As the co-founder and COO of Neurala, I'm proud to celebrate women's accomplishments in business and technology every day, and especially on International Women's Day. Being a woman in technology and in artificial intelligence (AI) specifically, I am constantly reminded that this is a male-dominated field, which is made abundantly clear not only by the stark imbalance of women in leadership roles, but also by their underrepresentation within the VC community. In fact, only 9 percent of partners within venture firms are women, and female-founded companies received just 16 percent of VC funding in recent years.

These stats paint a grim picture, but they fuel my conviction to push for change. In addition to my role at Neurala, I'm a mother of four, and people often ask about how I handle the two - as I'm sure other women will agree, we're sometimes made to feel like we can't do both. My answer? I don't apologize for it because I've learned over the years that it's impossible to achieve work life balance, and I accept that. I try not to get stuck on the day to day, but rather take time to reflect on the positive things over a month time period. I bring my kids to work when I need to, leave early when necessary, and am transparent about that part of my life at work. I know that's important for creating a strong workplace where others feel they can do the same.

I've also thought a lot about the way women in technology are recognized compared to men, and the issues that need to be addressed in that regard. Too often, we see women being recognized or receiving industry awards for "soft" skills - i.e. community building, contributing to diversity, and developing strong workplace culture - while men are put on a pedestal for their leadership and innovations. In 2020, we should not be subscribing to these stereotypes and boxing women into them - while I value my accomplishments in these areas, as a technical leader and operations executive, those are very small parts of my day-to-day, yet they are continuously the areas I am asked about most. That said, there's some hope - from my own experience, in 2019 I was recognized as a national finalist in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award. The award recognized my contributions as a business leader at Neurala - not just for me as a woman - which was an honor. But it's not just about getting awards, it's also about having a voice and seat at the table. I've been invited to participate in the 2020 Entrepreneur Of The Year® Awards, this time as a regional judge for New England. I am excited to have the opportunity to join this network and celebrate other women for their innovation and commitment to businesses that are changing the world."

Becky Trevino, VP of Product Marketing, Snow Software

"The biggest misconception about women in tech is that women aren't all-in the way men are. This particularly impacts working moms who are often not considered for harder roles out of fear that it may be too hard for them to balance work and families. I call BS on that and believe women - and working moms in particular - should always be offered a chance. 

And that to dispel these misconceptions, Businesses should be asking the big question: If I have a high-performing woman in my organization, why don't I see her on the big projects? Why is her name not being considered? There may be a good reason for that but the question needs to be asked. Also, in general we think of work-life-balance as a ‘woman' thing. It's not. Men too need time to be with their families. Creating flexible work environments enables everyone to be more creative, refreshed and high-performing. Many think that giving workers more flexibility hinders productivity. I disagree. For many, what you do is inspire loyalty and that loyalty encourages people to work harder."

Victoria Barber, Technology Guardian, Snow Software

"Women are an important asset to Tech/IT/SAM because they've been brought in to do a job, and they're focused on getting it done. Women are extremely good at building networks and relationships, so tend to get stakeholders engaged and bought in to what they're trying to do. A chat over coffee and cake works wonders in most situations, but they also tend to be unafraid to escalate if they do encounter blockers."

Samantha Nguyen, Product Manager, Bitglass

"The technology industry is well known for its gender in balance, and we all have a responsibility to encourage girls to consider technology for further education and as a long-term career path. For me, technology is always evolving and that is in part what drew me to the industry. Every day is different, and I am always learning. There are so many opportunities, both from an entry-level perspective and in terms of skills training or career progression. There are so many inspirational female technology pioneers, like Grace Hopper and Meghan Smith, who are a daily inspiration for me." 

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Published Friday, March 06, 2020 11:01 AM by David Marshall
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