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Celebrating International Women's Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge

international womens day 

International Women's Day (IWD), a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, 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.

The campaign theme for International Women's Day 2021 is 'Choose To Challenge'.  A challenged world is an alert world.  And from challenge comes change.  So let's all #ChooseToChallenge.

As part of this celebration, VMblog is sharing advice and thoughts from women in technology, including how to succeed in a male-dominated industry.  This is important because the amount of female IT leaders globally remains low, less than 10% - a figure that has changed very little in the past few years.  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.

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Grace Krokidas, VP, Global Marketing, Liquidware

"I am still baffled why more women are not drawn to tech fields, and I have to believe it’s a case of too many simply not understanding how satisfying tech can be both creatively and financially.  For example, software development is one of those areas in which you can literally create something from scratch – without a lot of capital – that can change the world.   You can have total control over how its designed, what it looks like, how it works, even up to its impact on users.   There are very few fields where you can get total autonomy for conceiving and executing a project.  You don’t need a lot of money or even a degree to join the high tech club.  You just need the drive to get involved and learn all you can.  Then,  get hands on and see what you can do with your intellect and your drive.   Software can be transformative and can spawn dramatic changes for both individuals and our culture.   There is no glass ceiling – or gender bias – or other barriers to break down.  You are not indebted to any other person or circumstances to get ahead or get rewarded.  It’s a pure play of your skills and initiative.
 
Software runs the world today and those who understand it, and the systems that support it, rule the world.   Any woman – wherever they are in life  –  should investigate their options in tech.  This is the path to leapfrog forward in your career, become a player and  be where the action is."

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Victoria Garment, Director of Marketing, North America at Parallels (part of Corel Corporation)

"I've worked in senior B2B tech roles for many years and have often been one of very few women in the room. The biggest lesson I've learned about raising the profile of women in IT is to make sure that you have male allies on your side who can help advocate for yourself as well as other women. At a previous company, I helped found a women's group where we hosted workshops, book clubs, guest speakers, you name it—and we invited everyone at the company to attend these events. Having male leaders do things like speak about their own subconscious gender bias and the steps they were taking to address this had a big impact. Women at the company felt seen and heard, and other male leaders took notice and started to incorporate those steps into their own management styles.

At Corel, we've hired two new women in positions of power in the past six months: our CEO, Christa Quarles, and our CRO, Andrea Johnston. Having monthly company meetings where two incredibly accomplished women present and answer hard-hitting questions from employees helps normalize the idea of "women at the top" for all staff. In my day-to-day role, I always try to lead by example and show what I'm capable of as a woman in a more senior position. It's also incredibly important everyone in positions of power, regardless of gender, to help advance other women by calling attention to their accomplishments and looking for opportunities to elevate women who are qualified into more high-profile roles with larger responsibility. When more women move up into leadership roles, it becomes easier for others to follow in their footsteps."

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Dangvy Keller, Vice President of Americas Alliance and Distribution Sales, Veeam

"I've worked in the IT industry for 20 years and while my overall experience has been positive, I do see the tech industry lagging behind others when it comes to equity and equality in the workplace. The tech industry is still male dominated with about 25 percent of computing jobs being held by females, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). Despite this statistic, it is a dynamic and growing industry and there are opportunities for females; we just have to work a little harder to find and land those opportunities. The good news is that most top tech companies are aware of the underrepresentation of women and are working to narrow the gap. As a female leader in tech, it is a passion for me to help pave the path for those behind me. I spend a lot of time coaching and mentoring other women in the industry as well as championing and supporting my female colleagues. I participate in initiatives that foster equality and diversity in the workplace while ensuring that I lead by example in implementing the same principles when I build out my organization. We need more women in tech; it’s a growing and exciting industry! I encourage young females who want to be in tech to find strong mentors that can help them navigate the industry as it continues to expand and evolve."

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Angelica Micallef Trigona, Director of Marketing Operations, Altaro

"When I joined a software start up in 1999, I was the first full-time female there and probably something of an experiment. I have remained in tech ever since and it remains an exhilarating ride. While there have been times when I’ve had to explain that I can indeed speak the lingo, it has mostly been about getting in there, making things works and driving things forward – so that the focus is on my work and the value I’ve provided rather than on my gender.

From the micro to the macro: In the tech world, women remain in the minority both while studying and at work. This makes it harder to progress to leadership positions. Although being the odd one out should work wonders in terms of being noticed, instead it tends to make it harder to be heard. Persistence and perseverance are key. Self-belief is another big one – although lack of external validation doesn’t help.

Yet, as history has shown, necessity often propels change that all the best policies and intentions do not: as the tech labor pool grows smaller, then bright, qualified individuals become more precious, no matter whether they are male, female, or non-binary."

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Amanda Bedborough, Chief Revenue Officer at DataCore Software

"Women in IT have been requesting flexible work from home options that lead to a better work and family life balance for my entire 25 year plus career. In 2020, by default of the pandemic, that came to us all. Our kitchens were transformed overnight into office workplaces, working hours were changed end-to-end as we learned to juggle home schooling - and never before did we fully appreciate the role that teachers play!  Dogs, cats and kids became welcomed in virtual meetings – a complete reversal of the many times that as mothers, we have anxiously ‘bribed our charges into silence.’  

At the start of the pandemic within the executive leadership team (ELT) at DataCore, we thought the situation would probably last a quarter and our primary focus as a leadership team was to reassure, encourage and empower productivity while working from home. But all of the ELT were all concerned that productivity levels would drop without face-to-face interactions. It felt less than optimal. However, as it materialized, productivity and sales actually skyrocketed as teams became creatively empowered to keep in touch with customers, dynamically.

It didn’t come naturally for everyone at first though. We had to overcome the initial shock-and-awe two weeks where we established workspaces and patterns, and encouraged video communications to become the accepted norm (we are naturally conscious of how we, and our backdrops, appear on camera). Women have a slight edge here, as studies have proven that females are readily able to maintain eye contact and to show positive body language. Similarly, although some males are also exceptional at this skill, females are generally well equipped to spot on camera when associates may be struggling either personally or professionally, so we have a responsibility to keep teams close and motivated with inclusive virtual experiences outside of traditional office hours such as ‘happy hours,’ pub quizzes and fitness Fridays. Now that we have embraced an established, ongoing pattern of remote working,  the challenge for female management leaders reverses—if, when and how we empathetically request teams to meet in the office without losing the productivity and creativity gained in such exceptional circumstances. Established ongoing remote working also means that the world of career opportunities has opened up and females can, for the first time, consider roles outside of their regional boundaries, so long as there is some synchronization of time zones. For instance, at the start of 2020, I held a senior VP, EMEA position. Today, I hold a Chief Revenue Officer position, working with our US based leadership team globally while based out of Europe."

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Evgeniya Naumova, VP of Global Sales Network at Kaspersky

"First and foremost, be brave. Our present and future lies in technology and we all have a part to play. Be confident and be yourself. It is always possible to learn from the experiences of the many women (and men!) who have gone before you, to ask for their advice and share knowledge. While there is still a gender imbalance in the industry, this is changing rapidly.

I believe that men and women are not competitors; we are all working towards the same goal, and I am very grateful for the advice and support of the many men I have worked with throughout my career. Respect them, respect yourself; I believe that IT needs the qualities that both genders bring to the table, and this is key to successful teamwork. It is also important for women to be role models to each other. Kaspersky's recent Women in Tech report found that only 19% of women working in tech were inspired to take up their profession by a female role model, so we need to continue to inspire and encourage women who are just entering in their careers to consider tech positions."

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Jean Smith, VP of Customer Operations, Zenoss

"Having been in tech management for close to three decades, I have experienced countless scenarios of being the only female at the table.  Although always outnumbered, I have been fortunate to have had an equal voice and an equal opportunity throughout my career. Unfortunately this has not been the case for so many females in the tech Industry. There is still a long way to go to true gender equality, but there are positive trends in organizations’ desire and willingness to address unconscious bias and to actively recruit and promote women –knowing that gender diversity makes teams stronger. The challenge now facing many organizations is finding women candidates with technical skills and passion. The many women-only tech groups that are popping up across the industry are helping but we must continue to encourage, mentor, and advocate for girls and young women to get involved with tech as the potential for exciting and rewarding opportunities in tech are only going to grow."

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Liz Beavers, Head Geek, SolarWinds

"After a year which saw so many women come together to exemplify unity, resilience, strength, and compassion to overcome obstacles, “Choose to Challenge” is an incredibly fitting theme for International Women’s Day this year. Though there’s still work to be done, 2020 proved yet again the determination of women around the world to continue to advance female equality. I #ChoosetoChallenge others to continue to use their voice and advocate for change and inclusivity for women in technology.   

My hope, as a young woman in technology, is to see diversity and inclusion climb up the list of priorities among leaders and those influencing industry trends. Our voices and experiences in technology can influence the narrative, innovating how technology is developed, perceived, and implemented. Let's make space and spark the conversation, so more women can take their seat at the table in a historically male-dominated industry. Together, we can inspire change, advocacy, and empowerment.

I’m raising my voice to challenge the status quo. To encourage more women to ask questions, to have confidence in advancing their career. I’m raising my voice so others can actively listen, support, and collaborate with women, so together we can tackle gender barriers."

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Tanja Tomic, Marketing Demand Manager, HYCU, Inc.

"Working at a company that understands the power of diversity, the role each and every individual plays to be successful is an everyday priority. For those of us fortunate in the IT industry to work for a company like HYCU that puts a premium on the contributions of each and every employee and the power that women bring to the workforce is what makes the celebration of International Women’s Day so special. This is especially true in light of what COVID-19 has taught each and every one of us this past year. It’s about being resilient, setting positive examples, shattering glass ceilings and promoting equality now and well into the future."

 

Tanja Peric, Chief People Officer, HYCU, Inc.
 
"This year’s International Women’s Day should, as it should every year, be a celebration for what all of us bring to the workforce. It’s about setting an example, pushing for and accepting the power that diversity brings, especially in IT, and pushing and embracing change now and for years to come. In this new COVID-19 era where we all have to deal with remote working, social distancing and staying vigilant, women in leadership at every level will play an important role in shaping the future!"

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Margaret Hoagland, VP, Global Marketing, SIOS Technology

"According to Adeva IT, as of 2018, women held only 25% of all the jobs in the tech industry, despite women making up almost half of the total workforce. What's worse, this number is lower than the percentage of tech jobs held by women back in the 1980s. As a society, we need to do much better at nurturing the development of girls in tech. The images we present and how we talk to girls about their futures is key. We must present tech as a career path and model it as one with more women in senior level technical jobs. Throughout our organizations, we all need to respect the unique perspective women have to offer and make an intentional effort to seek opinions from those with quieter voices and less demonstrative personal styles."

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Mirela Cunjalo, Director, Product Management at Teradici
 
"I strongly believe that a career in tech starts from home, where young girls, even nowadays, are discouraged from STEM subjects. I have two young daughters, and I strive daily to teach them that they can do anything they set their minds to, to speak up to have their voices heard and to plan for their financial independence, as my own parents did with me. Being one of few women in my class in engineering and entering a career in tech gave me fantastic experiences and opportunities but without a doubt also many challenges.  You learn very quickly how little control you have over first impressions and presumptions made upon you for being a woman in tech, and you learn to navigate around it or face it head on. From my experience, if there is one piece of advice I have for women in tech, it is that career aspirations involve both hard work and the courage to be an advocate for your own value and strengths."

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Kate Mollett, Regional Director, Commvault Africa 

"To young women who are keen to enter the tech industry, I'd say back yourself. If I only took roles that I was qualified for or had experience in, I would not be where I am today. Be confident in your ability to step up, lean in and adapt. Remember that “smooth seas don’t make great sailors”. When you are faced with a tough or difficult situation, that’s when you are learning and developing. Don’t shy away from hard tasks, challenging roles or difficult conversations; they all represent some form of a growth opportunity. Network in a meaningful way. Try to establish meaningful connections. I am a keen networker and most of my roles and opportunities – in both my personal and corporate life – have come from people within my network.

I #ChooseToChallenge unconscious bias in the work place as we all have “blind spots”, whether we like it or not. I want to work in an organisation that will help me and help others identify our “blind spots”, without fear of repercussion, choosing instead to work collectively in understanding the source of our feelings and overcoming them in a transparent and rewarding way."

Kel Grant, Content Operations Specialist, Commvault US

"I work to challenge bias in all the spaces I occupy by being self-aware and self-reflective, listening with an open heart and open mind, and welcoming engagement in those tough or uncomfortable conversations."

Tulin Green, Senior Director of EMEA Marketing, Commvault

"I #ChooseToChallenge gender stereotypes and bias both in and out of the workplace because gender equality is a human fight and not just a female fight. When women do better, businesses, economies and societies do better."  

Eulalia Flo, AVP and GM, Commvault Iberia

"The software and software development sectors are two key areas of the tech industry that may appeal to potential female recruits in particular, as this is a segment with massive growth and therefore career potential. Consulting roles across the tech industry also come to mind, as a key part of these involves bringing new aspects or solutions to clients. To get into these careers, my advice to all young, aspiring female technologists would be: be brave, believe in yourselves, have a plan and dream big. Build your network, be open to learning and find a mentor."

Rachel Ler, VP and GM, Commvault APJ

"It is so important for young women to have role models, not just celebrities but also in industries like IT where they want to pursue a career to fuel their aspirations. The IT and data security industry needs talent and diversity to face the many challenges that the future holds."

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Enit Nichani, VP Marketing US and Global Events, IGEL

"It’s difficult to see the number of women in the technology industry on the decline. But our industry is not alone in this - the pandemic has driven large numbers of women from the workforce, talented and hard-working women who’ve had to make the difficult choice to put their careers on-hold to care for children and family members.

Often, we forget the impact that women in technology organizations - at every level – have on company growth, productivity and success - without them, many companies wouldn’t be where they are today. We have truly seen this in action here at IGEL with the emphasis our company places on promoting women to managerial and executive positions. But its not just at the higher ranks where we are encouraging women to excel. The women of IGEL, at all levels around the globe, have made outstanding contributions to IGEL’s growth, success and vision. They are innovators, leaders, creators, experts, visionaries – and so much more!
 
My advice to women on International Women’s Day is to become active mentors — if you haven’t already, and to volunteer with organizations that encourage young women to choose a career in technology. Mentorship programs can help us navigate and overcome some of the roadblocks that might stand in the way of women choosing and maintaining a technology career.
 
I was fortunate to start my career at IBM. IBM was clearly way ahead of its time with actively promoting diversity and establishing valuable Mentor programs. They helped me early on in my career, and continue to help me now.
 
I have also experienced that women often have to work harder to get the same recognition and compensation as their male counterparts. Some companies are better than others in recognizing the extra effort and value equal pay. Regardless, my recommendation is to not be afraid to have the equal pay / compensation conversation with your manager and your company leaders on a regular basis. This goes in line with recognition and career promotion conversations.
 
Consider this quote I read from a card I received with a purchase I made from Alice & Olivia the other day: “Empowered Women Empower Women.” If followed as a guiding principle, this motto can further women and their opportunity to succeed in technology, as well as their life overall."

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Dr Yvonne Bernard, Head of Product Management, Hornet Security Group

"Having worked in IT both in an academic and industry context, I am often asked about how to mitigate the continuingly low proportion of women in the field. I am happy to work in an environment where I feel valued, and would like to share some tips which might help to generate a gender-neutral working culture, from my very personal perspective.

From my point of view, every organisation can and should contribute to an environment that attracts women to work there, for example, by hiring women in leadership positions. Diverse management teams are key both to a healthy working environment for everyone, and to the overall success of the organisation. But please don’t do it der to fill some kind of quota; instead find the best person for the job – and if the perfect candidate is a woman, that’s great. Never appoint anyone to a position just because of gender. As a woman, I want to be sure I was hired because I excel – not because of my gender. What sometimes tends to be forgotten is that it’s about equality, not favoritism.  

Other steps include the following:

  • Hire junior tech talent and help them develop. They will feel valued and return the trust. 
  • Include employees with similar profiles (e.g., female) in interview processes. If everyone a woman meets during the hiring process (except for maybe HR) is male, this surely does not build trust in the diversity of the company. 
  • Offer flexibility: working time, location, etc.: this should be a no-brainer.
  • Offer team-up- events for staff and also for potential candidates, so that they can get to know the culture beforehand. 
  • Include personality tests in the recruiting process. What does the best organisational culture mean, without the right people there to live and be it?
  • Engage in Tech Days for Girls as a company – show tomorrow’s IT women how great the job can be.

If you are a parent, actively encourage interest in technology at an early stage. My goddaughter, for example, attends technology-related trade fairs with her parents or can complete small projects with the 3D printer and the soldering station with guidance and assistance.
Additionally, I imagine that computer science as a school subject earlier in the curriculum would help to avoid hurdles in the first place and encourage curiosity for this exciting discipline at a young age."

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Dipti Borkar, Cofounder and Chief Product Officer, Ahana

"Women are significantly under-represented on the technology and product side, and almost never at a VP of Product level. In fact, estimates suggest that women account for only 15-20% of VP roles, and for analytics that number is even lower. I've spent the majority of my career in deep technical roles, again a rarity for women in Silicon Valley. As a mom of two young children, I've made it a point to mentor women in engineering and help bring awareness to the gender inequity that is so prevalent in tech today. I counsel women not to underestimate yourself. Women often feel they need to have ‘done it before' to ‘do to it again.' That's not true.  Your skills are always transferable and so is your drive and resourcefulness.  If you don't have a chair at the table, grab one and take a seat. Don't wait to be asked. Also, surround yourself with those committed to their own success.  This means building teams of highly qualified resources and recognize them for their expertise.  You'll all win together. Lastly, embrace change.  Change is inevitable, growth is optional. Make it work for you."

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Heather Ames, Co-Founder and COO, Neurala

"As a leader in technology, I am acutely aware of the gender and social inequality in the industry. In honor of International Women’s Day, I am proud to speak up and advocate for fellow women in technology, business and beyond.

2020 was hard on society, but for women in particular, the pandemic set us back professionally. This past year I have seen so many women struggle to manage parental obligations and caregiving with their careers. Today, I think we all need to focus our empathy on the struggles of these women – just because someone is at home helping their child get ready for school, does not mean that they are less committed or passionate about their work.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘choose to challenge,’ which has really resonated with me. As the co-founder and COO of Neurala, and the mother of four children at home, I challenge everyone to uplift the working mothers around them. And for those women who have had to step back work due to motherhood, they need our support now more than ever. At Neurala we recognize that being a mother and working professional is no easy feat and have given grace and flexibility to not only moms, but the dads who need to fulfill their parental obligations throughout the day. In honor of International Women’s Day, I am celebrating the working moms of the world, who have worked relentlessly over the past year to navigate this new world we are living in."

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Sarah Hamilton, SVP of Marketing at Infrascale

"I remember early in my career being told by a peer that I wasn't to speak in a meeting if my male boss was in the room. I draw from that experience by telling my female mentees never to leave their voices or their ideas at the door.

What's it like to be a woman executive in technology? I don't really think of it like that, any more than I think of myself as a "woman driver" or a "woman coach." I am a woman and an executive in tech, but I am many other things, too. Perhaps I've had to prove myself more than others to get where I am. But here I am, and my goal is to help other women in tech to advance."

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Noelle Faris, VP, Investor Relations, Dynatrace

"There have always been very strong female leaders that I looked to as I was growing in my career. I said, why am I looking up to them? What are they doing that I think is particularly interesting? In some instances, I would talk to them and have a conversation about how they got to where they are. There have been a few people who were willing to look down and pull me up. I am conscious of that today, now that I am in my role – who are the people that I can extend my hand to as well? Am I being cognizant of mentoring? I recognize that people look at me that way, so I try to think about what I can do to help the next generation of women come up the ranks as well." 

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Payeli Ghosh, Chief People, Marketing and Operations Officer, JIFFY.ai

"I graduated as a computer science engineer in 2000 and received campus placement in one of the leading global companies in the IT service sector to begin my journey in the tech world. Since then, I’ve learned that focus, strategy, and planning are critical to career progression as a woman in a male-dominated field. My quick formula would be to spend time and effort in building the following:

  • Skill Development: Especially technical skills.
  • Career Development: This could focus on a deeper dive into technology along with deep domain expertise.
  • Leadership Development: Alongside technology, it’s important to groom leadership, mentoring and entrepreneurial skills.
  • Continuous Learning: There are always shifts in technology. So, we must invest time in learning new technologies and skills.

A KPMG study in 2019 of more than 3,000 women found that early development of leadership skills boosted women’s confidence and competence. The most important time to support a woman’s career development is in her 20s. But personally, I believe that it’s never too late to start whenever you are ready!

I believe men and women have distinct unique strengths and if these complementing skills can be brought together into a cohesive team, the magic sauce is cracked!  I was fortunate to share professional passion and compassion with all my male co-founders. But nevertheless, in a room full of male executives, it’s not always easy to be a lone woman co-founder. The key is to be prepared and be fearless to speak your mind, as well as having a single focus in your company’s success. Personally, I feel it’s important for women to always own some P&L responsibility.

Studies say young women are much less likely than their male counterparts to seek out mentors and sponsors, but it’s very important to have mentors throughout your professional career, especially women mentors.

It’s more likely for women to have career breaks due to child or family care. But if you are passionate and want to be back, choose an organization that encourages and supports women through their sabbatical. They tend to give a flexible environment and constant mentoring.

And finally, instead of constantly battling work-life balance, I feel the success mantra is work life integration. Sometimes, being able to be productive from anywhere helps maintain balance."

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Published Monday, March 08, 2021 8:16 AM by David Marshall
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