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#ChoosetoChallenge Gender Disparities in Tech in Honor of International Women's Day

Women in Tech 

Despite the rise of women in STEM roles within recent years, a recent Kaspersky report revealed major inequities for women in the field. Only 10 percent of women working in a tech role work in a female-majority team, compared to 48 percent working in a male-majority team. A recent report from Exabeam also revealed that, on average, male respondents made $91K whereas female respondents reported $62K.

Below, women currently employed in the tech industry share their thoughts on the current state of the industry and provide advice for organizations and fellow professionals on how they can #ChoosetoChallenge stereotypes and pave the way for equality once and for all.

Svenja de Vos, Chief Technology Officer, Leaseweb Global

"If we as women cannot express our enthusiasm for a career in the industry, how can we expect more women to be involved? As the staggering talent gap shows, the technology industry is in desperate need of workers with the right knowledge and skills. In order to keep a balanced range of talent in the sector, we must all do our best to secure the interest of people considering a career in the field. 

It is of the utmost importance that we remind younger generations that tech is not just reserved for the geeks among us. That's why it is key to expose children to the basics of coding through their education. Coding and programming require a certain level of accuracy, are used to secure our daily lives and provide solutions for many of today's biggest problems - children should be prepared to further this field. 

In addition to making young people more enthusiastic about tech, it is important we teach them that women are successful in the scientific realm. At the moment, being a female manager in the tech world is considered 'abnormal.' 

Even from an early age, we have all been told that boys have more talent for STEM subjects than girls. Think about it, how often have you heard that boys are better at math and girls are better in English? Beyond that, boys traditionally play with cars, LEGOS and robots, while girls are expected to play with dolls. These societally ingrained images of male and female stick with people for their entire life, impacting every industry and the direction that young men and women take when it comes to their careers. Therefore, it is not very surprising that girls ultimately opt out of the STEM subjects."

Michelle Fitzgerald, Director of Demand Gen and Events, Plutora:

"#ChooseToChallenge being the theme of this year's International Women's Day has made me reflect on challenges that I've faced throughout my career, and how I have addressed them. I find that my biggest ongoing challenge has been making the time to invest in myself, both professionally and personally. Taking time to advance skill sets, learn new things and to just recharge tends to take a back seat in the fast-paced world we're living in. This year, making it a priority to set aside time has improved my balance and allowed for growth.

Another challenge that I see myself and other women in tech trying to overcome is finding connections.  Working remotely during a pandemic has really put a spotlight on the benefits we get from engaging with our colleagues in-person.  Without being able to travel into an office or grab a casual lunch, we've had to get creative in how we build and maintain our relationships.  

This year, I would encourage women to set aside the time to connect with others, especially other women in their field. One great way to do that is to take on a mentorship role while also seeking a mentor for themselves. Having great mentors throughout my career has really helped shape my journey. I have learned so much from others' experiences and have valued their encouragement to challenge myself. Mentorship is extremely important for growth and those connections are so valuable. 

At the end of the day, it comes down investing in yourself and connecting with others.   Develop the skills you need to get to where you want to be. Then trust in your intuition but be open to asking for help and insight when you need it."

Gina O'Reilly, COO, Nitro

"The undeniable impact of women in the workforce has definitely taken a hit as a result of the pandemic, as many are struggling to juggle full-time jobs on both the work and home fronts and finding it impossible to strike a healthy balance between the two during these unprecedented times. In fact, it was reported by The National Women's Law Center that 100% of the jobs lost in December in the US were all positions held by women, which is a shocking stat in and of itself. 

This year's theme for International Women's Day is #ChooseToChallenge. For me, this starts with women themselves looking within and then companies at large working to constantly challenge the status quo, particularly when it comes to promoting and supporting a more equitable workplace for all. I've always believed in championing diversity of thought and contribution across the board, regardless of race or gender, as it's that diversity of voices that leads to stronger decision making, more collaborative and productive work environments, and ultimately, better business results.

We must all be diligent in nurturing an environment in which women, particularly those juggling the demands of both career and family, can thrive and grow. In the tech industry, achieving this environment doesn't come without its challenges. There are simply not enough women pursuing a career in this space,  particularly in the engineering field. Making progress here has to again start from within. Companies need to invest in programs that promote STEM roles to women and ensure we have sufficient gender diversity in our talent pipelines, which might require just looking that bit harder. 

I also believe strong mentoring can be another key way to attract more women into tech roles -- and this responsibility shouldn't fall solely on successful women. Diversity in business has proven to benefit everyone, and I've seen great things happen when male leaders are also involved in, and passionate about, the growth and mentorship of female colleagues (and vice versa). 

Today, businesses of all shapes and sizes can #ChoosetoChallenge their organizations with this common goal in mind. Women are constantly having to work to break the proverbial glass ceiling and it's our job as employers to not only make that less challenging, but work on eliminating it altogether."

Samantha Humphries, Head of Security Strategy, EMEA, Exabeam

"The unfortunate reality is that we continue to live and work in an unequal world. Currently, just one quarter of the cybersecurity sector is made up of women. And, whilst finding ways to bridge this gap is crucial, it also requires a genuine commitment to changing the fabric of everyday working life. 

Early on in my career when working in a technical support role, I realised I was somewhat of a novelty factor. A customer once pointed out, "I have never spoken to a woman in support before -- let's see if you can help me," as if it was a challenge I could not meet...whilst another asked me out on a date at the end of a support call. There were times where I'd walk into a meeting, and there'd be a man in the back speaking to me like I wasn't supposed to be there. I felt I had to constantly justify my own position to men like these, ultimately, working harder to prove my worth. And still, it would take months before they would treat me like an equal. But regardless of this, I chose to challenge, I chose to persist. 

There have been a lot of steps forward, with brighter and more accessible paths being made for women in the industry. Security community events are commonly ensuring there is greater speaker diversification. And, when women and girls see themselves represented, they are far more likely to relate, interact and aspire towards the same goal. This is why the power of mentorship is so important. There are countless benefits of learning from people who have walked in your shoes. However, we cannot walk alone. It is not just women who should support one another, but male allies too. This International Women's Day, I urge everyone to stand up and be counted, to challenge gender equality as it is, and work for the parity that there must be." 

Yumi Nishiyama, director, global service partner alliances, Exabeam

"I have a long history of being the only woman in a room full of men. I was a strong swimmer in high school, and our school had an impressive all-male water polo team. I really wanted to be a part of it and tried out, despite the gender restrictions...and I made it! This was the first major barrier-breaking move I made, and it taught me that if you know your strengths and can collaborate with all types of people, your future is limitless. I took this philosophy with me into college then my career when I decided to break into the predominantly-male cybersecurity industry 21 years ago. While it was terrifying at first, just like my first water polo practice, I loved the idea of innovating each and every day. So I worked tirelessly to forge my own path, networked with people at all levels and of all backgrounds, and quickly gained respect from my peers and rose up the ranks. 

In my more than two decades in the industry, I've seen vast improvements in the number of women at the table, especially where I am now at Exabeam. It's a two-way street, plain and simple. Women must fight to be heard, but men must also listen and give them equal opportunity. The #MeToo movement was a major catalyst in Silicon Valley in recent years -- a critical reminder to treat every colleague, regardless of gender, with the same levels of respect. It also helped reinforce the idea that you must jump to support your colleagues when they are being discriminated against, or are in danger, even if it puts your own career at risk. While there's much work to be done, it's been refreshing to see more females on advisory boards, leadership pages on tech company websites and on industry panels. This International Women's Day, I want to tell aspiring technology professionals to stick to their guns, follow their passion and find a company with people who appreciate their talents rather than stifle them. It might be them in the spotlight next!"

Sherry Lowe, CMO at Exabeam

"The past year of remote work could end the Silicon Valley 'bro culture,' as I like to call it. From where I'm sitting in my home office, I see less opportunity for the  ‘good 'ole boys' meeting after work for whiskey and cigars, deciding amongst themselves who will be given the next promotion or opportunity. Doing business remotely has leveled the playing field. Now anyone can be seated at the virtual decision-making table, which employees are truly putting in the work is more apparent than ever, and representation can be more diverse. 

This experience has also highlighted for me how important our career mentors are. My advice to younger female professionals is to never wait for a mentor to find you. Think about the person you want as your mentor and seek them out. That's what I did, and that relationship has been an immense help throughout my career journey.

My mentor was five career levels above me when we first met, but she was a big reason that I joined the company where she was working. She was open, her interview style was more like a great conversation. One of the first things she told me after I was hired was that I now had an obligation to give another person without a 'perfect' resume a chance to succeed. I took so much of my management style from watching and working with her during my early years in Silicon Valley, but I will carry that one piece of advice with me forever. I always look for someone who I believe can do a job, despite not being an exact fit on paper. If more companies and leaders of all genders chose to challenge the hiring norms, the diversity gaps in technology would be much narrower. 

While these takeaways are quite serious, I also believe it's important to bring a little levity and humor to my role. Tech is critically important and can be extraordinarily innovative, but I frequently remind my teams that we're not doing brain surgery. I want them to keep their cool and always, always have fun at work. On International's Women's Day and beyond, remember, you must find a company and culture that fits you. You shouldn't have to change yourself fundamentally for any job. Own who you are, and the rest will follow."

Annemie Vanoosterhout, release and project manager, Datadobi

"The theme of this year's International Women's Day, ‘Choose to Challenge,' means two things to me: there's a challenge for organizations as well as individuals to bring change. First, both women and men must challenge their work environments to make room for people of all genders, races, and backgrounds. As we emerge from the restrictions of the pandemic, organizations have the opportunity to turn remote work into an advantage. Adding flexible hours that allow working from home can benefit women in particular who are balancing job responsibilities and families, and open up more opportunities for them in tech. 

However, the responsibility is not on organizations alone. Women also must challenge themselves to move beyond what they think, or maybe what others think, they can do. In my career, I had one or two occasions when my supervisor didn't see me as a good fit for the next level up and I was passed over for another candidate. I used the opportunity to work with the new manager to excel where I could contribute the most. Not being accepted right away doesn't mean you can't push the boundaries and show people what you are capable of. You just sometimes have to accept that people aren't caught up with you yet. 

A recent article I read said that women try to take on too much of the  burden, and that we try to change the world. Of course we do! If not us, who? But the reality is we shouldn't be expected to do it alone." 

Crendal Kear, VP, global sales operations, Exabeam

"When I first joined Exabeam, I noticed that, like a lot of other Bay Area cybersecurity companies, there were no female executives on the leadership page. The company wasn't alone, a lack of female representation at the leadership level was being recognized as a real problem for many organizations. After discussions with our leadership team, I was added to the executive staff. They understood the value of diversity and had been wanting change. We also launched a mentorship program for women in Exabeam through our ExaGals program and have continued to build out that focus on acquiring, retaining and promoting a diverse workforce. I'm delighted that today I'm surrounded by numerous, incredible women on the leadership team and elsewhere throughout the company. 

This International Women's Day, I want to remind women looking for a career in tech to determine what is important to them personally and look for companies that meet those needs. Whether that be flexibility with hours, remote work options, or representation on the leadership team, it is important to never settle for less than you deserve or desire. It's okay to choose to challenge. In fact, it's encouraged."

Madelene Campos, Software Developer at BrightGauge, a ConnectWise solution

"I first started in the tech industry about five years ago, when I made a career change from being a professional musician to software development. During this time, I've noticed that the amazing women I've had a chance to work with all tend to perform at a very high level. They are extremely thorough, detail-orientated and give 100%.

In many industries, not just in tech, being taken seriously due to gender perception continues to feel like an issue. We often need to ‘prove ourselves' more than men to show what we're capable of. To help address this, organizations need to work with their HR teams to ensure that their employees, regardless of gender, are receiving equal pay and benefits.

We need to encourage more women to consider opting for a career in tech. Joining a support group that is inclusive and can give advice is a great way to get one's foot in the door. There are many organizations that focus and support underrepresented groups in tech, such as PyLadies and RailsGirls. Even if women don't want to code, there are so many other opportunities within tech. It's important to understand that no one is born with tech skills. Learning how to solve problems, think critically and, at the very least, grow an awareness of what is happening in the tooling we use on a daily basis, is definitely worth the time and effort."

Darine Fayed, General Counsel and DPO, Pathwire

"On International Women's Day, we as a society must challenge the notion that the tech industry and other STEM fields are a ‘man's world.' Young women who are still in school and determining what the path ahead looks like must be reminded that they are more than capable of becoming excellent engineers, developers and data scientists. To make this happen, universities and tech companies must open up education and job opportunities for women to pave the way for a career in tech.

Women should feel more empowered to break glass ceilings and challenge themselves to push past stereotypes. With gender disparities in the tech industry being more of an open conversation now than in the past, it is now up to companies to foster an environment where women are welcome and supported. By making a concerted effort to combat unconscious biases that women should pursue other careers and opening up opportunities for girls and young women, we could be having a very different conversation in International Women's Days to come."    

Nicole Jacobson, VP, marketing, Pathwire 

"Women have the power to choose differently and courageously, despite facing many challenges professionally and at home. It can be easy to forget that we are in control of what comes next, but this year's theme is a strong reminder to make intentional choices for who we want to be and what we are capable of.

The biggest challenge I have faced in choosing to take on a leadership role was more of an internal struggle. I thought I was not good enough, and I lacked confidence. My advice to other women is to know your domain and understand the product you are working on inside and out. Choose to challenge misperceptions of your expertise and your technical ability, and don't be intimidated. By letting go of perfectionism, I advanced from leading a team of two to a team of 20. At Pathwire, our leadership team is currently more than 40% female, and I think having that female representation is the most surefire way for a company to create an inclusive environment. It brings female voices to the table and advocates for programs and policies that support women.

Second to that, paid parental leave policies and flexibility with childcare or school schedules are critical for working mothers. There is this perception that women either have to choose a career or children. It doesn't have to be that way, but finding a balance between work and children has been especially hard during the pandemic. When you are working, it is easy to feel like a terrible mother. When you're with your children, it's easy to feel like a horrible worker. Acknowledging that people are feeling this way and treating them as human is the best thing my company has done throughout the pandemic, and I hope many others will follow suit."

Heather Arrington, VP of support, Pathwire

"This year's theme for International Women's Day being #ChooseToChallenge takes my mind immediately to what we've been talking about here at Pathwire: an ideal leadership team is more of a diversity of thought than anything else. For myself and the rest of the team, we want to challenge each other to allow for healthy debate and a positive complex to expand our boundaries to get the best outcome for our company. And we want these challenges to expand beyond our walls to reach the rest of the tech world as well. This variety of opinions and ideas is extremely important, as uncovering and empowering them make us better leaders and an overall better organization from the top down.

As I reflect on the meaning of today, I've also reflected on my own career path. During this time, I realized that I've never had a female boss, and all of my formal mentors have been male. However, in my current role, the teams that report to me are all male, flipping that dynamic on its head. To me this helps show the reality that just as women benefit from male mentors and allies, men also benefit greatly from the mentorship, leadership, and sponsorship of women. If we all work together to encourage inclusivity and acceptance in the technology space and beyond, more and more people will feel welcome, and companies will be able to find the best talent."

Kate Nowrouzi, VP, deliverability & product strategy, Pathwire

"This International Women's Day, I want to focus on two terms or buzzwords that are often used in the workplace by women in leadership positions: ‘lean in' and ‘work-life balance'. They are both shiny terms that female leaders continue to throw around but in reality, those are just traps that set you up for failure. It's not always enough or easy to ‘lean in'. The same goes for ‘work-life balance.' Both imply that if a woman works hard enough and asserts herself enough, she can thrive at home and at work. Both of these phrases inaccurately imply that succeeding is solely the responsibility of individual women and ignores the confines and barriers that societal structures can place around them.

These are some of the top issues I strive to address with the mentees I've worked with over the years. Mentorship is critical in encouraging growth and confidence in one's job, and I've made a concerted effort to guide and advise newcomers throughout my career -- of all genders and backgrounds. These types of mentorships are something I highly recommend women early in their career to have, in addition to a ‘sponsor'. 

Most think ‘mentors' and ‘sponsors' are interchangeable when the reality is that they are somehow different. A mentor can be anyone inside or outside of your company that you look to for advice. They guide you on how to resolve conflict and challenges at the workplace. Mentors should be able to help you lay out the steps needed to progress in your career, and they are a great resource for advice on that journey. 

A sponsor is someone that is inside the organization that goes out of their way to pave the way for you. In my career, the sponsors that took a chance on me were instrumental in my success. A sponsor is someone that comes in to say: "I know she might be a risk but based on her potential, I am going to take a chance on her". In my 25-years of experience, I still have both mentors and sponsors to this day, and I would never make any major career decisions without them. I aspire to be there for others in the same way they've been there for me, and I hope after reading this, you may do the same for promising new talent." 

Sofia Kauffman, chief people officer, Zerto

"International Women's Day is hugely important because it celebrates the trailblazers who first started breaking down gender inequality barriers and set the way for many more women to navigate this landscape. It shines a light on where we've come from, but more importantly it helps us to see what's on the path ahead.

The tech industry is founded on innovation, and that can only occur when there is diversity throughout and a willingness to leave comfort zones. Women offer a fresh perspective on problem solving, and that's exactly what the tech industry is all about. Without diversity of perspective, we risk missing out on delivering the best solutions possible.

To those women who want to enter the tech industry: be yourself unapologetically. There is a perception among women that they need to prove themselves. Don't do that. Be who you are because it inspires trust in those around you. You bring something to the table that no one else does. Learn from others, listen to their experiences, and heed their advice-but never stop being your true authentic self. It got you this far, and it will take you wherever you want to go.

Never let someone diminish your hard work and success. It can eat away at people and cause many to doubt themselves. Ignore the outside voices and keep doing your thing. There are always going to be naysayers and detractors. Find the people that build you up, and if none exist, build yourself up. You're worth it."

Caroline Seymour, VP, product marketing, Zerto

"International Women's Day is a chance to celebrate how far we have come together, but it is also a reminder that we need to continue to support and encourage all the young girls and women out there. 

When it comes to the tech industry, women are still significantly underrepresented. Technical innovation is playing a critical role in almost every industry, and there are a significant number of tech positions that need filling. We need women to fill those roles. Women think differently and bring unique ideas to the table. What's more, a diverse team can actually boost performance.

It still floors me when I read that women make nearly 20% less than men and that they won't reach pay equity with men until 2059. It shows an astonishingly slow pace of progress and highlights that we need to focus on equity just as much as we do equality. This desperately needs accelerating and further proves that there is still so much work to be done. The sad reality right now is that it takes longer as a woman to gain credibility. We have to work harder at it, but the rewards are incredible.

International Women's Day is a great opportunity to bring these problems to light, but it cannot be a one-day issue. It requires continuous work and cultivation. To those entering-or wanting to enter-the tech industry, I would say go for it with everything you have. Be confident. A common mistake when looking at a job description is thinking that you have to have all the experience outlined. Believe me, you don't-no one does. If the role looks interesting and you believe in yourself, go for it and don't hold back. Enjoy the journey, and give yourself nothing to regret-even if it is a bumpy ride at times."

Samina Subedar, Vice President of Marketing, StorCentric

"Many industries, such as high tech, have traditionally been dominated by men. Yet, it is one in which I have built my career, and I would be remiss if I didn't recognize the men and women that judged me not by my gender, but rather my abilities, actions and attitude.

I would offer that as we look towards this year's International Women's Day, we ask ourselves what we can do to help our female colleagues to be judged likewise. Not only is it the right thing to do, but another advantage of supporting and championing a female colleague -- perhaps bringing their talents to the attention of senior management -- is that it also positions you as an identifier and cultivator of talent within your organization. Which, it has been my experience, is almost always overwhelmingly appreciated (and many times, rewarded).

When it gets right down to it, diversity of any kind within an organization is really the smart thing to do -- it brings unique perspectives together, which leads to increased innovation and enhanced problem solving, which in turn without fail, positively impacts the bottom line."

Judy Kaldenberg, Sr. Marketing Director, Nexsan, a StorCentric Company

"Many women have rejected the idea of pursuing a career in tech, and I can understand why. Having built my career in technology sales and now marketing, I can tell you at times, it wasn't easy. But, I am so glad I did! Being on the forefront of the development and delivery of many exciting technology innovations, has been immensely rewarding. 

Having different views and input from a diverse team can enable competitive advantage and an increased ability to win in today's dynamic global economy. I am fortunate to now work for StorCentric's Nexsan that has known this from the onset and operated accordingly.

On International Women's Day and all year long, I am appreciative for working in an industry that continues to blaze new trails not only in technology innovation, but in its consistent progress towards creating work environments that recognize differences between people and appreciate that these differences are an asset to be valued."

Caitlin Carter, director, client services, Wisetail

"Despite the situation everyone has faced over the past 12 months, keeping the spotlight on diversity, equity and inclusion has never been more important. It's positive to see that across the board there has been a widely embraced discussion about the value of leading with vulnerability, empathy and compassion, and my hope is that this will be seen as a positive legacy of our shared recent experiences. 

By putting #ChooseToChallenge front and center of the equality movement on International Women's Day, we can help women feel empowered to proactively challenge themselves and the norms that allow inequality and bias to persist in the workplace and society as a whole."

Ali Knapp, president, Wisetail

"The first International Women's Day was celebrated in 1911, but 110 years later, women still face many inequalities everyday. It's widely known that men outnumber women in the technology industry, but what's more alarming is the inequality in the gender pay gap: in 2020, women made $0.81 for every dollar a man made. 

Just like any business challenge, I choose to focus on our controllables. At Wisetail, that's hiring based on talent and creating an environment to develop motivated talent. With this approach, we've grown a nearly  50/50 workforce. We didn't accomplish this with a mandate or a gender-focused goal in mind; we got to this point by looking for the best, most qualified, hardest working people we could find. We look beyond the physical characteristics to see the value and experience of an individual and what they will bring to help us evolve and progress as a company.

On this International Women's Day, I want to encourage all companies to tackle the uncomfortable realities of human existence while also pursuing the talented individuals that can take your company to the next level. By focusing on a person's talent rather than what they look like or what they believe, you will naturally create a diverse, progressive and successful team."

Evan Melick, director of product, Wisetail

"The #ChooseToChallenge theme of International Women's Day is important because, from an organizational point of view, equality can only be fully achieved if we all recognize the inherent value of individual humans, their capabilities and potential to succeed. This means we must create opportunities for women to undertake new, challenging assignments and encourage their growth and learning so there are more leadership role models of women in senior executive roles.

Individually, we need to take the view that challenges are often opportunities in disguise that can help overcome barriers to development, learning and career progression. It gives us all an opportunity to learn and grow, both personally and professionally."

Rachael Nordby, product marketing manager, Wisetail

"The beauty of #ChooseToChallenge is that it offers no hiding place for outdated views and the bias that still impacts the lives and careers of women in the workplace and beyond. By considering this idea on a personal and workplace level, we can question our attitudes and how they affect others, but we can also question the systems and engrained societal norms that, for some, remain an acceptable part of modern life.

For career paths that remain male dominated, such as engineering, helping connect young women to real and relatable stories and mentors will help them break into the computer room and even-out the gender lineup. Many women still don't know that there's a lot of flexibility and creativity in engineering and the tech industry in general that's attractive to women, and it's vital that we push harder to bring female talent into this vital area of the economy."

Malathi Rai, Vice President, Human Resources and Administration, ConnectWise

"To me, this year's International Women's Day theme of #ChooseToChallenge means we don't have to take things lying down. We shouldn't feel guilty about voicing something that offends us or is unfair. 

In my experience, the tech industry in India is very women-friendly and I've grown a lot in this industry over the last 15 years. There's a much more level playing field and opportunities for complex assignments, travel, etc. are offered to all, irrespective of gender. We also have complete pay parity.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest obstacles that women face in the tech industry is acceptance from men that women can also be technically smart. While women working in the tech industry in India probably have the least complaints, we still face issues of ‘mansplaining' and less acceptance in general when women come up with ideas or achieve something. We still have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition. 

I believe companies should focus on affirmative hiring and building awareness on how the tech industry is amongst the most gender-neutral of them all. For women who are interested in tech, don't be afraid to pursue your passion. There will always be obstacles but you can cross every bridge as it comes."

Diane Albano, CRO, Globalization Partners

"While the industry has made progress, gender bias in the tech industry against women remains prevalent. When it comes right down to it, being a woman in tech or a woman in another high-power, high-intensity, highly-competitive field, the same core principles to success remain true. 

Seek a mentor, be a mentor: Mentors in the workplace are so critical. I cannot emphasize this enough. It's both important to be a mentor and to find a mentor as a mentee. The daily challenges of professional advancement significantly ease when there's a mentor to turn to for career advice. Getting the word out on the importance of mentoring and the responsibility of mentoring needs to be reinforced early in one's career. This way, as time goes on the tables turn and the mentee becomes the next mentor. 

There are many paths. Choose the path that fits you:  I always loved math and science-I am not a technologist, but I have been in high-tech my entire career. It's not only about pure engineering and development but also the surrounding roles (eg: sales, marketing, operations, etc.). If your passion and drive are in engineering and development, pursue it unabashedly. 

Be assertive, confident, and vocal: Perception plays a major role in highly-competitive fields, and tech is no exception. Being assertive and confident in your skillset and ideas can directly impact your colleagues' and superiors' professional perception of you. It can impact how you're viewed, but that is not always enough when gender bias is quietly rampant. In those instances, confidently questioning the presence of inequality is not only justified but necessitated. If a situation or ‘cultural norm' seems wrong or unreasonable, then challenge them. Sometimes it's the status quo that needs challenging. I have an entire career of challenging the status quo and then working to make it right. Pursuit of progress towards a fair and equitable environment is always a worthy undertaking."

Nicole Sahin, founder and CEO, Globalization Partners

"This year's International Women's Day theme-choose to challenge-perfectly captures the social changes and feelings we have witnessed over the last year. Despite the immense difficulties people across the world have faced due to the pandemic, more people than ever have come together to vie for equality and inclusion of all kinds. Choosing to challenge reminds us that we all must play a role to help create a more equal world. 

This past year, it was fantastic to see women championing in all walks of life. Amanda Gorman, a young 22 year old, became the first poet to speak at a U.S. presidential inauguration, using her beautiful words to inspire people around the world. Whitney Wolfe Herd recently became the youngest self-made billionaire and youngest female CEO to ever take a company public. Dr. Özlem Türeci, together with her husband, is the brains behind the Pfzier COVID-19 vaccine.

It is so important that together we champion and celebrate the achievements of others-we still have a long way to go in creating a more equal world, but together is the only way we will get there. I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by an executive team, which includes strong female leaders of a business, where everyone advocates for equality and inclusion."

Debbie Millin, COO, Globalization Partners

"People are often surprised when I tell personal stories of gender bias-it still happens to me at trade shows or networking events, even as an executive at one of the fastest growing companies in America. Fortunately, it happens less than it did earlier in my career, but gender bias remains prevalent across all levels of employment.

It is happening. We need to discuss it, we need to change it-and we can do that by making thoughtful, impactful choices. 

Embrace your power: If you're the only woman in the room, embrace it. You are in a unique position to bring a different and highly valuable perspective to the conversation in so many different capacities. Don't let it intimidate you; let it empower you.

Engage in mentor/sponsor programs: Having both mentors and sponsors is so important. A mentor is someone who gives advice and guidance and is often someone outside your organization; a sponsor is someone inside your organization who advocates for you inside your company. Having both can really help you determine your strengths and help you navigate opportunities that will help you grow. I have been lucky enough to have both in my career-nobody achieves success alone, and it's critical to pay it forward. I encourage women to consider the role mentors and sponsors played in their career and extend that opportunity to women in your field. 

Encourage early interest in STEM: It is crucial to encourage women to participate in STEM fields as early as possible-a focus on providing those opportunities to girls should start in elementary or middle school. I am very happy to say there are far more female role models in science and technology than there were when I was that age! I look forward to a time when it's the norm to have an equal amount of men and women in technology-related fields. We have certainly made progress, but we are nowhere near done.

Educate kindly: In some cases of gender bias, the person has good intentions but is simply unaware. In those situations, gently educating how their words or actions display bias-and the harm that bias causes the business and/or industry. Every individual conversation and interaction you have can help change a perception-individually and globally."

Robin Meyer, Deputy General Counsel, TokenEx

"On International Women’s Day, I’m thankful for group chats with my ‘law girls’ (#EverFierce) and my ‘patio girls.’ These are brilliant and well-thinking women. During the pandemic, we came together in a more regular cadence than before. Our chats solidified a safe space to share personal and professional thoughts and concerns. Under the circumstances, I think it’s been important to lean on a trusted group of women that help celebrate successes of every size. Every success is a victory! These women have staying power to encourage one another and put things into perspective for me, reminding me not to waste energy on unimportant issues.

To me, #ChoosetoChallenge is personal. It means doing some intentional life planning to stay clear on who you are (and who you don’t feel the need to be) and what is crucial to you personally and professionally, asking for what you want and bringing all of your expertise and self to your “world.” Get quiet, think, ask and bring it!  I'm also interested to see how remote working impacts workplace gender parity in 2021. Without the physical barriers or office walls, we are left with a person’s unique voice and ideas and the work product they contribute to the team. I was hired during the pandemic, and I am proud to work for a company that views all employees as resources to be allocated appropriately regardless of gender, age, race, etc. Being agnostic about gender in hiring, salary and promotion are practices that promote parity.

When I think about increasing gender parity in the broader tech industry, companies must be thoughtful about intersecting a woman's path and sparking her interest, to make her want a STEM career. My advice to women pursuing a career in STEM is to do the ask! Look for women in the lane you want to be in and reach out to them. Before my recent career transition from public to private sector, I reached out to several people that I did not know to get their advice. It turned out to be invaluable, as they highlighted pieces of my expertise that were in-demand in the private sector. I would not have known that without asking. Their advice catapulted me through the transition and enabled me to see my expertise objectively. Remember, the ask is a compliment to their expertise, and the worst that can happen is they say no (although no one did). Ditch your fear and take the next one step."

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Published Monday, March 08, 2021 7:27 AM by David Marshall
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