Technology is a space where womens’ careers are booming, yet it wasn’t always the most female-focused industry. But times are changing, and B&T sat down with three female tech leaders to chat about all things equality.
Carla Webb-Sear is chief financial officer at Enero Group. Initially, she felt her passion was for the media entertainment industry, but she dipped her toes into the technology space and found her place in the pool at Enero.
It’s a role she loves. Webb- Sear said: “Being trusted to do something new, in an environment where we are solving a ‘wicked problem’ that’s never been done before, and it’s where I get most of my energy from.
“What really brings me joy is being a true business partner, not just a ‘finance person’, being someone who enables people around me to take calculated risks and do great work.”
Webb-Sear hasn’t encountered misogyny directly while working in the industry, but she’s aware that being a woman still has its hurdles. Webb-Sear told B&T, “I have witnessed experiences and behaviours which felt more like an unconscious bias – where it has impacted the women around me, without their knowledge.”
And how has Webb-Sear handled that? Well, head-on, “I have always chosen to speak up respectfully. Whether that be to the person who may not realise their comment or behaviour was biased, or to the woman on the other end of it, or when required, to senior members of the organisation.
“When calling these biases out or speaking up, I haven’t ever considered the personal impact this may have had on myself or my career.
“That might sound naive, but I have been raised with a love of all forms of diversity, and justice was a big part of my personal upbringing, so I choose to bring this to every element of my life, not just at home, but at work too,” she explained.
Still, Webb-Sear is also aware that the technology industry could do more to support women, “To make the tech space more supportive of women, we need our industry leaders, and other women who do work in the industry, to use the opportunities they have to create an encouraging and supportive environment.
“An environment that inspires the next generation of women to keep exploring the various opportunities they have available to them in their chosen career,” she explained.
And how can we empower these women? “We can empower more women by allowing them to be themselves and encouraging them to take on new experiences and challenges.”
Vanessa Cremona is head of communication and brand of Asia Pacific/Japan at Rackspace Technology. Initially, she started her career as a journalist but was always drawn to technology, so her transition to the world of tech felt natural.
Now she is in a role she really loves, “Developing and delivering on projects like Amazing Minds with AWS, a brand recognition project showcasing the talent of our team, gave me the highest gratification.
“The ability to work with great people, and as a bonus, see results in views of the videos, readers, and a sales boost, always spurs me to want to do more,” Cremona explained.
Still, it doesn’t mean her foray into tech hasn’t been without hiccups. Cremona told B&T, “In the tech industry, I’ve been able to find my voice and confidently speak as an expert in my field.
“However, as a journalist in tech, I experienced it often. I was once told by a new editor, that I could keep a freelance job because I was female, but would no longer be paid because the money would go to the male writers who would be taken more seriously by readers.”
Interestingly, Cremona has found the tech world less misogynistic than straight journalism, but she’s also aware of its shortcomings. Cremona said: “The perception of tech is very masculine. The only way to ensure it’s more welcoming is to promote more of the top womens’ talent to roles of leadership.
“More female voices will always encourage women to feel supported in their roles. We currently have 50% female leadership across ANZ, which has resulted in large support around growing our number of women in tech roles.
“And a big part is flexibility! Not just the ability to work from home, but the hours that we work, and the understanding that there is a need for a work/life balance even when we are not in the office.”
However, on the other side of the coin, she’s also felt more valued in tech, particularly when it comes to her salary, “There have definitely been ups and downs with my pay. In order to find flexibility as a new mother in the publishing industry, I needed to take a pay cut.
“I also rarely saw pay increases or conversations around pay. But in tech, I feel recognised, I’ve been promoted yearly and have always had flexibility within my role,” Cremona explained.
Josephine Lanzarone, Vice President of Marketing for APAC at Pluralsight, had a much more traditional start in the industry. Lanzarone said: “I entered the IBM graduate program straight out of university, which was a fantastic training ground and launching pad for my career in technology.”
Still, despite loving her job Lanzarone has encountered misogyny, particularly after having children, “There were assumptions made that I would not come back to work after having a family. Thankfully, times have changed I’ve noticed a massive awareness over the past few years around values and attitudes. Comments like these are no longer part of the vocabulary,” she explained.
Lanzarone is also passionate about creating more space for women in the tech world. Lanzarone said: “The importance of having senior role models for women in male-dominated industries is immeasurable.
“After working in the technology industry for over 20 years, I know first-hand how isolating having a lack of female representation can be. And while there’s been a massive improvement in highlighting and celebrating women who are advancing in the field, we need to ensure these stories and mentors are visible and accessible year-round and for years to come.
“There is no question that across the technology industry, gender-balanced teams lead to better outcomes than a gender-skewed one.
“The past few years, if anything, have demonstrated the need for diverse, nuanced thinking and an awareness of one’s own biases. It is well documented that diverse experiences and backgrounds drive greater productivity, effectiveness and innovation and has clear benefits for not only businesses but society as a whole.”
And how do we empower these women? “While it’s a critical step, we mustn’t stop at ensuring women are simply represented in the workplace. Empowerment begins with a culture shift where throughout the organisation everybody feels respected, valued and heard in the workplace.
“We know that teams with diverse experiences and backgrounds are the most productive and effective in almost every situation. Reminding women, and the people around them, of the proven value of their contributions, will go a long way—if, of course, the environment around them allows them to contribute freely,”
The tech industry still needs to do more, but it is inspiring to see women in technology taking up space.
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