Viviane Paxinos is UNiDAYS’ GM, EMEA & ANZ. In this Q&A, she talks to B&T about how Gen Z is taking on issues of diversity in technology, her own personal leadership style and the importance of mentors.
UNiDAYS obviously has a huge connection with Gen Z students. How do you see issues of diversity in technology differing for this younger generation? What are some changes that you think could be made at an educational level to address issues of diversity in technology?
First, it’s important to acknowledge that this is the most diverse and inclusive generation yet, and as a result they think of diversity differently than prior generations. I believe they have a more progressive view of diversity, it’s not just about age, religion, gender, race, physical ability, it is also about how different points of views are accepted and valued. I see it with our GenZ workforce at UNiDAYS – they define diversity as a mix of experiences, identities, ideas and opinions.
When it comes to tech, in areas such as STEM technology or computer science, for example, the number of female students is frighteningly low – when you translate that in the percentage of women in the workforce the shortfall widens. At an educational level, we need to work harder to attract diverse students into the fields of science and tech. We need to shine a light on role models and mentors in these fields to attract a more diverse cohort.
How would you describe your leadership style?
A great boss once told me, know when to stand in front of your team to bash something down. When to stand alongside them to show support and when to stand behind them to give them the light. I try hard to live up to that every day.
What have been the major factors/influences in how you have shaped this leadership style?
My upbringing. From early on, I knew that I was responsible for the life I was going to create. My parents immigrated to Canada from Greece, with nothing, not even the knowledge of the local language – I grew up watching both my parents work hard for every accomplishment. Their work ethic had a massive influence on me and my leadership style. I developed grit & early on, I realised that only I can define my expectations of myself. Some members of my team can at times describe me as tough, but I honestly care about the contribution I make every day and I care about the contribution of the most junior person through to the most senior. I am passionate about wanting to learn something every day, and I want my team to experience the same. I could never know enough, and I try to motivate my team to keep learning, to try rather than fear.
Do you have/have you had a mentor? If so, could you describe the importance of this relationship?
Mentors and sponsorship are incredibly important throughout your career; someone to have your back, continually pushing you to be the best version of yourself.
I have been a mentor and have been lucky enough to have meteors but also sponsors. The biggest lesson is that it’s a two-way relationship.
Being a mentor is so much more than feeling good about yourself. When I was part of the mentoring scheme at Discovery communications, I had the privilege to connect with a mentee that was just so smart and impressive. I learned a lot from him and enjoyed our conversation tremendously – it helped me develop stronger leadership skills and gain new perspectives.
I currently don’t have a mentor, but I have a handful of people I turn to for advice when I need support, sometimes it’s my husband, past colleagues or friends. I also put myself out there a lot and actively network so I can learn from others, which is very important for my continued development as a leader. Networking is equally important and something I would encourage women to do more of.
Diversity is obviously an issue in the technology sector. What are some practical steps that you believe could be put in place today which could make a difference?
The most important step is to educate from an early age, to expose students to the technology sector. But practically, I would also look at the large tech companies to mandate that a % of their internship or graduate program comes from a diverse cohort. The large tech companies have a responsibility to make a positive change – they need to work harder to attract talent.
How do you believe initiatives such as Women Leading Tech can help create positive change in the industry?
Women in tech initiatives highlight the brilliant women who work in this industry, the more role models and mentors we have then we can collectively help young women imagine their career in the tech industry.
Lastly, to all the women in tech, you should all know that you are breaking barriers and changing stereotypes. Your work is so important, and together we need to inspire the new generations of talent to continue to add to the narrative.
So, to that end I would say to all future female leaders everywhere, be true to yourself, because the real power is to understand and write your own story by embracing the challenges in the industry that will propel you forward, allow yourself confidence in what makes you unique.
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