Lessons for women entrepreneurs and employees to become successful leaders
The excitement at the intersection of technology and business is infectious. With future technology trends such as conversation with computers, drone cars, virtual reality, internet of things, machine learning, and data-driven healthcare, the vision and opportunity to revolutionise companies, the society at large, and our lives globally is real and achievable in this lifetime.
And, yet, representation and participation from women (and other underrepresented minorities and people with disabilities) in these ubiquitous domains is significantly lacking and painfully low.
I dare to dream of a global movement for women technologists both in academia and in industry to create meaningful change. With 22 years of experience in my purse and a diverse set of experiences from leading at both small and large enterprises, in many countries across the globe, I am excited to be at work on most days (I admit honestly it can be a drag on some days), and regret when I wonder how many women feel they are missing out.
From off-the-beaten track journeys traversed and deceptive turns taken, everything I’ve learned about being successful has come from failures. There are a few playbooks available for women in technology, especially since we have such few women role models (only 20 percent of all jobs in technology are held by women).
The sign of a good leader is the ability to spot your failures, correct them quickly, and not to repeat them. I’ve failed several times, but I believe I’ve emerged stronger each time.
I am sharing some lessons learned with you as it may help pave the highway to success. In this article, I’ve tried to imagine both sides of the table and hence provided tips for both women and our allies. First, let’s begin with my fellow women:
1. Do not be “Jill of all trades” and instead aim to be T-shaped. A T-shaped employee is someone who can do it all—she has broad skills across many areas (the horizontal part of the T), but also deep expertise in one particular topic (the vertical piece).
2. Focus and persevere. Focus is an act of will which is the faculty that rules everything. In today’s 24X7 plugged-in culture it is even more important to find and ring-fence your area of focus. And perseverance is sticking in that direction until you reach the finish line.
3. Networking is an investment in yourself. Our culture of reverence of hard work takes us to admire those who possessed a tireless work ethic and self-denying humility. Yet, magic happens at the intersection of disciplines, when we move from logical to creative, when we stand on the shoulders of giants to innovate big, when we meet “doers” who have complementary skills.
4. Self-advocacy. Women who have shattered glass and taken down barriers to entry have indispensable insight into the matter of the challenges of equity, fairness, and justice in the industry. Therefore, become your best advocate, and there is no one out there that is better positioned to discuss how you create impact.
5. Be bold now. How many times have women been voiceless or unforthcoming in advocating for leveling the playing field? Let’s be courageous in leading change. Correcting gender imbalances in tech won’t be fixed overnight. If everyone plays their part – leaders, functional leads, allies, women in tech, and entry-level women, it will make the journey easier.
As we look ahead, we’re hopeful that more people will show up as allies for underrepresented minorities and women in the workplace – listening, amplifying her voice, sponsoring, mentoring, and advocating for fair workplace policies.
Several of my allies have often taken a stand and they have advised the following:
1. Scout her talent – Do you know how much more likely are women than men to plan on leaving the workforce to focus on family? Actually, there is virtually no difference. Women and men plan on leaving to focus on family at similarly low rates (two percent or less).
We tend to underestimate women’s performance and overestimate men’s and as a result miss out on her talent, contributions and leadership. Try to keep expectations the same for both men and women, and you will be surprised to see her achievement.
2. Mentor and sponsor them both or don’t do either – Both mentors and sponsors are critical to help aspiring women gain knowledge, perspective and key connections they need to take on larger roles. This is not only for women, but for men as well. However, the truth of the matter is that aspiring men receive this sponsorship and mentorship rather easily while women struggle to obtain the same.
3. Show her the money – In an equitable world, the rewards for equal work should be the same regardless of gender. Under paying women leads to punitive consequences where women need to work harder and longer to achieve the same result as men. Furthermore, underestimating her impact has a long-lasting detriment for future generations.
Technology is changing the game and leading ground-breaking transformation for humans, societies, countries, and nations on our planet. It is a strange dichotomy to know that technologists and the tech industry on the other hand has ways to go to claim victory in their own transformation.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)