TECHNOLOGY

Women Leaders at the Forefront of Tech

There’s absolutely no doubt that the debate over the state of women in society has been an interesting one. Whether it’s legendary figures like Simone De Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, Maya Angelou, Malala Yousafzai or our very own Emma Watson, the emphasis on gender equality seems just a tad overstated. Throughout the past, present, and future. 

Mainly because most of these issues around gender inequality have persisted. With the majority of professions being heavily populated by female counterparts, you’re left with one question – “Where are all the women?” And the field of technology is no exception to that.

But as the saying goes – Every cloud has a silver lining. Thanks to their unwavering courage and perseverance through movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo, millions of women have taken up the responsibility to address these problems and ask for more diverse and equal opportunities. 

Over the last few years, as new technologies have emerged so have the demand for more women in the digital workforce.    Tweet This! Now more than ever enterprises are putting a renewed focus on the importance of inclusivity. As a result, aspiring women can now look forward to myriads of career opportunities to break into the tech industry.

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Deck 7 has had the opportunity to have a chat with some of the most amazing women in tech who’ve been subverting traditional gender stereotypes in the workforce and setting an example for young women to follow. These respective journeys don’t just give us a glimpse into their struggles with discrimination, bias, wage disparity, and vice versa but also a meaningful insight as to how women are faring in the tech revolution in this age.

Breaking into Tech

When asked about how they discovered their passion for tech, Madhumita Mantri, Sr Technical PM, Data Platform and Products at LinkedIn, says, “I was always interested in the field of technology and builder at heart! My journey and passion to pursue a tech career began when I was 12 years old.” 

Similarly, Praveena Patchipulusu, who is the Director QA at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, believes that technology is a must for all walks of life. She says that regardless of one’s profession, technology, social media, smartphones, and computers are something that’s ingrained into our very existence and cannot be avoided. 

“I’m a very big proponent to getting the younger generation involved from the beginning into technology. I have a 15-year-old daughter and it doesn’t matter what field she wants to choose; I told her technology and computers are something that would always help her. You cannot be scared of technology. We have to inculcate into our new generation, kids, our co-workers to not have the fear of technology. If you’re not into it you can’t really progress further in your life.” says Praveena.

It’s wonderful to see these women doing what they love most and evolving in those roles while at the same time paving the way for the younger generation. Lynda Grindstaff, Vice President of Content Operations and Assessment at McAfee says, “Cybersecurity actually came to me through a friend… My degree is in computer science, and I spent over two decades at Intel Corporation. In 2014, I transferred into what was known at the time as the Intel Security Group on the suggestion of a friend. I have enjoyed the cybersecurity field so much that I left Intel in 2017 for the McAfee spin out and haven’t looked back.”

The Struggle

The path towards a rewarding career has rarely been easy; this is also true for these women in tech who now hold some of the most reputed and important leadership positions at their respective organizations. 

Experiences can sometimes be filled with a lot of twists and turns that nevertheless teach valuable life lessons in order for a woman to stand her ground. One such instance was shared by Audrey Blackmon, who is a Fintech and Payments Industry Leader at Verrency with over 25 years of experience in the payments industry. She says, “As a business development professional, I’m often pitching to all or majority of men.  As a sales leader, I’ve often led teams that are majority men. One of the challenges I’ve experienced is male colleagues who try to silence my voice. In every organization I’ve worked for, I’ve had a male colleague overtake a conversation or meeting when I’m the one leading the meeting.”

Lynda also shares, “I’ve encountered men who didn’t want to give me a leadership role because they thought I would quit after the birth of my first child. What’s ironic is that man retired early in his career, and I’m still here after having two children! I had another man tell me at the mid-career time, I would never be a VP because I had a working spouse and children (clearly he was proven wrong!).”

“I had a great first job in tech. A wonderful, inclusive, and sometimes crazy team of people that helped reinforce the confidence that my young single mother instilled in me. That great experience reinforced my love for technology and gave me the confidence to believe I could pretty much do anything” recalls Danielle Deibler, Co-Founder and CEO at Marvelous.ai. “Having said that my experiences have been varied and many of the more negative ones have been because of my socially assigned gender role. I’ve been sexually assaulted at work functions. As a CEO I’ve had a difficult time raising cash for some of the start-ups I have led. Sadly, I have probably had a lot of the same experiences that other women have had, you get talked over in meetings, you need a man to buoy your recommendation for it to pass, you get one chance to screw up and a man in the same position gets three chances.”

Breaking the Mold

Dr. Teresa Deveaux, who is the Head of L&D / Chief Encouragement Officer at Enjoy Technology Inc., is a huge advocate for gender (and minority) parity and believes that one-to-one mentoring is a significant path to achieving that goal. She believes that the mandatory inclusion of women on the Board of Directors for both private and public companies as well as public reporting of gender (and minority) representation is key to making an impact on parity. 

To encourage more girls and women to go down the right path in their tech career Anjali Gugle, Security Architect and Officer, CX Cloud Platform Security at Cisco along with the team conducts events and workshops like Girls Power Tech, to bring together speakers who volunteer to help out, mentor and work with students. As part of this initiative, she makes an effort to make technology more accessible and assists them to chart their career path. Especially in cybersecurity where women are a minority, the overall intent is to encourage and nurture female talent in the future.

“When I started, I think sexism was more overt and recognizable. There was a clear glass ceiling. You might make Director if you worked your ass off, but you were never getting VP or C-suite roles. The men, typically white men, that filled these roles were invited to events that you as a woman of any color would never attend, strip clubs, cigar bars, golf outings. The last 10 years things have changed even faster. We’ve gone from women being shut out, to women trying to be one of the boys to what I consider passive everyday sexism to the #MeToo movement. It’s incredible to see. I think the thing today that is so much worse is that it is sometimes difficult to see the signs. The great thing is that we are calling it out and talking about it. We’ll never fix it without a global conversation. My advice to women is #Persist, surround yourself with allies not cronies, don’t compromise your ambitions, and above all believe in yourself.” adds Danielle.

Marla Sofer, VP of Strategic Partnership at Jemstep says women should be confident in themselves and speak their mind to make a bigger impact. “An empowered woman is confident enough to speak her mind and wise enough to listen, adapt, and refine her own self-awareness. She should also be resilient and focused on having an impact.”

It’s interesting to note that these women have mentioned confidence as the biggest differentiator to make a real impact in a field that’s heavily male-centric. Now more than ever women are taking up the mantle to redefine their roles in technology. 

#EachForEqual

“One of the things I find most reassuring is women openly promoting and uplifting each other. In a profoundly male-dominated workplace, it is common for women to focus on their career and interests, and be insecure which can lead to women tearing each other down.

I want to propel that sisterhood upward and forward. We find avenues to leverage each other to become a truly unstoppable force. We participate in networking with women events and represent Cisco Women in security conferences where we mentor women to help them ascend the corporate ladder, find new career paths and also mentor young girls to ensure they’re on the right career path.” says Anjali Gugle.

Similarly, Rachel Gabato who’s the COO at ripe.io adds, “There are many groups supporting initiatives to become more engaged in this field, groups for coders, engineers, product management, executives, etc. There’re also many conferences focused on women in this field as well. We’ve also seen in our space where there has been grants where one of the outcomes is elevating women in the supply chain. I think it’s important that women support women as well. I mentor and advise product managers and individuals on their careers and general advice from my career. It’s important we share and support other women and help them understand different career paths in technology.”

While the path towards a gender-equal world is still a work in progress, the waves of impact that these #PowerfulWomenInTech are causing is worth mentioning. This International Women’s Day, let’s honor and celebrate their achievements and be the advocates for change. 

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