This year, Women’s Equality Day celebrates its hundredth milestone, celebrating the date of which women in the US gained the right to vote for the very first time. Since 1920, the world has dramatically changed for women in every sector, from making strides in their education and in their work, to winning more nobel prizes and becoming CEOs of large corporations. But it doesn’t stop there. We spoke to eight industry leaders on their thoughts about the day and why women’s equality is crucial for the future of technology.
100 years is just the beginning
“Even though 100 years have passed since the 19th Amendment was signed into law, there are many areas in which women are still fighting for equality,” argues Sofia Kaufman, CPO at Zerto. “While topics like equal pay and the lack of women in male-dominated industries still need to be addressed, I want to encourage women across the world to use this year’s Women’s Equality Day as a reminder of their worth. Women achieve amazing things every day, and we need to be celebrated in our success as much as our male counterparts are. It’s no longer time to be humble; it’s time to speak up, move up, and be proud of what we achieve.”
Hugh Scantlebury, Co-Founder and CEO at Aqilla, highlights how women have also passed the centennial milestone in accountancy too:
“Not only has it been over 100 years since women were passed the vote, it’s also now passed 100 years since women were first permitted into the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). Although this is encouraging, and it’s meant that over the past 50 years or so the amount of women that have a job in the finance or STEM sectors is gradually increasing, there is still, sadly, a notable gender gap within STEM.
“As technology develops to increasingly include automation, job descriptions will also likely begin to change. It will mean that users will be able to focus less of their time on crushing numbers and creating reports, and utilise their time to solve business challenges. This, I believe, will be the catalyst for an increase in the amount of women working in the industry we’ve been waiting for.”
Diversity issues don’t just stop with gender. In fact, Dalibor Siroky, CEO and Co-Founder at Plutora, upholds that, “It is important that every organisation or team be made up of the best possible selection of people to achieve success. The way to do that is to bring together people of different backgrounds, perspectives and genders. By combining diverse voices, you create a stronger team and encourage an environment of acceptance and equality.
“With diversity being front and centre and a positive force in nearly every aspect of our lives, it’s more important than ever to ensure that women’s voices are elevated and being heard. Isn’t that what Women’s Equality Day is about in the first place: commemorating the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote? With that barrier legally removed, we need to be aware of more subtle and cultural obstacles like unconscious bias and lack of diversity. It’s no secret that the number of women in tech are lower than we’d like to see, and we need to find ways to change that by integrating the voices of those in our industry equally. If we can do that, we all benefit.”
The pandemic revealed more inequalities
“In this new reality of pandemic uncertainty, gender imbalances have been exacerbated – a Boston Consulting Group report found that the recent increase in remote working has had a major impact on women, who have spent on average 15 hours more per week on domestic work during the pandemic,” highlights Liz Cook, People Director at Six Degrees.
She continues: “Women’s Equality Day highlights the importance of supporting women and men alike through agile working structures that level the playing field and empower people to be the very best at what they do, no matter what their circumstances. As the People Director of a technology company, I am passionate about working every day to deliver these agile working structures that promote gender-balance and drive a better working world.”
Kleopatra Kivrakidou, Channel Marketing Manager EMEA at Ergotron, agrees: “Recent global circumstances have put the spotlight on working mothers, with many organisations implementing flexible work structures to help them maintain a work-life balance during this difficult period. This includes enabling them to continue to work from home, if their personal circumstances don’t allow a return to the office, and providing the right technology and equipment to support both productive working and wellbeing. Working environments that build their success on respecting diversity, giving equal opportunities for development to all, and who trust their workforce for who they are, become, by definition, the ones where you find more women.”
Lead by example
“This year, Women’s Equality Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves that we need to get more women in tech,” emphasises Marilou van Doorn, COO at Leaseweb Global. “Just because an organisation currently doesn’t have an equal ratio of men to women shouldn’t be a reason not to apply for a role, in fact, it should be the opposite. When I first joined the tech industry, I was the only woman. After a while, my CEO confessed that he had noticed a positive change in the team, the atmosphere and the overall way of working. My advice is to apply – don’t feel intimidated, be the cultural change the organisation needs.
“An organisation’s leadership team plays a significant role in future talent wanting to grow and develop themselves in tech. We as a generation need to see more female role models come forward and show both the current and next generation that women can and will succeed in tech. It’s not just a man’s game. Women can also be the next CTO, COO or CEO.”
Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft, supports this and believes gender equality affects the whole organisation – it’s not just an issue for the female employees within the business:
“Women bring a different dynamic, different thinking and different strategies – so why not have equal representation of genders when it comes to the boardroom? Despite the number of women in leadership positions on the increase, many women across organisations – from the board to roles in IT – are still victims of the gender pay gap. We’re now in 2020, women should be equally paid and for this to be addressed, more organisations need to be transparent about their salary bandings and who is being paid what.
“For women to be truly equal, we need to teach about gender equality within schools. Both boys and girls need to learn to regard themselves as equal and they are both capable of taking up any role, whether that’s in STEM or leadership. Educating children at a young age is the only way to remove unconscious bias that affects us later on in our professional working life.”
Crendal Kear, VP of Global Sales Operations at Exabeam, concludes with some advice for future women leaders in technology:
”‘Be curious. Stay curious.’ More than adopting a growth mindset, indulging your curiosity develops a comfort in asking questions, seeking counsel and getting to the root of the question at hand. These two skills are invaluable to growing your career, serving equally when striving for the next phase of your career or creating the next groundbreaking innovation.
“‘Choose your leader wisely.’ No one rises to the top alone, and it’s important to have strong advocates. A great challenge for women in tech is a lack of community and professional support. Choose a leader who values you, will mentor you, will empower your professional development and will challenge you. Look for a leader from whom you can learn and represent your values. Working for a leader who took the time to invest in me professionally and advocate for me —and coming to fully understand the impact and rarity of such a situation—has been invaluable to my career advancement.”