While we’re no longer at the starting line, we are arguably quite a few miles from the finish. And this race we’re in? It’s more of a marathon than a sprint. That was the consensus of a room full of TechServe Alliance’s female members, when it comes to the state of equal opportunities – and welcoming environments – for women in technology and leadership.
TechServe Alliance’s commitment to supporting and advancing women in the IT and Engineering staffing industry is on display each year during the organization’s annual conference. I’m fortunate enough to have hosted the women’s luncheon during the event for the past 11 years, where we come together to discuss how far we’ve come, where we still need to go and how to turn our aspirations into action.
Examining our own role in the inequality of women at work
This year, I invited Alisia Genzler, President and Chief Client Officer for Randstad Technologies, to join me at the luncheon to share her experiences as an executive in the IT recruitment industry. Alisia and I met while working at the same staffing firm very earlier in our careers. She joined Randstad in 2002, and in her 16 years there has been an example for women of how working hard, believing in your abilities and taking risks can earn you the career – and job title – you deserve.
Two of her comments from our time together stand out to me as gamechangers in shifting the perception of and improving the future for women in technology.
“Why do we [as women] push ourselves down? WE do that, no one else does.”
This comment hit hard for many of the women present. Many news articles, reports, blog posts and even speaking presentations on the challenges for women in the workplace narrowly focus on the role of others in perpetuating the situation. In reality, we’re also all responsible for our own experiences.
Before we can take control of our careers, we must first take ownership of the role we play in workplace inequality. The sooner we own up to the ways that we’re holding ourselves back, the faster we can create change for ourselves.
Alisia and I both subscribe to the notion that as women, we should be our own career champions. And many, many others agree. At 72 percent, it was the top piece of career advice to women from women in tech in the 2018 Women in Technology report by Harvey Nash and ARA.
“We think of so many reasons why we shouldn’t, but don’t think of why we should – and could.”
Alisia made this comment when asked a question related to her experience as a working mom, and it struck a chord for the group. Many of the women in the room – in addition to being driving forces within their organizations – are also parents. Nearly all agreed that they have questioned their ability to “do it all.” The Women in Technology survey found that more than twice as many women as men say having a family translates into lost opportunities for advancement or equal pay (57 percent).
Why do women seem to ask “why?” when men traditionally ask “why not?” That is where the second and third most popular pieces of advice from the Women in Technology survey come in. Aside from being their own career champions, survey respondents also advised women to be confident (71 percent) and not get discouraged at stumbling blocks as a strategy to persevere (60 percent).
Where do we go from here?
After our Q&A, Alisia and I joined the other attendees for group table discussions. Our task: discuss our experiences and create actionable ways that women can start making change for themselves and others…now and for future generations. Eight tables of women rose to the occasion, offering these suggestions for closing the equality gap in today’s workplace.
- As women, it can be easier to stand up for someone else before yourself. Let’s be brave for each other. Speaking up for others can also build our own confidence to then stand up for ourselves when faced with our own inequality.
- Prioritize personal events you don’t want to miss by going straight to the source: block your calendar as busy. That way, there’s no excuse that something work-related came up and prevented you from attending.
- All executives, male and female, must allow employees to create a balanced work life for themselves by giving them permission to NOT answer the email, text or call after hours. Executives can do this by leading by example.
- Practice self-care – you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to succeed, such as asking an executive to mentor you. The worst that can happen is they can say no, but you won’t know if you don’t have the courage to ask for what you need. It reminds me of one of my own favorite pieces of advice, “If you don’t ask, you’ll never get to yes.”
- Identify one task that you can outsource as a means to create more balance in your life. This one also strikes a chord with me personally as a working mom! I frequently rely on services such as Instacart and Postmates to save me time.
- Help other women promote their accomplishments.
- Instill the “see it, say it” mentality in our own children, to help erase the problem for the next generation.
TechServe Alliance is leading the way for advancing women in IT staffing by making this luncheon an important part of its conference year after year. In doing so, the organization sends a clear message that this is a significant issue in the industry, and provides this amazing group with the opportunity to gather, discuss and – ultimately – succeed. Until next year’s luncheon, let’s continue moving forward with our pledge to take action and make change. The future of our industry needs us.
Taking Action: Moving the IT Industry Forward, 80 Female Leaders at a Time originally appeared on the TechServe Alliance website.