On March 25, Collabera hosted a webinar, Keeping Up with the Speed of Digital: Why Women are Needed Now More than Ever in Tech. During this hour-long discussion, Dawn Serpe, Senior Vice President of Collabera, along with the following panel of experts in the industry, discussed several key topics for women in tech looking to take their careers to the next level:
- Uma Meyyappan, the Senior Vice President and Head of Product Innovation at LPL Financial, an industry leader in the retail financial advice market
- Linda Apsley, the Managing Director and Head Architect of GFT Engineering and Data Services at Citi
- Aparna Khurjekar, the former Chief Customer Service Officer at Verizon Consumer Group, recently promoted to President of Verizon Business Markets
- Sabby Nachiyaar, Collabera’s own Vice President of IT, a member of the Women’s Advisory Board, and the head of the Women in Tech Committee
These influential women reflected on their career paths and gave insight into how they have been able to survive and thrive within the ever-evolving tech industry.
3 Key Takeaways on Creating Pathways for Women In Tech
“A lot of it’s just about who you are, and sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know,” says Linda, reflecting on her many years working as an industry leader in data and technology. “But having the courage to stick with it I think is the most important thing. Be persistent and stick with it: that’s the message.”
1. Recognize the True Value of Diversity
Early in the webinar, Dawn centers the discussion around the fact that diversity drives innovation and productivity within organizations.
Aparna, having spent over 13 years at one of the largest telecom companies in the world, considers herself a big proponent of the “Medici Effect.” She explains this concept as “…the nexus and the confluence of different ideas … and the different elements of what it is that has built you as an individual, be it your gender, your race, or your background from an educational perspective…” She’s seen the great things that happen when different experiences and ideas come together, particularly the innovations that arise when women become major players in male-dominated industries.
The panel agreed that having a diverse team is crucial to the success of an organization, and that products, and the people who later consume those products, suffer without it.
Uma referred to studies which have proven that airbags and seatbelts are not as effective for female drivers because crash test dummies are based on the average size and weight of male drivers. The result is that women are far more likely to be injured or killed in car crashes than their male counterparts.
When the value of diverse thinkers and problem solvers is recognized throughout an organization, companies, their employees, and their clients benefit. As Uma said, “if we can’t put ourselves in our customers’ shoes, then how can we really build the best products for them?”
2. Send the Elevator Down
In order for diverse voices to be fully present within tech organizations, the panelists emphasized the importance of women supporting women within their industry. Aparna introduced a metaphor of “sending the elevator down” to the women climbing the ranks behind her, which the other speakers resonated with strongly.
Sabby, talking about her role on Collabera’s Women’s Advisory Board, said that “we have taken the opportunity to mentor women all through the ranks across the company, and what we’ve found is, of course, that having those female role models, having women be willing to give that helping hand, helping somebody else rise and grow, is very important.”
Sabby also points out the importance of not limiting mentorship exclusively to women within a company. When 72% of women in tech are outnumbered by men in business meetings by at least 2 to 1, men have just as much potential to become valuable mentors to the women within their industry, and should be encouraged to be active allies to their colleagues.
3. Creating a Culture of Transparency
A live poll conducted during the webinar found that 47% of respondents do not have an internal system in place for creating access to available roles within their organizations. These internal systems, as agreed upon by our panel of experts, are not only an invaluable way to retain talent within a company, but a key means of helping women to succeed within the tech industry.
Invisible opportunities can’t be pursued, so it is critical for organizations to find ways of supporting internal mobility. It is also important for hiring managers to stay open minded about who would best fill a role, and consider a team member’s potential to learn from mentorship and upskilling opportunities. Developing these systems becomes easier when an organization learns to take regular feedback from their employees, says Sabby.
In addition to looking for those internal opportunities, Sabby has this advice for women looking to make a transition to tech: “Don’t assume that being from a non-technical background disqualifies you. Take advantage of those strengths that you have and the work experience that you bring to the table. As long as you have the attitude that you can learn, you can make a difference.”