Article by Sharon Harris, Global CMO, Jellyfish

woman using tablet, women in tech, CMIThis is often the time of year when we sit back and reflect on the past year – what did we achieve, what have we learned, what could we have done better?

But, what a year this has been. From the global pandemic and economic crisis to social unrest and political upheaval, this year has been unlike any other – it has posed a real tipping point for how we rebalance society going forward.

There have been challenges, but parts of this year have also presented some great opportunities. For one, the tech industry has come to life with the acceleration of the digital era. The emergence of new technologies and innovation is not new to us, but this coupled with the global pandemic has brought about three years worth of much needed change in the space of three months.

The tech industry is fast-moving, it is constantly evolving and changing and when you look at the direction our entire global society is heading, everything is and will be tech-powered. From AI and robotics to many more advanced technologies we haven’t even touched the tip of yet, the opportunities are vast and we, as women, need to be a part of this future.

Without the diversity of opinion, gender, race, and beyond, we cannot drive continued innovation, deliver the best products and services, and we certainly cannot prepare for the future growth of the world.

This industry has the power to change the point of entry for women looking to explore the field. We embrace so many characteristics similar to those which have driven technological innovation and success – women are creators by birth and by nature. We welcome change, are open to learning new skills, and bring a flexible and adaptable mindset. Our input is invaluable in shaping how our world evolves, enhances what we create, and how we innovate.

But there are still far too few women in tech. With only 17% of women working in technology, creating this change is not a sprint but a long distance, uphill run. And, it starts at the beginning – we need to reexamine the education of girls in primary and elementary school. Not only do we need to shift our societal norms and perceptions about what girls and women can do, but we also need to encourage women at younger ages to explore the STEM fields with an inquisitive enthusiasm. And we need to carry this through the years from schooling to mentorship, but also sponsorship.

Sponsorship is this idea where senior leaders and managers create an inclusive space to bring people in and be their ‘champion’ – it’s someone who is willing to go to bat for you when you’re not in the room. It is so important to have these people on board today – these respected and strong team members who have the audacity to put women forward for the right projects and work.

I would encourage anyone thinking of a career in tech to grab it with both hands – there is an abundance of opportunity, it is fun, and there are few other fields that allow you to create something that has the power to touch so many lives.

Of course, it’s no easy feat. As I’ve noted, the tech industry is relentless and moves at a faster pace than most. To succeed, you need to know yourself – who you are, what you stand for, and where you’re going. My biggest piece of advice I give to women I meet and mentor is that when you’re starting your career, you must understand your value because every single person you encounter is going to attempt to tell you what that is. You need to know it for yourself – don’t let someone else define it.

I have a frame on my desk that says, “Show up in every moment as though you were meant to be there.” There have been many, many circumstances where I’ve been the only woman of colour in the room and I’ve been mistaken for many things – the administrative assistant, the cleaner, the caterer – but, not the leader who is driving the meeting. To change this perspective, you have to find resilience and grit. Remember to stay the course and not to crumble.

There will no doubt be many silver linings to this pandemic, but one of the most important for me is that women are now seeing the critical role they play and that they can not only have a seat at the table, but they have the power to make decisions and direct how we move forward.

About the author

Sharon HarrisSharon Harris is the Chief Marketing Officer at Jellyfish, a digital partner to some of the world’s leading brands including Uber, eBay, Disney, Spotify, Nestlé, Ford, Aviva and ASOS. As Jellyfish continues to expand its global footprint, Sharon oversees international marketing strategy across 30 offices. In her role, a key focus area is positioning Jellyfish as a true global partner in digital transformation. Her extensive experience leading teams and pioneering advertising innovation will help to accelerate the company’s global expansion.

 

 


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