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Women in tech: How to be masters of the corporate landscape

Portrait of nice attractive intelligent stylish cheerful leader company founder folded arms on roof outside outdoor sunny day

Article provided by Helen Masters, Executive VP and GM International Sales at Ivanti.

According to recent McKinsey research, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected women, with women’s jobs being 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s jobs during the pandemic.

Even in the technology industry, which benefited from a faster than average recovery, we’ve seen a 2% increase in representation at large global tech firms. Despite the technology sector lagging in gender diversity, it is important to acknowledge how well the women that are in the tech sector are doing. It’s hard to be a woman in business, but it’s even harder to be a woman in technology.

We are in a time of reckoning – and technology stands at the forefront. As we contemplate the future and set the foundations for our new normal, we will need to look to a more diverse set of female leaders in the tech industry who are actively engaging with these issues, hoping we can benefit from the wisdom they have gained through their perspectives and experiences.

Eliminate, Educate, Elevate.

As more and more young people embark on their professional career paths, the tech industry needs to prioritise its female staff for top-level roles. This will serve to inspire and motivate younger women as they make live changing decisions such as picking A-levels, university degrees, apprenticeships, and eventually initial graduate jobs – ultimately, this has a knock-on effect. Recent studies show that girls tend to choose a career with more women in leadership roles. This is because they feel like they have a better chance of growing and progressing within an organisation that they see themself reflected in – and with tech already being a heavily male dominated environment, people in positions such as mine need to be more visible. This will be the key to inspiring the next generation and creating a more inclusive and diverse future.

Tech is the future: A future where every product we own is connected, smart, and responsive. A future where we’re able to delegate mundane work to algorithms in machines. There should be more women in technology because it’s imperative that we have a voice in what the future looks like. The number of IT jobs is going to grow by another 24% by 2024, and we have a largely untapped talent pool we could benefit from if we help them see a future in our industry. During this time, there’ll be more jobs than IT graduates, which creates an outrageous demand for talent – even more outrageous than we are seeing today. We need to get ahead of the game and take the necessary steps now so we can welcome the future generation in equal environment and pave the way for their future.

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Challenges in Tech: The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.

One of the biggest barriers and balancing acts for women is being seen as assertive, not aggressive, and that our approach does not threaten our male colleagues but is seen as working cooperatively alongside them – essentially being heard. Many people in tech are older and male and can be resistant to change their perspective. The difficulty is that entering the C-suite sphere means you’re going in at a high level and battling with established executives, who are often more traditional in their ways. Having an accomplished woman coming in saying we need to change things doesn’t always go down well.

What these male executives are missing is that companies with more women in senior positions are more profitable, more socially responsible, and have higher quality customer experience. Having more women in executive positions is better for business – full stop. Women work differently than men, and we all think differently because of our circumstances, which can prove highly beneficial to a business or industry, providing new ways to approach and accelerate innovation.

Breaking the Tech mould. Penetrating the glass ceiling.

Gender equality remains a major issue in the wider corporate world and we still have work to do on the issues many women face including a lack of upward mobility and unequal pay. The good news is organisations are looking to hire more women because business leaders are well aware at this point that diversity increases revenue and helps companies create better and safer products. This is because women think differently. By nature, men and women see things differently and bring unique ideas to the table. This leads to better problem solving, which can boost performance at a top level.

As the EVP and GM of Ivanti for International Markets, I understand the importance of having a team with diverse experiences and backgrounds, and the positive impact that this has on the business and indeed on innovation. The number of women in leadership in tech has been slowly and steadily trending upward in recent years, but to continue to progress tech leaders need to evaluate how we have approached the ‘always-on’ workplace brought about by the pandemic. We need to take care as a recent study by Deloitte finds that pandemic-driven pressures may result in job churn among women – or they may leave the workforce entirely.

The reality is gender equality remains a major issue in the corporate world. Women remain significantly underrepresented in the corporate pipeline. Even if we haven’t seen as much progress as we’d like over recent years, I remain an optimist. In the new world created by the pandemic, we are on an irresistible path to a different society. Appreciation of the importance of inclusion is growing, and tech must reflect this. We don’t want to be having the same conversation about this every year – and I believe that, if every one of us plays a positive part, in the years to come we won’t be.


woman walking upstairs, glass ceiling

The Glass Ceiling isn’t invisible - How firms can truly shatter it

woman walking upstairs, glass ceiling

Article provided by Ann-Kathrin Sauthoff-Bloch, Partner and Managing Director at Infosys Consulting

Although we have taken bold strides towards gender equality, women remain woefully underrepresented in the technology industry with a talent pipeline heavily skewed towards men.

Gender bias in Silicon Valley and beyond is not a new or simple problem to solve. In my first article in this series, I explored the complex dynamics at play that are keeping the gender gap wide open. Shattering the infamous glass ceiling is an uphill battle without a silver bullet that can annihilate the barriers.

So, where do we start and what should senior leaders do to reshape the workplace, trace, and terminate hidden bias, morph attitudes and perceptions to make an organization truly inclusive?

Here are some key strategies that employers should adopt to calibrate gender imbalance, enhance diversity, and set their firms up for success.

5 CALL-TO-ACTIONS FOR PROMOTING GENDER DIVERSITY

Implement Blind CVs

Discrimination on the basis of gender, race, age, and appearance is still rampant in the recruitment process. There are countless stories of blatant bias corroborated from candidates and recruiters that hold a mirror to the unconscious prejudice that sadly still exists in our society, seeping into company cultures, perceptions, and attitudes.

Studies have revealed that most hiring managers tend to choose male candidates over female candidates even when their CVs have the same qualifications and experience. A recent Pew Research highlights the double standards that exist in the hiring process that leads to differential pay packages offered for the same job. Unconscious bias during the recruitment process can gravely undermine an organization’s attempt at achieving diversity.

Anonymizing CVs can enable deserving candidates to cross the initial hurdles and secure that all-important interview. Research confirms that women are 25-46% more likely to be hired with blind CVs.

Set Gender Targets

Having an overarching vision for gender diversity and declaring oneself an equal opportunities employer is great but unless there are concrete measurable goals to work towards, that vision will not translate into reality.

Leaders need to set incremental targets for their firms to work towards gender parity. These measures can include having a robust onboarding process, reverse mentoring, external coaching, and 360-degree assessments that unlock sponsorship programs for high-performers to accelerate to senior leadership positions. Organizations should make a commitment to achieve a defined percentage of women in the C-suite and top executive roles.

The percentage of women in tech remains painfully low today at 16%  and there is a reason that number has barely changed in the last 10 years. Firms should hold themselves accountable and measure their annual and quarterly success not only in financial terms but also on their progress in gender diversity. Leaders in positions of influence should have gender diversity as part of their KPIs to really move the needle within their firms.

Bridge the Wage Gap

In Silicon Valley, men on average make 61% more than women, 63% of the time women get offered a lower salary than men for the same position in the same firm, and the wage gap widens even further when it comes to minorities and women of colour.

We cannot expect women to achieve their fullest potential and climb their way to CXO roles if we do not remunerate them fairly. Equal pay for equal work must be the unwavering mission for firms if they want to attract and retain the best talent.

Eliminate ‘Motherhood Penalty’

Women, who make up 40% of the working population, lose an average of 4% hourly pay when starting a family which adds up to a significant loss of lifetime earnings. New research supports that working mums are penalised in their careers, passed up for opportunities, and held back from promotions. New fathers on the other hand usually get a 6% average pay rise. The motherhood penalty is playing a pivotal role in holding women back from senior leadership positions and keeping the glass ceiling firmly in place.

Firms should invest in friendly maternity policies and pay, create comprehensive return to work schemes and offer flexible working options as standard company benefits. There is a clear correlation between an increased number of women in senior leadership positions and the availability of flexible work.

Employers must also address the stigma attached to taking advantage of flexible working options and reassure employees that their performance will be measured based on results—not when, where, or how many hours they work. Furthermore, organizations should rethink their paternity policies and implement shared parental leave. Normalizing caregiving for dads will also greatly aid in tempering gender disparity and enable more women to pursue leadership roles.

Address Gender Bias

We cannot fight a problem that we cannot see. Firms must address the issue of gender bias head-on, discussing it openly. Building awareness about unconscious bias and discrimination at the workplace is a step in the right direction. Bias training and workshops should be made available to all employees.

The clock is ticking

Reports indicate that firms with women at the helm perform 10 times better financially when compared to organizations with fewer women in leadership roles. With the global GDP set to benefit from a $28 trillion boost to the economy if we reach full gender equality by 2025, it would be a real missed opportunity if organizations continue to sidestep the subject of gender diversity.

The time to act is now. Closing the gender gap may be that competitive edge that catapults a firm to the winner’s circle in the digital age.

In the last article in this series, I’ll explore how women can empower each other to thrive in the tech industry.

Ann-Kathrin Sauthoff-BlochAbout the author

Ann-Kathrin champions Infosys Consulting’s growth strategy across Europe. She has an impressive career history, having spent 14 years at Accenture, before moving to IBM in 2013, where she was the global lead account partner for Deutsche Telekom, one of IBM’s largest accounts in Germany, leading over 250 consultants onsite and offshore.


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2021: The great leveller for women in the workplace

gender equality, gender balanceIs this the year where women can finally crack the glass ceiling and take advantage of the same work opportunities as men?

Emma Maslen explores.

A new digital workplace

Over the previous year, the UK has witnessed a steep rise in the number of people working from home, with a recent survey suggesting as much as 86 percent of workers have utilised their personal office during the pandemic. Globally, firms have been forced to adapt to their employees working remotely and have had to manage their workloads around multiple lockdowns and social distancing.

These changes have altered the workplace landscape for the majority of individuals, but it is worth pointing out how it is specifically impacting professional women. The shift to an all digital “office” experience has in many ways helped to level the playing field, most notably for those women who find themselves in a position of child or family care. Working from home offers flexibility, which can allow for frequent breaks to tend to the wellbeing of their family, while never being too far from their ability to be productive. Work hours don’t have to be exactly 9 to 5, but can often be flexed around all parts of the day.

Possible concerns over the new normal

It has been pointed out by some that the overall strain that this pandemic has put on many businesses has perhaps actually limited access to the relatively few opportunities that had even existed before. Detractors worry that there will be less hiring, less promotion, less overall turnover, so how is there now more room to get ahead? Another complaint towards the modern working situation is that despite being more flexible, it also leads to a sense of being “always on.” This certainly goes beyond gender, but can absolutely have a harsh psychological impact on parents or those with other household obligations.

More optimistically, many feel that it is exactly because of this shift towards both digital workspaces, as well as changes in culture, that could overcome the current limitations in the long run, and allow for 2021 and beyond to be a time where women truly can break the glass ceiling.

Growing inclusivity

As mentioned, working from home offers flexibility and autonomy, which could be attractive to working mothers and women tasked with family care. This stands to not only be a convenience to those who already have a career and family on their plate, but means women don’t need to choose between one or the other. Plus, time previously spent on commuting or traveling on-site can now be replaced by quality time with the family.

Furthermore, the digital landscape stands to help bring in a new type of “meritocracy” to much of the work being done. If a woman can deliver quality work on time, while tending to their family simultaneously, what concern is it of their employer?

Even inside the home, this shift in perspective could bring some levelling to the landscape of relationship dynamics. The idea of one partner being homemaker while the other leaves to work has far less meaning if both partners are working from home anyway. This will hopefully help encourage behaviors that see both partners, regardless of gender, taking on a more even amount of homecare, while still working to generate income. This balanced support is what many proponents feel will smooth out the constant desire for modern professionals to be constantly in work mode.

Lastly, a growing rise in programmes that enable inclusivity should mean that women have a more equally weighted voice inside of their organisation. Setting up inclusive forums where women can voice their ideas, concerns, and find support and acceptance is essential for more productive conversations. These forums should of course not be limited to women, but simply be a space where male-dominated opinions aren’t the only narratives being entertained.

A new balance in the technology industry

Currently, the technology industry is heavily male-dominated, with only 16.4 percent female employees represented in the UK. Traditionally, most companies have been slow in carrying out initiatives that establish diversity forums like the one outlined above. It has, however, been observed that the global crisis may be greatly accelerating developments across both of these areas.

The growing demand for digital jobs should ensure that “hard skills” like coding and user interface design won’t be going anywhere soon, and initiatives encouraging young women towards these fields are being increasingly embraced. We are also likely to see a greater call for employees with “soft skills,” such as collaboration and emotional intelligence. By encouraging the development of proficiency across a variety of skill-sets and eliminating cultural aversions to outdated gender roles, women stand to perhaps benefit the most, but all employees would likely find their work relationships becoming healthier.

There is no denying we have many obstacles still ahead of us, but we’ve also never had a time of such opportunity. The challenges affecting the workplace and the technology industry have really only begun, so there has never been a better time to lean into change. If employers continue to accept these new points of view, then professional women have a lot to be optimistic about in 2021.

About the author

Emma MaslenEmma Maslen has recently been appointed as the Vice President and General Manager at Ping Identity for the EMEA and APAC region. She is a senior technology leader who has 20 plus years of experience in the industry. Before joining Ping Identity, Emma became the CEO and founder of ‘inspir’em’ in November 2019, an executive coaching and training firm for both startups and individuals. Prior to which she has worked for multiple big names in technology like SAP Concur, BMC Software and Sun Microsystems in business management and commercial sales roles.

Emma is also an adviser to startups and an angel investor since the past three years, often through the female founder network Angel Academe, she has a portfolio of eight companies. She is working as an ambassador for Tech London Advocates for their ‘women in tech’ initiative.


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Break the ‘class ceiling’ to boost equality of opportunity

woman under a glass, breaking glass ceiling

By Khyati Sundaram, Head of Product, Applied

The UK has a ‘class ceiling’, preventing talented employees from breaking through.

To tear it down, employers need to rethink the way they attract and hire employees – and ensure greater equality of opportunity for the wider UK economy.

While the Equalities Act 2010 makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone based on age, orientation, gender & religion, it offers no protection against class-based partiality. Even if this discrimination isn’t intentional, unconscious bias can rear its head without recruiters even realising.

This issue has lasting implications for an employer’s search for talent, social cohesion and the wider economy. A growing body of academic research is shedding light on this issue:

In 2016, the UK government’s State of the Nation Report acknowledged that: “from the early years through to universities and the workplace, there is an entrenched and unbroken correlation between social class and success.”

Successive studies have quantified this inequality. A 2016 study by the London School of Economics and Swarthmore College found that while 33 per cent of the UK population is from a working class background, it makes up just ten per cent of elite occupations.

Even when working-class individuals are successful in joining elite occupations, they earn on average 16 per cent less than people from more privileged backgrounds – detailed in LSE academics Samuel Friedman and Daniel Laurison’s 2019 book ‘The Class Ceiling’ whose work has been able to highlight less privileged candidates being shut out of elite jobs and prevented from realising their earning potential.

And there’s ultimately a wider economic cost to ingrained bias: Sutton Trust economists estimated in 2017 that greater social mobility could boost UK GDP by 2 per cent or £39 billion.

While UK companies are realising the need for staff training on unconscious bias and diversity, a more proactive and effective way to break the ‘class ceiling’ is through organisations rethinking their recruitment processes to make them fairer.

There are three practical and manageable changes that organisations can make to hiring to ensure this greater equality.

First, organisations need to commit to fair and unbiased recruiting policies, publishing a policy and communicating this to staff and potential employees in their external and internal communications.

Second, leaders need to implement tactics such as neutral wording of job descriptions in their recruitment channels. Academic research shows that taking out biased wording encourages more applications from people of less privileged backgrounds – and from women and more diverse audiences too.

Third, organisations need to use debiased hiring (including anonymisation) to ensure fairer and simpler recruitment.

New data-driven, blind hiring tools strip away all irrelevant information from a candidate’s CV and job applications and anonymise the way this data is presented to recruiting teams, leaving just the core qualities that make the candidate suitable for the job. These capabilities boost equality in recruitment and can engender social mobility within the wider workplace.

Using these tools, recruiters will no longer be swayed by a candidate that went to a prestigious school or bagged a life-changing internship through a relative’s connections – instead they are seeing the real candidate and what they can achieve. Rather than artificially narrowing the candidate pool to the same types of candidates they’ve previously hired for, they’re widening it to find anyone with the skills they need wherever they learnt them.

Fairer recruitment and removal of unconscious bias is helping organisations hire talented people that might once have slipped under the radar − or bounced off that class ceiling − as these examples show:

Engineering and construction business, Carey Group, became disenchanted with traditional CVs because they prevented candidates from conveying their real work capabilities. As a result, the company transformed its recruitment process to eliminate the risk of bias with a new, fairer blind hiring platform. Candidates now respond to the group’s vacancies by answering behavioural questions tailored to each specific job role with all responses anonymised before being reviewed. Not only does the new platform remove a candidate’s personal details and work history, it also randomises how the responses are viewed by the selection team. An interviewee’s answers are scored on a question-by-question basis – rather than applicant-by-applicant  – ensuring that all candidates are judged on equal merit.

Global charity Comic Relief implemented a blind hiring platform in 2019 to handle wide-ranging staffing needs and short-term resourcing for campaigns like Red Nose Day and Sport Relief – while fulfilling corporate demands for improved diversity and inclusion in its hiring. Its senior team reports that it can now plan how and where it is searching for talent across many different communities, job forums, regions or universities. This means that its recruitment is diverse while ensuring that the organisation gets the best people for the roles available.

Blind hiring is delivering equal opportunities through fairer hiring of talented people, regardless of background. Even among less-enlightened employers, we can start to break the class ceiling – and promote social mobility.

Khyati Sundaram AppliedAbout the author

Khyati Sundaram is the Head of Product at Applied. She looks after the strategic direction of the product and is responsible for overseeing the management of the product roadmap. Prior to joining Applied, she co-founded an AI-based pricing platform. Khyati has over ten years’ experience in product, fundraising and finance across small companies and large organizations such as JP Morgan and RBS. She holds an MSc in Economics, specializing in game theory, from the London School of Economics and an MBA from London School of Business with an exchange at the Wharton School.


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Smashing IT's glass ceiling: Perspectives from leading women CIOs | Deloitte

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No shortage of ink has been spilled on the challenges faced by women in today’s IT workforce.

Many business leaders and cor-porate boards are taking steps to improve C-suite diversity; yet, too often, women continue to be un-derrepresented in technology leadership positions and the technology workforce in general.

Despite numerous challenges, many highly com-petent and qualified women have risen through the ranks and smashed IT’s glass ceiling. In fact, the percentage of women technology chiefs is far higher than that of female CEOs and CFOs, according to multiple analyses - perhaps because technology teams can benefit from women’s unique combina-tion of leadership skills, such as empathy, flexibility, persuasiveness, assertiveness, and risk-taking.

This special edition of the CIO Program’s CIO Insider, the first in a series focused on gender diver-sity and inclusion in IT, shares insights from women who have risen to the top of the IT profession, including their perspectives on essential leadership qualities and guidelines for cultivating diverse and inclusive IT cultures.

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