Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

How women can empower each other to thrive in the tech world

Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

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

The game-changing #MeToo movement showed how women in positions of power can raise one another, inspire, and influence, and be a positive role model for others.

This final article in the series will explore how women can empower themselves and each other to not only survive but thrive in the tech industry.

8 TOP TIPS TO EMPOWER EACH OTHER

Create Support Groups

It can be especially lonely at the top with female executives often being the lone voice at the decision-making table and in male-dominated power lunches and dinners. This is not surprising with women forming only 16% of the workforce in the tech industry with just 5% in senior leadership roles.

It is crucial for women to form peer-to-peer and cross-level support groups with like-minded individuals to alleviate the feeling of isolation in the workplace. It can also be a powerful platform to freely exchange ideas and voice your thoughts and experiences on sensitive topics like depression, stress, anxiety, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment. Support groups play a huge role in enabling women to escape the negative loop of feeling they are alone

Share Your Story (with the good, bad, and ugly bits)

Women can feel more empowered if they have awareness of and access to positive role models. Taking inspiration from success stories of other female leaders, entrepreneurs and achievers can inject that extra dose of motivation to propel women ahead in their careers.

Female leaders should leverage the support groups within their organisation to share their journeys and not only talk about the strengths and attributes that helped them succeed but also their vulnerabilities, failures, and the obstacles they overcame to seize opportunities and realise their goals. The more women speak openly about their trials and tribulations the more confidence they can inspire in others to not let mistakes and setbacks dent their resolve to succeed.

Mentor and Sponsor

Senior female leaders in the firm should proactively offer themselves as mentors or executive sponsors for female staff who show aspirations and potential to reach higher positions. This is all the more important in the post-Covid world which has seen a major exodus of women from the workforce.

Mentors can provide their sage advice and leverage their experience to provide direction and guidance. Executive sponsors can use their personal credibility, reputation, and networks to level the playing field and offer connections and introductions that women would not otherwise have access to. They can also help women shift their thinking and consider alternate career paths, positions, projects, and opportunities. Executive sponsors can play a big role in increasing the pipeline of women for leadership roles.

Give Potential a Chance

Men usually get picked for opportunities based on their potential, whereas women tend to be evaluated on their prior experience. Women in positions of influence should endeavour to delegate or suggest promising female staff for projects where they feel they may be a great fit, irrespective of their experience. Women should lift each other up and give each other the chance to prove themselves.

Amplify Each Other

Women should break the stereotyped notion of ‘female rivalry’ and amplify each other’s voices in meetings, back each other when they agree with their views, respectfully disagree, and give one another space to speak openly. Lack of recognition remains one of the top reasons why people leave an organisation. Hence, whenever the opportunity arises, celebrate the strengths and accomplishments of female peers.

Discuss the Taboo Subject of ‘Pay’

Pay gap is a burning issue in gender inequality and the reason it remains grossly unresolved is because most companies aren’t transparent about pay structures and consider discussing it inappropriate. Equal pay for equal work is still an unrealised vision and many women don’t feel confident negotiating pay checks. Speaking openly about pay and sharing successful salary negotiation tips with each other, can empower other women to stand up for what they believe they deserve.

Normalise Parenting

There is a widely prevalent and misplaced notion that working moms are less committed to their work which makes women uncomfortable to discuss their family with work colleagues and managers for the fear of being perceived as undedicated. If we want more women to join the workforce and empower them to reach senior roles, we must normalise parenting and work-life balance. The more senior female leaders are open about their own parental responsibilities and talk about it freely in the workplace, the more it becomes the norm. There are moments where we all have to respond to family needs, and if we see leaders doing that, it makes it easier for everyone to do that and help shatter the assumption that you have to choose between your career and family to get ahead.

Champion the Cause

Last but not the least, get involved in the diversity and inclusion initiatives at your workplace. Don’t wait for your employer to start a diversity cell. If none exist, take the lead, and get your voices heard. Only when we all put our collective will behind a cause, proactively drive changes, and #chosetochallenge gender stereotypes, can real progress happen.

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.


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.


woman holding a like a boss mug, kickstart your career

The Gender Puzzle: Where are all the female STEM CEOs?

woman holding a like a boss mug, kickstart your career

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

study of 1.6 million students around the world revealed that there are equal numbers of girls and boys in the top 10% for all STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math – with girls outperforming boys.

But the corporate world paints a different picture – only 5% are women in senior leadership positions in the tech industry with a meagre 3% as CEOs.  This is a glaring gap that we can no longer turn a blind eye to.

The myriad of benefits of having gender diversity at the workplace is not only an ethical or social prerogative – it is good business with strategic implications for a firm’s bottom line. It is a well-established fact that women bring fresh perspectives, creative thinking, and unique point-of-view to the table – all crucial ingredients for innovation, the elixir for success inthe digital age.

Yet, there are only a handful of women steering major corporations as chiefs and unsurprisingly, 78% of young people surveyed cannot name a famous female tech CEO. So, what is still holding us back from paving the path to these top jobs, and solving the gender puzzle for good?

It is time to take a hard look at the unpleasant truths of this uphill battle and the dynamics at play that are keeping the gender gap wide open in the corporate world.

Is education the missing piece?

The technology industry makes up 25% of all core STEM roles but despite the exponential growth of digital technologies and high investment in the technology industry, the percentage of women in tech remains painfully low today at 16%. What is even more disconcerting, is that the number has barely changed in the last 10 years. Where are we going wrong?

Some believe we need more investment in STEM education to encourage more girls to pursue careers in the STEM sector. But women comprise 41% of all engineers in the EU and 36% of STEM graduates in the U.S. So, there isn’t a dearth of talented and skilled female engineers and brilliant tech minds with exceptional leadership potential out there. But somewhere along the way, women’s career progression hits the ‘glass ceiling’.

I believe we should focus our energies on breaking down the barriers that are holding women back from thriving in the tech industry, which is the worst performer on gender parity issues in the STEM sector.

It is estimated that creating more opportunities for employment for women in the STEM field alone would increase the EU GDP per capita by at least 0.7–0.9% in 2030 and by 2.2–3.0% in 2050 –  growing the economy by at least $800 billion and create an additional 1.2 million jobs.

Implicit bias in the workplace

Women who do take up a career in technology struggle to find their way to the top jobs, faced with the ‘broken rung’ – the missing step on the corporate ladder. What is feeding this ever-widening gap? The answer is unconscious bias and discrimination. This is the sad but unadulterated reality.

Eye-opening recent research has revealed that just in the UK, which is one of the forerunners in digital innovation, nearly 50% of women surveyed claim to have faced discrimination at the workplace and an alarming 20% have resigned over allegations of harassment. The story rings true elsewhere in the world, with numbers just as appalling.

There is an unconscious bias in workplaces that results in women being viewed as less competent than men, offered inferior compensation packages, and their contributions side-lined. An interesting study by Yale University revealed that even scientists, known for their objectivity, tend to hire men over women even when the candidates have the exact same qualifications and skills and at significantly higher salaries.

For new moms, the situation becomes even more dire as women feel more compelled to work twice as hard to prove their commitment and competency post-baby to their managers. The added stress of this ‘maternal wall’ affects the mental health of working mothers immensely.

All these compounding factors, along with a lack of flexible working options on offer and feeling of isolation in a male-dominated environment, spur many women to leave the workforce early.

This implicit bias has become embedded in most company cultures and is the root of all gender disparity issues today.

A new crisis could upend progress

With the ongoing pandemic, gender imbalance issues at the workplace have reached a tipping point. According to the Women in the Workplace 2020 study, 2 million women are considering leaving the workforce because of the challenges wrought by COVID-19. That is 1 in every 4 women who would not have considered this decision otherwise.

This crisis can undo whatever progress we have made in the last decade to enhance diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. The COVID-19 crisis might have been the impetus and the much-needed fervent clarion call to leaders to make meaningful and long-lasting changes in their firms before it is too late.

Today, with forward-thinking leaders slowing shifting towards a more human leadership style and growing demands for an empathetic workplace, there is renewed hope that the tide will finally turn on this burning issue.

In the next instalment of this series, I discuss the strategies that technology firms should adopt to solve the gender puzzle.

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.