Honoring Women’s History Month – women across the tech industry share their insights.

Women’s History Month is celebrated in March to illuminate the unique experiences women go through. While not every woman has shared the same journey, it is important to be aware of the differences as we reconsider how to make a more equitable world. We interviewed several women in different parts of the tech industry and asked what they had to say on the topic of being a female in their industry.

Women in Storage

Annemie Vanoosterhout, release and project manager, Datadobi

“While the sentiment of Women’s History Month is by no means limited to one month of the year, it is important to use this time to reflect on breaking biases. Many of the struggles women face is the perception of what they can and cannot do.

For example, in the technology field, you typically see a lot of women in marketing or HR roles, a small percentage in product or engineering roles and even fewer in leadership roles. The reason for this? Both the lack of visibility and effort on behalf of companies to encourage women to apply for technical and leadership positions.

At this time in history, we’re at a crossroads. We’ve made great progress in breaking some of the stigmas surrounding women in tech, but have a long way to go. I would like to challenge women and allies to women everywhere to show their support in a number of ways. Look within yourselves to find what beliefs you may be carrying that are continuing to contribute to the problems in the workplace women face. Are you giving the ideas of the women in your office the same thought to which you give the suggestions from the men? Are you interrupting the other women in your office and giving them opportunities to speak up? Do you consider the women just as much for promotions and project leads as you do the men? Although we like to think the best of ourselves and don’t mean to intentionally harm, evidence may suggest we do not. We all have biases, innately. Let’s break them together.”

Women in eMail

Celeste Rance, director of engineering at Mailgun by Sinch

“As tech has a higher barrier to entry for women than many other industries, it is important for women that have an interest in tech to understand that they are responsible for growing themselves and to take advantage of the information available to them. However, at the same time, you must know that mentors and building good relationships will be crucial to success. First, you need to make a plan for how to grow yourself and make yourself more valuable to the organization. Think about where you want to focus for the next few years in your career. Then find the training, conferences, meetups, or certifications that you need to meet those goals and ask if your company has a training budget to support your growth. You will never know if you do not ask.

Secondly, surround yourself with people that will help you grow and develop new skills. After you make it through the first few years in this field, chances are that you will have made several professional relationships that have helped you grow. In return, it’s fair that you help the women next in line grow, too. On Women’s History Month, I advise any women looking to break biases to spend time building and nurturing meaningful relationships with those near them in their industries. Whether you are a beginner or a novice, you can seek out and find a network to help grow yourself and, eventually, grow the community of women in tech. Don’t compete with other women as this is an outdated mentality that is counterproductive in the workplaces. Ask for help. Learn as much as you can. Know that when it is your turn, you will look out for opportunities to mentor and sponsor others.”

Women in eCommerce and Payments

Nicola Kinsella, VP of global marketing at Fluent Commerce

“This year we celebrate Women’s History Month with awareness. While it’s easy to gravitate towards the familiar and consume information that only affirms our beliefs, it’s important to give weight to the data and facts. There are still issues with gender discrimination, pay gaps, and unequal distribution of household labor that ripple through society. Organizations should be ready to adopt a proactive approach so they can combat these issues head on. Beyond that, choosing to see the good in others, instead of assuming based on unconscious bias, will be the only way we can begin to break our own predisposition.”

Lauren Vigliante, VP people, Forter

“Women’s History Month brings attention to the conversation around diversity and inclusion in the tech industry. While the tech industry has made strides to include more women in upper management positions, there is still a long way to go. There is a massive gender talent gap; as of 2021 women only hold 26% of executive, senior-level and management positions in S&P 500 companies. Tech organizations must break down existing biases to level the playing field as much as possible. As leaders, it’s essential to question if we are functioning in the best way we can and question how we can create a more collaborative culture.

The biggest key to making a real, impactful change regarding DEIB is transparency.

To improve Forter’s DEIB initiatives, we hired a consultant for perspective on how we could make deliberate improvements. She interviewed some of our employees worldwide and followed up with an anonymous survey to address the existing gaps and strategize how we could make Forter a more inclusive place to work.

While we still have a long journey to progress, the percentage of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in sales at Forter has grown 6% in under six months. Approximately 25% of our leadership roles are occupied by women, but we are working to increase this number as we attract and develop new talent. We’ve launched an internal mobility program to encourage people to apply internally for new growth opportunities. We’ve incorporated half-day Fridays in the U.S. and two Sundays off a month in Israel to improve work-life balance, and we plan to create employee resource groups to continue improving our initiatives in the future. In addition, We are making strides to create accountability within our leadership teams by incorporating training on diversity and inclusion. We are working towards building a more inclusive and welcoming workplace for all of our staff of all backgrounds.

By choosing to question existing biases during Women’s History Month and taking actions to flip the script, we can further contribute to building a more inclusive landscape for women in the tech industry.”

Women in Transportation

Bonnie Crawford, VP and general manager, Umo Mobility, Cubic Transportation Systems

“On this International Women’s Day, we celebrate women who are the backbone of the transportation industry. However, they hold only 15% of the country’s nearly 15 million-person transit workforce, and now is the time for change. Creating opportunities for women at all levels of the industry is essential, so they can prosper in their careers just as much as their male counterparts. One way to do this is for corporations to openly commit to diversity initiatives as they reinvent and restructure their organizations. To help amplify women’s voices, Cubic has signed the MobilityXX pledge, dedicated to increasing gender diversity in the transit industry. 

Ensuring that transportation solutions are more inclusive and designed to serve the women who ride and serve across transit organizations is a key goal of Cubic’s partnership with McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. Together they have launched the Centre of Excellence for Artificial Intelligence and Smart Mobility. The Centre of Excellence will be used to highlight the diversity, equity, and inclusion issues facing public transportation today and have experts come together to drive solutions.

It will be an exciting and productive year for diversity in transit and technology, and we are looking forward to making a difference together.”

Krishna Desai, senior global marketing manager at Cubic Transportation Systems

“On this Women’s History Month, we must turn our attention to the public transportation industry, which has quietly been influenced by widespread inequality for much of its existence. It’s a sector that in many ways is still stuck in a past when men took the bus or train to work while women stayed home to tend to their houses and families. Now, women are getting educations, pursuing careers and using public transportation as much in their daily lives as anyone else, yet they’re dealing with a system not designed for them.

Pricing, accessibility, and safety are some of the many barriers keeping women from being as mobile as their male counterparts. The only way to affect change in the industry is to put women in the driving seat and give them the power to make a direct impact. Giving women a seat at the table will help transit agencies better meet the needs of female travelers and ensure they can get to where they need to go safely and efficiently.

The future is bright for female leaders in mobility. In Mexico, Miriam Gonzalez launched GeoChicas to enable women to add critical services often overlooked by men–childcare, reproductive health clinics, and domestic violence shelters–to the open source maps that feed into Google and Apple. In the UK, Stagecoach made Carla Stockton-Jones the first woman to lead a private sector public transit organization in the country by appointing her as managing director. As more women take up prominent roles in the industry, it will be exciting to finally see public transportation that does more for women, by women.”

Women in DevOps

Lucy Zhang, senior digital designer at Plutora

“Women’s History Month is a time to reflect upon the roles and opportunities afforded to women, both past and present. It provides a chance to celebrate and recognize what women have accomplished across all ages and cultures and is a great reminder to continue to support each other!

The biggest barriers in technology for women are what we believe they can accomplish and attitudes surrounding that on an educational level. Most people can agree that the idea that women are better suited for certain types of work is outdated, but this notion still permeates society and is difficult to tackle head-on. It’s important to support STEM activities designed to get girls interested in tech at an early age. Female mentorship, role models and leaders are also crucial for giving women that voice and sense of belonging in the space.

The activist Marian Wright Edelman said, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ Women are self-selecting out of tech due to a lack of role models in the space. We need access and exposure to tech programmes at an early age, fostering a community where girls can feel comfortable and empowered to pursue a future in tech.

When I started my career, I didn’t fully understand the importance of networking and had a heads-down approach towards working—it was all about producing deliverables. Of course that’s a big part of it, but it’s equally important to have a support network and to be open to having those conversations that may not immediately lead to tangible results but impact the higher level decisions and culture of the workplace. Having mentors, seeking advice and delegating when needed instead of trying to solve all of the problems individually has had a great impact on my work in the field.”

Women in Enterprise Software

Megan Campbell, marketing manager, xSuite North America

“This Women’s History Month, we should take time to reflect and thank the women who have done the “heavy lifting,” so that moving forward, we’re able to normalize women having careers they should have been able to all along. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry means empowering those who might be hesitant to enter it in the first place. Like the old saying goes, ‘if not you, then who?’

Most women have faced gender bias in some capacity throughout their careers. To #BreaktheBias, I encourage people to speak up when faced with this kind of adversity. The only way to combat bias—whether conscious or unconscious—is to educate others and address unacceptable behaviors, whether you are the one experiencing it, or witnessing it happen to someone else.

Beyond individual contributions to #BreaktheBias, organizations must be aware of their company image, too. There should be equal gender and racial representation in marketing efforts, company spokespeople, and leadership positions. As we move closer to gender equality, we must understand the necessity for all of us to play an active part in moving the needle forward.”

Rebecca Murtagh, CMO, Modo Labs

While we celebrate the many milestones and gains women continue to make as we observe Women’s History Month, we have to recognize that while 2020 saw the number of women in business rise, the pandemic shift to remote work drove a setback, with women’s jobs almost twice as vulnerable as men’s. As a veteran of the tech industry and mother of three, I have certainly felt that pressure.

There’s also reason to be hopeful, as innovations open the door to re-thinking the workplace. Apps are available today that enable true collaboration and connection with colleagues, managers and mentors, enabling equity without requiring proximity. The hard part is going to be in shifting our thinking and policies to actualize the opportunities these technologies present. I’m proud to be part of a company and industry that enables that shift, and encouraged by the energy and openness of many companies across industries to embrace technology as a catalyst for new ways of working that can help both women and men.

MarKeith Allen, senior vice president and managing director, Diligent Mission Driven Organization

“As an organization focused on empowering the decision makers and leaders of nonprofit, government, education and healthcare organizations to be the most effective they can be, honoring Women’s History Month is especially timely for us. As a society, we have just experienced a groundbreaking period of social reckoning around all aspects of diversity, including gender, economic and education inequality, which all started well before the pandemic, but now have been exposed in a much more revealing light, as a result of a global crisis.

As a company, Diligent has been committed from the start to gender equity, diversity and inclusion and we are proud to host several initiatives designed to support women’s career paths in marketing, engineering and product development.

This Women’s History Month, we salute all the amazing women on our team as well as the many women clients, customers and partners who join us in our mission to continue to support all who are oppressed, overlooked or treated unequally.

We are all being called upon to lead in a new, technologically and globally-inclusive world where issues of inequality are at the forefront – and gender, racial and economic disparities must all be eradicated. The question is, how can we all lead in our individual and collective roles to affect these changes? Technology tools may be the key, helping to level the playing field and empower everyone.”

Women in Security

Wanda Miles, manager, PMO at Exabeam

“On Women’s History Month and beyond, we must remember that more diverse teams lead to higher revenue. Companies should have long been regarding diversity as a core goal not only in terms of demographics and representation, but also in terms of business objectives. Those that do set themselves up to thrive, as in the case of Exabeam.

In 2013, Exabeam created the ExaGals to support and empower women within the company and in the tech community. In 2020, we formed the CommUNITY Council to create an environment that becomes more diverse, inclusive, and aware of the unique experiences of underrepresented groups. These initiatives are joined by our Exabeam Cares program that aims to give back to the community through education and opportunities for underrepresented groups in the industry. Exabeam’s core focus on diversity in the workplace contributed to a record-breaking 2021, and there is no sign of that success slowing down anytime soon.

Beyond internal programs, businesses can make a lot of progress by being creative in diversifying the talent pool. They can establish scholarships for students from low-income households and other marginalized backgrounds and visit schools in underserved communities to meet students where they are. It’s especially important to reach out to students of all backgrounds when they’re young, as 80% of students will have made up their mind on their perceived ability in math and science by the eighth grade. Moreover, companies should expand recruitment efforts to include candidates with less conventional educations such as GEDs and community college.

I encourage company executives to pledge this year to give people of all races and gender identities the power to tell their own stories, tread their own paths and pursue their own ambitions in the tech industry and beyond. We’ve come too far to settle for anything less.”

Gal Helemski, CTO and co-founder, PlainID

“Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate successful women in technology — and all career fields — while also seeking to make changes that break the bias we still see when it comes to making career choices. While there has been an influx of women pursuing careers in technology, women only make up 11% of the global cybersecurity industry with less than 1% of them in C-suite leadership positions.

Taking leadership roles in cybersecurity is important for everyone, but sometimes women don’t view it as an option. I’m proud to be in leadership for a company that now consists of more than 40% of women. I’m grateful that I’ve showcased that it is possible to succeed as a woman in technology, and I hope to encourage more women to pursue careers in cybersecurity.”

Andrea Edmonds, CPA, CGMA, chief financial officer at Cyber Security Works
“I have been engaged in information technology for the last 25 years. With the growth of the global internet of things, it was clear that a robust cyber defense was necessary. I spent the first 20+ years of my career at Arthur Andersen, PwC, and Intel. I left the corporate world in 2017 to join my first startup. I was fortunate to receive two offers from cyber startups, and I knew a cyber investment fund manager. I shared that I was looking for challenge and collaboration in culture, and he recommended the New Mexico firm, RiskSense. I joined RiskSense as I am passionate about startups in New Mexico, my home state. 

At RiskSense, I met the founder, Srinivas Mukkamala, who has been a mentor since. The culture at RiskSense allowed me to move from accounting/finance to help marketing and sales work on significant business challenges. I also met the co-founder of Cyber Security Works (CSW), Ram Movva, in 2018 as RiskSense worked with CSW as a close partner. I was honored to be offered the CFO role at CSW in 2021 when CSW opened its US headquarters. The mentors I have worked with through my cybersecurity journey have made all of the difference in my career. I am honored to work with passionate, open-minded, and intelligent people in a dynamic field on these significant cyber challenges. 

On CSW how is breaking the bias with regards to gender disparity in the cybersecurity industry:

At CSW, we are working to increase women’s awareness of cybersecurity as a great career field for women. We are hiring a diverse leadership team through mentoring and hiring women into leadership roles. We see more and more women join the company every day.”

Caroline Seymour, VP of product marketing, Zerto, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

“Women’s History Month represents a vitally important time to celebrate how far we have come together, but also to reflect on how much work still remains to be done. We must continue to reinvigorate and refresh women’s equality movements and persist in our support and encouragement of all the young girls and women out there.

Coming from the technology sector myself, I am acutely aware women remain significantly underrepresented. In fact, it was recently reported that in 2021 tech roles held by women increased by just 2%, with cybersecurity found to be one of the least gender-diverse sectors.

Awareness and sensitivity to the gender gap issue is stronger than ever, but there is still so much more to be done. For example, some initiatives that are realistic and can be easily implemented today include, creating gender-neutral job descriptions, ensuring women are part of the interviewing team, ensuring that interview rounds include diverse candidates, conducting regular pay equity reviews to attract and retain candidates, offering mentorship and advancement programs, and regularly evaluating hiring and promotion processes to eliminate bias.

Of course, the lack of diversity in tech is not a problem solely facilitated by the employment sector, for many, the issues begin far before entering the workforce. Young girls face notable obstacles from very early on in their schooling, whether that is unconscious bias, or being actively discouraged from STEM subjects. Therefore, by the time they are making career choices, many have not taken on higher STEM education and therefore do not have the necessary qualifications to enter the science and technology sectors as easily as their male counterparts.

To truly begin making significant changes to the industry we not only need to implement progressive strategies to hire and retain women in tech, but we need to start doing far more to mentor girls and encourage them to maintain STEM studies into higher education. After all, gender parity in the workplace is not a one-sided victory, diversity of thought is invaluable to any company and it simply cannot be achieved without bringing women to the table.”

Julie Giannini, chief customer officer, Egnyte

“This year during Women’s History Month, we celebrate women all over the world who pushed forward so others could thrive. While the journey is far from over – with women in leadership remaining underrepresented and gender biases still prevalent across many industries – we can take the time to celebrate the women who got us here, as well as those who keep pushing.

I’ve seen this not only in my own family through the hard work of my mother, who immigrated to the US and is still working as an interpreter at 85, but also in all of the women who have inspired me over the years. A longtime colleague and mentor of mine often saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself and was able to help me adjust my career path along the way. Her support and advice made it easier to navigate the unpredictability of life.

The recent Winter Olympics was a palpable reminder of how everyone wins when they can get to their own starting line. Beginnings can look different for everyone, but running your own race and doing it intentionally, and with care, will inspire those around you to achieve more. As leaders, we must always be prepared to elevate others and push everyone to their full potential. This makes all of us stronger.”

Arti Raman, founder and CEO at Titaniam

Upon reflection of my role as a female founder of a tech company, I realize that I am one drop in the bucket in the widespread market of technology founders. Yet when I show up to events, it never ceases to astonish me how rare it is to find other women in this space with me. I have been to conferences where I’ve skimmed through the speaker list and found myself to be the only female in the lineup. When I went to present to the audience of 50, there were two women in the room with me. This is statistically supported, with women making up 28% of the STEM workforce and research which shows that girls tend to lose interest in sciences and technology subjects when they are as young as 12.

One of the most important things I will ever do as a woman is be a role model. That is, to stand where I am, as a proud woman in technology, and to believe in the next generation of girls choosing their careers, and the women already in the workforce with interest in joining the field. I am where I am because people down the line believed in me, and knew that I could do the things I set out to do – from getting my advanced mathematics training to creating my encryption technology to filing for patents to founding the company with those products. I stand where I am now, with the message to girls and women everywhere that it doesn’t matter what is expected of you or what society tells us we should accomplish based on our gender. I want girls and women everywhere to know that they are good enough, and they can do it. More so, I would love it if you did. I would love to see you here, in this space, with me. We need you.

Kathy Gormley, principle solutions engineer at Resistant AI:

“Women’s History Month is the time to celebrate women and their successes. While the number of women entering traditionally male-dominated industries such as finance and technology has increased, there’s still a lot of work to do to level the playing field. There’s something powerful about seeing women succeed in these roles because it can give other women a sense of visibility and a push of confidence. It validates and reinforces the idea that they, too, can go down this path and make history.

I recommend finding a talented and driven network. Having a solid network and mentors to look up to creates a sense of unity and helps give that extra nudge. I wouldn’t be where I am today without a strong support system of female leaders and peers who pushed me to reset boundaries and be fearless with my career. I hope that I am able to empower a whole new generation of women to take up prominent roles to help others make a transformational shift and close the gender gap for future generations.”

HR

Juniper Emnett, product manager at Wisetail

“For a long time, through many different fights for equality, the responsibility to strive for change is often put on the group that’s facing oppression. However, the biggest impact often comes when those with privilege set it aside and focus on making changes in their own minds and communities. Women’s History Month is a call-to-action for those who hold biases or recognize them in organizations and take the responsibility to right the ship.

At Wisetail, one way we break the bias is ensuring that all team members are offered time off and support for things that have previously been characterized as ‘women specific.’ Things like doctors appointments, sporting events or school commitments have flexibility for all genders, and Wisetail empowers all employees to be the best parents, partners and valuable participants in their communities that they can be.

It takes work and intention to break habits, biases and thought patterns that view people who aren’t like you as less valuable, less worthy, or less qualified. It’s uncomfortable work that can initially leave you feeling ashamed of past behaviors and beliefs, but persist, because a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination is a bright light at the end of that tunnel.”

Richa Gupta, CPO (chief people officer), Globalization Partners

“As a proud immigrant who was raised in a small city with limited resources and who came to this country from India with just $4,000, a suitcase and a big dream, Women’s History Month has a very personal meaning to me. Today, I’m Chief Human Resources Officer for a global employment platform that makes it easy to hire anyone, anywhere, no matter where they reside. I’ve witnessed how the acceptance of hiring talent remotely has been particularly and positively impactful for women. With newfound access to jobs, women do not have to leave the workforce in the significant numbers they did due to the pandemic sacrificing their professional and financial wellbeing. Families, and even communities, can stay intact.

Women’s History Month is also a great time to remember the importance of how all employees feel about their workplace – most notably, in relation to feelings of inclusion, fulfillment, happiness and trust in leadership. It is my core belief that from recruitment, to development, to establishing inclusive policies, all businesses must strive to prioritize inclusion across every aspect of the organization to further accelerate progression. It’s so important to be conscious of what a balanced and inclusive team looks like, to integrate people from all walks-of-life with empathy and to be cognizant of what it takes to achieve this.

We all know we have a long way to go towards equality for women worldwide, but I do believe that as the world of work continues to change and adapt to more remote work and autonomy, women (and all genders) will find that geography no longer dictates their destiny. I believe that if you include and offer chances to women in a variety of roles and fields globally, you automatically ensure global inclusivity.

At G-P, we believe that our culture of inclusion starts with the power of the purpose of our company; it is co-created by our Dream team for care, community and belonging; further nurtured by our leaders with empathy, empowerment, and trust; strengthen by listening and educating our teams; and supported by inclusive hiring and talent practices. We believe that if you chase inclusion, diversity follows. I’m proud that our gender ratio is 47% women to 53% men in our entirely remote, global team of over 900 employees (and growing!) worldwide. Together we must champion and celebrate the successes of women around the world who are achieving great things.  Though we still have a long way to go in creating a more equal and just world, together is the only way we will get there. My advice for other women is to keep learning, keep networking, hone your skills and most importantly, trust yourself and your superpowers (yes, you have many!).”

Svenja De Vos, CTO, Leaseweb Global

“In 2021, Deloitte Global predicted that large global technology firms, on average, will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforces in 2022. While these statistics paint a rosy picture of the progress to minimize the gender gap, we still have some work to do. This year’s Women’s History Month, I think it is critical for women already in the technology field to express their enthusiasm for a career in the industry. After all, if we don’t, how can we expect more women to be encouraged to be involved?

It is of the utmost importance that we teach young girls that women are successful in the technological realm. Despite the fact that there has been an influx of women joining the tech workforce in recent years, being a female manager in the tech world is still considered ‘abnormal.’ I encourage women who are leaders in the industry to speak about their experiences to the younger generation to entice young people to get them excited about a technical education or career.”

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