Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do?
I am the Global Head of Field Marketing for a company that offers software, hardware, and services to maintenance teams to optimize asset performance. It’s definitely a male-dominated world and while my company is making a lot of steps towards reducing the gender gap, there is still a long way to go. Many of our leaders are women and that is something I appreciate here. There are a lot of initiatives that are with and about women.
Did you always want to get into the tech industry? How did it all come about?
I began my career as a clinical psychologist but following a trip to India that was initially meant to be a six months project, led me to marketing and then to tech. I was fascinated by the level of innovation all around me, the fast pace and the team dynamics. I felt challenged to learn and grow outside my area of comfort and I became incredibly interested in AI. I started attending Meetups and even became an organizer and I met people that I saw as mentors that offered me a different perspective. It’s a sector where you can quickly see your contribution and impact.
Is there anyone in particular in the industry that you look up to? Why?
That would be Ada Lovelace, the World's first Computer Programmer. This is a bit ironic considering that she was the daughter of a romantic poet - Lord Byron. The first algorithm intended to be executed by a computer was designed by Ada who was a pioneer in the field. Imagine the social boundaries she had to overcome to achieve that. A lot of her work was attributed initially to Charles Babbage. Or look at Johnson, Jackson, and Vaughan, the three women that made the Friendship 7 mission in 1962 possible. It was the launch that put John Glenn into space as the first American to orbit the Earth. These women were members of a group of “human computers” responsible for calculating flight paths and other aeronautical measurements necessary for NASA to win the space race. Yet only decades later anyone knew about their achievements. These women faced a myriad of struggles as they navigated civil rights and gender inequality issues while performing groundbreaking science. You cannot be but inspired. That is passion!
Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?
100%, there is a lack of women in tech. I think an important factor is the absence of role-models for women within the sector. The gender stereotype of ‘boys being better at science’, ‘women are too emotional and incapable of making fact-driven decisions’ is still strong. Diversity is not only beneficial but crucial in the success of any company. Society is slowly addressing that with children’s books that have a female hero instead of the princess that gets herself into trouble and waits for prince charming to rescue her. We shouldn’t go to extremes, of course, but there should be diversity that resonates within the mind of all little girls and boys.
Have you experienced any biases in the tech industry?
I did and still do. Some I don’t even notice anymore. Others can’t go unnoticed and when possible, I address them. However, one in particular has shocked me. A few years ago, I was approached by the recruiter for a Canadian tech company. I had a few interviews with the HR team, the hiring manager, people in the team and I was really excited about the product. I told myself that would be a product I would be excited to sell. The company culture seemed to be great as well.
My last interview was with the VP of Sales EMEA. I was very excited because you don’t often see a woman in these roles, and this was a position I was supposed to work very closely with. Towards the end of the interview, she made a comment that shocked me so much I couldn’t even react to it. She said: ‘I think you are a great fit, also the fact that you are young and good looking is great for the team; the team needs fresh meat.’ It took me quite a bit of time after the interview to process what had happened. I think the fact that she herself was a woman saddened me the most. As you can imagine that was not a company I wanted to work for.
How we can encourage more women to enter the tech workforce?
Probably the two major steps would be to encourage female role models and work towards managing bias. Encouraging an open dialogue and discussion around the bias and the bullying women can face is another important step. This will create a sense of safety and support for women in the workplace.
Do you think company initiatives to encourage hiring women have worked? If not, why?
We are definitely moving in the right direction, but it will take some time until the ‘bias in tech’ conversation will phase out. You see many companies emphasise the need of hiring women in tech or in leadership positions for that matter and you get these fancy pie charts showing 37% of the leadership roles are covered by women. Yet when you have a closer look, you see most of these roles are in Marketing or Human Resources. Not to say those are not important, I mean I work in Marketing and that means I believe in the impact and value you can drive for the organisation in these roles. I am simply pointing out that you don’t see a lot of Chief Technology Officer positions covered by women and that clearly shows we have a long way to go. Right now, I think many organisations don’t fully understand the value of women sitting at the negotiation table.
What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?
Don't be intimidated! Be stubborn when you need to be, push your own limits. You are here because you are supposed to be. You deserve to be here. The tech world can be intimidating, and many women get discouraged. Find a good mentor! Teach yourself and don’t shy away from letting yourself be seen.