It’s OK not to be perfect, stress women in technology

Speakers stress ‘restless reinvention’ and not worrying about being perfect along the way at everywoman Academy

"Restless Reinvention" was the theme at the latest everywoman in Technology Leadership Academy, with speakers stressing the importance for women in technology to keep moving forward without feeling that they need to be perfect in the process.

At the event at Deloitte’s London offices, speakers shared their experiences and advice, highlighting how women have a tendency to strive for perfection, but tend not to draw attention to themselves along the way.

At the academy speaker Michelle Senecal de Fonseca, managing director cloud and hosting services at Vodafone, said her mother never talked about her own successes, always used humour and never showed how hard it was.

Senecal de Fonseca has an international telecommunications and technology career spanning 25 years with operational experience in more than 50 countries.

Now married with three children, she told delegates how her mother “used to say putting on pantyhose at 90mph was the hardest part of her day to never show how hard it was". 

"But my Mum always said to me ‘don’t marry a millionaire, make the millions yourself’- mothers are more practical,” she said.

Senecal de Fonseca has lived and worked in a wide range of countries and she questioned: “Was it hard being a woman? It had its ups and downs. Did I get those jobs because men didn’t want them? Jobs in countries with languages I couldn’t speak and new cultures? 

"Maybe I did, but I didn’t mind as I wanted the adventure.”

She stressed how women need to be more visible because “the global warming rate is going faster than the rate of females on boards.  This year is the first year that we have a woman on every board of the FTSE 100. You’ll find the culture in technology is overtly or in overtly discriminatory.”

You don’t have to be perfect

According to Senecal de Fonseca a successful female is usually disliked and this is why women can hold themselves back: “Boy, is it easy to dislike a successful woman. If you want to change something you will be disliked. It is a balancing act – you have to be authentic to yourself to move forward.”

She advised: “Self-confidence and esteem is fundamental for you ladies. You don’t have to be perfect and please stop apologising. You need to network and yes, you need to wing it a little bit.

“Take risks and pick the right partner. You need someone who will champion you along the way. You need the support at home or it will be a very lonely road ahead. Men respect talent. You can have all the game play you want, but you have to be good at what you do.”

As part of a panel during the academy Vicky Brook, CEO and founder of e-commerce technology company Clear Returns agreed, saying: “Be less worried about being perfect. Knowing that if you do something and fail, the world will still be turning tomorrow. 

"Don’t focus on what you need to improve, but what you are brilliant at. You make your own serendipity.”

Brook attributed her success to her drive to have the title of CEO, and having great people around her: “Having the title of CEO is a good one. I didn’t step back from wanting that one, and I’m not giving it up now I have it.

“However, I can’t do what I do without amazing people around. I select every member of team and will continue to select everyone. Me being able to step back will happen when I know other people are better at doing things then me.”

Shilpa Shah, programme director for Deloitte Delivery, said the company's women in technology network was started at Deloitte in 2007 to develop a sense of community. But she said the company realised it needed move the community forward from just networking to making a real change.

“This was a great start but then the question became, where and how to go from offering support to effective change? Measurement is key for instance, tracking graduates to ensure  they meet someone useful at networking events,” she said.

The importance of exposure

Throughout the everywoman in Technology Leadership Academy, workshops on career and leadership progression took place. During a workshop on "Navigating your political landscape", master class presenter Des Christofi highlighted the importance of exposure.

She said: “Men spend 1-2 hours a day on exposure, whereas women spend 1-2 hours a month.

“You need to work out and navigate the political landscape through your exposure and work with the unwritten rules of your organisation. Manage your exposure. When you verbally communicate do you contribute with conviction?”

Christofi advised the attendees to adapt their leadership style but not to compromise. “You’ll lose the authenticity. Be the strategic owl that has a collective focus and is aware.

“Use your personal power to find power, instead of waiting for it to come to you.”

Britain's first female jet pilot Jo Salter was present at the academy as a motivational speaker. Read more on her presentation here.

Read more on IT technical skills