Women working in the technology sector should be taking more responsibility over their careers, according to speakers at the 2015 everywoman in Technology Leadership Academy.
At the event designed specifically to help women in the technology industry to advance their careers, speakers said that often women try to let their work speak for itself without using self-promotion to bring their achievements into the limelight.
Ines Wichert, psychologist and head of the diversity and inclusion centre of excellence at IBM Smarter Workforce, suggested that networking and self-promotion are extremely important for women as a springboard for sharing their successes.
“Men are much clearer of the next step than women – they know exactly where they are going,” she said.
Wichert also claimed work-life balance is becoming increasingly important to men as well as women, and ensuring as much work-life balance as possible is key to success.
“We need to work in an organisation which will enable our career progression,” she said.
Suggestions for taking charge of their own career advancement included finding a mentor or sponsor, finding a boss or supervisor who can help, networking, and taking risks.
Throughout the day, all speakers stressed the importance of mentorship in job progression, and Wichert stated that women often find it important to “debrief” to get a handle on a situation.
“Mentoring is great and is really important,” she said. “But if we want to progress, we need to be quite specific about the support and advice that we’re asking our mentors for.”
Putting your hand up
A common theme throughout the day was volunteering to take on more opportunities and Emer Timmons, president of BT Global Services UK, highlighted the best way to get more fulfilling job roles is by taking on more responsibility and taking risks.
“In your career you are constantly learning,” she said. “One of the best ways of networking and getting ahead is by putting your hand up.”
Timmons put an emphasis on trusting your instincts, claiming “the first instinct you have will always be the right instinct”.
To build your role and make yourself a good candidate for progression, she suggested women should be constantly thinking about what they can add to their portfolio that’s going to make them different.
“If people are shouting at you, they want something from you, they want you to help. This is a good sign,” Timmons said. “It’s getting out there and saying hello – people like people who volunteer.”
While Timmons accepted work-life balance is important, she put an emphasis on making sure you take on challenges and opportunities where you can.
“You’ll never get ahead just by doing your job,” she said.
During a panel discussion at the event, women holding a number of different roles in IT highlighted how they had progressed in their careers and what other women can do to get to the top.
“As women we definitely have to support each other more,” said Vodafone Global Enterprise fixed infrastructure specialist Rashada Harry.
She added that one of the things that had helped her in her career was understanding what her weaknesses are and relying on her strengths to get through.
“Don’t dwell on a setback,” Harry said. “Keep moving and know what the next option is.”
NBCUniversal director of broadcast services Sarah King advised that self-belief is extremely important, and said: “Listen to your inner voice, and tell yourself that you can do it.”
Although many of the lessons of the day focused on having clear career goals, Caroline Rowland, global HR director for ARM, highlighted that these can change.
She stated that having children and going on maternity leave led to a “resetting of what I wanted and what I thought was important”, highlighting the importance of regular reassessments of your direction.
Helen Lamb, executive director for managed infrastructure services for Fujitsu, shared some cognitive techniques for coping with certain situations.
“Mentally I was wearing the best pair of red shoes ever,” she said. “No one is going to mess with me when I’m wearing these shoes.”
Lamb also shared that focusing on fact rather than emotion in situations and ensuring a clear expectation is set when taking on tasks is important.
“Lose the emotion and take back to fact,” she said. “Try and set the expectation with these people when you’ve been given opportunities.”
Behavioural Coaching Institute master coach Nicola Murray also gave a session at the event on personal branding and how being aware of how others view you can affect your career.
Her session focused on three key areas that women should be aware of: Do you have clear perception of your personal brand? Do you know what sets you apart? And do you know how your personal brand influences your career?
The session explained there are several layers to a personal brand, including identity or how you stand out in comparison to others, and meaning, which takes into account what others associate with you and how your unique skills and attributes are important to your organisation.
Also suggested was to consider people’s response to you, how you make people feel, what judgements people make about you and what you and your brand stand for.
Murray said that “by being vulnerable” and being yourself, “you’re opening up your career and opportunities”.
Sara Parsons from everywoman gave an interactive workshop called “ambition hour” that emphasised the importance of being aware of where you want to go with your career.
Using the mantra “what gets planned gets done”, she advised women should be taking one hour a week to write down their ambitions and plans for their future career.
“You should be taking an hour every week,” Parsons said. “Step out to be able to look in.”
She also emphasised that many women brush off achievements and say they or other people are “lucky” when what they have is really the result of hard work.
Sara Parsons, everywoman
“Don’t palm off the things that have come to you as luck,” Parsons said. “We think people are naturally good at something, but they probably worked really really hard to get there.”
The subject of volunteering was raised again and Parsons explained a lot of success is “about being able to put up your hand and saying you can do that”.
She also highlighted the importance of resilience to women both in and outside of their careers, and said women often attribute success to “bouncing back”.
“Some people get thrown down and they just lay there,” Parsons said. “Being resilient doesn’t stop you from experiencing stress and it clearly doesn’t prevent life’s difficulties.”
But although taking on a lot can help to advance a career, she highlighted even the smallest change can make a positive difference.
“Don’t try and change one thing by 1,000%, try and change one thousand things a little bit,” Parsons said.
She also made it clear that women should be reassessing their careers regularly and writing down their goals, while everywoman founders Maxine Benson and Karen Gill also highlighted this as an important step.
According to Benson and Gill, you’re 36% more likely to reach your goals if you write them down. They also put an emphasis on getting more women into technology-based careers and using this as an opportunity to inspire younger women. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” said Gill.
To promote science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers, the day ended with a social media session which encouraged the participating women in technology to take a selfie to post on Twitter while displaying the hashtag #WomenDoTech.