Women in Tech 2020 – Your Views: Part 1

License Dashboard is delighted to promote the achievements of women and bring together inspiring voices with words of advice and experience for young females who are joining the technology industry. Throughout our blog series you can read about the challenges these incredible women have overcome while they share their stories from working within this ever-changing industry.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, License Dashboard has worked with men and women in the world of IT to collect their thoughts, opinions and advice and help encourage women to join this industry and progress their careers. Welcome to Part one featuring:

Jeremy Boerger
Owner and Founder, Boerger Consulting
Ben Eagling
Marketing Manager, License Dashboard
Deborah Robinson
Business Manager, Software Governance, NBCUniversal
Andrea Zengo – President at WITSEC

 

Q: It’s now well known that a lot of industries have been highlighted due to pay gaps between men and women, do you think this is the same within the IT industry?

Jeremy Boerger: Very much so

Ben Eagling: Yes, I think men, in general, are more likely to ‘go-for-it’ and ask for more money or pursue something they may not be as qualified for or as experienced as they should be. Some organizations have strict salary bands where job roles are all within a certain pay level, but other organizations are all over the place in terms of this and people get paid what they can negotiate or whatever the company deems is suitable. I think this has resulted in pay gaps.

Deb Robinson: Absolutely.

Andrea Zengo: I experienced both. I worked for salaries less that a man receives in the same position, and now I reached the salary level which is fit to my position. Now I am a well-known expert in the IT security industry at Hungary and in the EU. This provides me the background to receive fair offers on the job market. However, I had to work hard for this. Harder than a man in the same field. I had to provide 150% more.

Q: In recent years there has been an influx of women in all workplaces, but it’s not equal to men, men are 30% more likely to be promoted to a managerial position than women. Why do you think this is and what can organizations do to prevent discrimination and maintain equality when looking at hiring, salaries and promotions?

Jeremy Boerger: I think part of the issue is a lack of proper understanding around how to measure and judge whether or not a candidate is capable at performing the job. Just because a person is capable of performing a technical job does not guarantee success as a manager of a team or project. Without a good measure to remove bias, directors (most of whom are male) will promote candidates they are most comfortable with (i.e., looks, talks, and acts like them). The other part, then, is a lack of diversity and bias awareness in business leadership. I believe unconscious bias to be real, and if a business leader is not made aware of his latent biases, then this trend will continue.

Ben Eagling: As mentioned, men being in leadership positions already will lead to a cycle of more men being hired into these roles. As well as the earlier point of men feeling like they should take the chance of going for these roles whilst women are naturally more cautious – clearly that is a generalisation, there’s huge variations at an individual level. Fortunately, I think we are exiting the age of gender stereotypes in the workplace (anyone seen MadMen?) but we are not entirely there yet. In terms of what organisations should do about this, I think getting educated on the benefits of gender balance (and personality balance for that matter) in leadership roles is a good first step. Once leaders realise that their business will actually be more successful with a balance throughout teams and management roles, then that will hopefully lead to discrimination being reduced. I also think mentors are important to younger people in general. Men and women need people they can look up to and learn from earlier on in their careers. It doesn’t have to be women mentoring women and men mentoring men. As with everything I’ve said, a balance produces the best results. Personally, I have learned a lot and felt empowered to progress my career by looking up to the female leaders I have worked for. I hope that anybody, male or female, who works in a team that I manage would feel empowered in the same way to progress as much as they want.

Deb Robinson: Oh, my! My answers to this would fit into a novella, if not a novel, so I’ll refrain from full answer and simply say: Lots. It begins with openness to the idea that one (individually or as an organization) is not already perfect, aka “humility.”

Andrea Zengo: Sometimes the culture of a country or a company not let to manage it differently. In a company, where most of the managers and directors are men, promoting a woman could generate rumours about the connections between the woman and the man promoting her. Let’s imagine the following situation. A new employee is arriving to the company. The manager of the team would like to help and being a mentor of this person. What will be the opinion of the colleagues? If this is a young man, the manager is a very kind person, supporting the newcomers and help them to reach higher positions. This is a very positive story. If the new employee is a woman, the manager may not afford to help her and support her in a similar way, because the colleagues may think that this is a beginning of a closer connection between them. The woman should work harder, provide more result to receive a promotion, because this may protect the one promoting her too. This is odd; however, I have seen it many times. Additional problem is them missing self-esteem of women, compared to the men. If a woman reads a job offer, they will evaluate it word-by-word and measure her knowledge and experience against the description in the job requirement. However, a man may read it quickly, and apply immediately if at least one statement is fit to him. We have to improve ourselves ladies to move out our comfort zone and apply for these jobs. And when we are on the job interview, talk about ourselves with the strong beliefs that we are the most appropriate person for that job. At companies there is a need to improve their culture too. They have to change their perceptions about the jobs, not seeking IT “guys” only. They have to evaluate the person, the knowledge and the motivation and not the gender. On the other hand, never employ a woman just because you have to increase the percentage of the women in the management, or in the IT. If a woman realizes that the only reason of hiring her was her gender will destroy her self-esteem and the company would have an employee without motivation to work. Teaching our managers, our HR is a key to the success. And also, our employees. If the company culture displays the equal care for men and women, this will work at each level.

 

Q: Have you witnessed women facing challenges because of their gender within working environments?

Jeremy Boerger: Yes. If not outright harassment, then undervaluing their skillset and results. What’s worse, I have seen women do it to other women.

Ben Eagling: Yes, one particular occasion always sticks in my mind. It wasn’t in IT but the example is still relevant. The organization I worked for had a female Chief Exec, I worked closely with her on communications. On this occasion a man at a different company emailed her one of the most condescending and unnecessary things I’d ever seen, basically accusing her of acting in a certain way that was categorically untrue. He would have never done it if emailing a male Chief Exec, or man in general probably. We sent him a pretty robust response back and he apologized.

Q: What’s the biggest professional challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?

Deb Robinson: In a prior job, I was punished by colleagues male and female in some pretty shocking, long-lived ways for my non-conformance to gender norms (including submissiveness). I changed jobs and found women colleagues who were vocal about supporting me and other women; at the same time, I celebrated the manager—and ally—who’d supported me both on the job and in the conversations he had with his own sons, which was AMAZING.

Andrea Zengo: I spent 11 years at a company in several positions, however never in a managerial position. Once upon a time I received a call, and I was asked to accept a position as a Head of the Security and Internal audit of a company. I was not sure. Spent nights to evaluate the pros and cons. I was close to saying “no”. And the next day I said “yes”. The first week was terrifying. I was not sure how I would survive. After 3 months we went smoothly through an important certification process without any problem. At that moment I relaxed and started to enjoy my new position.

Q: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom to women starting out in the IT industry?

Jeremy Boerger: Get comfortable with your inner mercenary. Know your worth, to your team, to your manager, and to your industry. If you find yourself under-valued or under-appreciated or under-paid, push back.

Ben Eagling: My advice would be the same to women or men starting out in the IT industry. The industry is so varied there really is something that will interest anybody. Concentrate on your own self-improvement in terms of your skills and knowledge – the hard and soft skills that are needed in your career. Those who take an interest and become engaged in what they do are those who progress. Find people who you can look up to and learn from, but also learn to be self-reliant. Confidence grows when you know what you are doing.

Deb Robinson: If you were told “you can’t trust women” (as I was, so many times growing up!), throw that out the window! Look for women who show signs of trustworthiness & know they are likely to be your best allies & advocates.

Andrea Zengo: The most important thing is to do this profession because you want to do it. Not because this is trendy, someone told you this is the way you have to follow. On the other hand, never accept an opinion against your decision. Never believe if someone says this profession is not for women. If you have the motivation, the desire being a professional on this field, go for it. You can do it. As I mentioned earlier, this way is hard if you want to do it alone. I did it, and it wasn’t an easy trip. Now you can find help everywhere. Find someone who could be your mentor. Ask help, if needed, accept help if offered. Work for your goal. Without learning you will be never an expert. This is true not just in the IT. And enjoy what you are doing!

Thank you to all of our respondents. Stay tuned to find out more thoughts, opinions and advice for Women in tech throughout March.

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Ben Murden

Ben Murden

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