Women in Technology
January 17, 2013
I truly wonder how many women choose a technical career path as opposed to accidentally finding themselves in one, as it was in my experience. I’ve been in some area of technology for the last 20 years from Sales, Sales Management, Regional Director and V.P. positions for smaller technical companies throughout Michigan.
At Microsoft, there’s a concerted effort to hire more woman and foster executive growth within the company. I’m very encouraged to see the Michigan organization, MCWT (Michigan Council of Women in Technology) and nationally, WITI (Women in Technology International).
2012’s 25 most powerful women according to Forbes magazine is a testament to the rise of female leadership in tech companies. The 4th most powerful is Melinda Gates, #10 on the list is Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, #15 Virginia Rometty the President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM, #18 Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, #22 Marissa Mayer, Yahoo Chief Executive Officer.
In my role at Microsoft, I am fortunate to be in a peer group with Senior IT leadership at Amway and have spoke recently with the females who are in those positions. The statistics at Amway for females in the field are very similar to the national average of 25%. Although, Amway and Microsoft strongly encourage more women in IT, the talent pool is still lower than men. Both women I spoke with have been in leadership/senior management positions for the last 25+ years. They agree that after the period of time of proving yourself to your peers and team it gets easier. Technical know-how, experience and knowledge are one-thing, but include the importance of choosing a company that matches your level of integrity and value system, this is very important to not compromise.
In the field of IT, the information changes almost as quickly as the wind direction. Staying on top of the learning curve is a challenge. Coupling the constant change and managing family and home-life is a tricky balance. Although multi-tasking is an art most women master well, this is perceived as a benefit to being in IT as the profession provides more flexibility than other career paths. Both women agreed with the importance of having a peer friend at work, someone to confide in. It’s also important for women to be cognizant about what is shared about your personal life with your teams as a manager. Find a way to connect with something that they like to do so you can relate. We all agreed that it’s important to identify a mentor and share your career aspirations. You are the best advocate for your career.
There are many different options in IT, customer service, deep technical knowledge or managing people just to name a few. Choose a path you are passionate about. One of the tremendous benefits of the technical field is the flexibility and plethora of choices to fit our lifestyle as a spouse and a parent. The advice given by myself and peers is for young women in the IT industry is to “stick with it” even if your job is entry-level. This is a start and an opportunity for a greater future. As your own advocate, a key component to your success is to get involved in local, national organizations and user group meetings to differentiate yourself and build your personal brand. This is equally as important as staying current on the latest technology.
This is the biggest launch year in Microsoft history with Windows 8 and Office 365 to name a few, being a part of the excitement and enthusiasm is a dream-come true as a woman in IT. I love technology, but my passion is people. Whether you are a peer, a customer, or you’re a barista from the coffee bar, my daily goal is to positively impact everyone I meet. I’m very blessed that I am able to combine my professional love and passion at Microsoft. I’m involved in SMSG Women, this group encourages individually strong, collectively powerful women to come together to explore their own career path and impact others.
Life balance and citizenship is a theme that rings all throughout Microsoft, without it success is highly compromised. I serve on a roundtable panel to mentor other young women around the world at Microsoft. As a result, I am working with a young woman from Bangalore India to prepare for her next career step. Other initiatives like DigiGirlz, which reaches young girls around the world to spark an interest for a career in IT. These are just a few examples of how being involved can make a difference. I encourage you to do the same.
As Linda Ellis quotes in her book, Live the Dash; “I will choose how this day goes, no matter what may come my way. I can only live this time, the minutes, the hours, the day”. Have you ever asked yourself what’s your passion? How are you going to live your minutes, your hours and your day? Whether you’re in the stage of deciding on your career path or changing your career path, there’s opportunity for you. Make it happen! Be the change!