Guest Column | August 25, 2020

Women's Equality Day Reflects On 100 Years Of Women's Efforts, Achievements

Are You Committed To Being A Better Leader?

August marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. A landmark achievement, many women remained excluded for decades. As women in the technology industry reflect on political, social, and financial achievements of women over the past 100 years, they also recognize that there is more to do in terms of working toward equality in the tech space.

In 1971, Congress declared August 26 Women’s Equality Day and this year, we spoke with a few women experts in tech to discuss the obstacles they’ve faced as women working in this industry. Along with their experiences, the women below offer advice on overcoming barriers and remark on what Women’s Equality Day means to them.

Sarah Martin, Community Content Developer, Exabeam

"As a technical writer early in my career, I worked with a group of men all of whom were at least two decades older than I. There were no other women to rely on for mentorship, so my role was quickly reduced to fetching coffee, taking meeting notes, and managing other people's schedules. While difficult at the time, this experience taught me valuable skills that serve me well to this day—advocating for other women and encouraging them not to be shy about confronting gender-based inequality in the workplace. Sometimes, difficult conversations are needed to realize a career benefit.

Breaking the status quo means allowing all voices to be heard. This is especially true for differently-abled women and women of color. We are seeing this movement among the young generation of feminists, as they stand as allies, and support all women, not just the ones who might look like them. When we all do this, we can begin to create true equity."

Yumi Nishiyama, Director of Global Service Alliances, Exabeam

“Young women in tech need to build their network. When we talk about being a strong woman in the field, we need to focus on not just hard work and a solid sense of self, but also the importance of relationships. Throughout my career, I have been able to surround myself with a strong support system. This Women’s Equality Day, I encourage young women to begin to start building their network immediately by finding a mentor to help them advance professionally and personally.

Some of the best mentoring moments happen when we least expect it. I recommend asking potential mentors questions about work, how they’ve handled specific situations, and how they have built their own networks. It doesn’t have to be formal; it could be a simple conversation over coffee. Asking an established person to be your mentor can seem daunting, but just think about how thankful they would be that you perceive them in that light. At the end of the day, it will be a gift to both of you.”

Crendal Kear, VP of Global Sales Operations, Exabeam

“While we’ve made strong strides toward a technology industry with more prominent representation of women and women’s voices, we still have work to do. As we consider the next iteration of technological advancements and the growing share of the global economy the industry represents, we must consider the next generation of women leaders in technology. To those future women leaders—be they just starting, in the throes of their successful career or only beginning to consider the opportunity of the industry—I have a few pieces of advice on this Women’s Equality Day:

‘Be curious. Stay curious.’ More than adopting a growth mindset, indulging your curiosity develops a comfort in asking questions, seeking counsel, and getting to the root of the question at hand. These two skills are invaluable to growing your career, serving equally when striving for the next phase of your career or creating the next groundbreaking innovation.

‘Choose your leader wisely.’ No one rises to the top alone, and it’s important to have strong advocates. A great challenge for women in tech is a lack of community and professional support. Choose a leader who values you, will mentor you, will empower your professional development, and will challenge you. Look for a leader from whom you can learn and represent your values. Working for a leader who took the time to invest in me professionally and advocate for me —and coming to fully understand the impact and rarity of such a situation—has been invaluable to my career advancement.”

Sam Humphries, Security Strategist, Exabeam

“For the first time, more than 1 million women are working in core STEM roles across the UK. This is an outstanding achievement, but we still have a long way to go. If you want to see new ideas and innovation and spark positive change, then you need different individuals who think, speak, and act in different ways, otherwise you’ll fundamentally end up with more of the same.

For the last three years, I’ve been involved in The Diana Initiative, which is one of the many conferences that take place at ‘Hacker Summer Camp.’ They’ve done an amazing job of creating a safe space focused on diversity and inclusion in cybersecurity, where participants feel comfortable to network and learn, and be inspired by speakers at a conference that embraces everyone. I’m also proud to be part of the ExaGals program, which looks to support and empower the women of Exabeam, as well as women in the technology community at large, with career development, education, and personal growth opportunities.

As more and more companies turn to a distributed workforce, it also will create more opportunities for women with family commitments to return to the industry. I hope that by supporting programs that expose and encourage women and girls to the possibilities of education and career in tech and creating more remote work opportunities, we can help address the skills shortage and lack of diversity by introducing new perspectives and problem-solving skills to the industry.”

Wendy Meyers, Director of Global Operations, Datadobi

“Women's Equality Day serves to remind us that while technology is still a predominantly male profession, it should be viewed and promoted as a profession for all. Despite some progress over the past few decades, the gender gap in technology continues to exist. From early on in childhood, girls need to be encouraged and know it is okay to ask challenging questions, disagree and debate, and dig-in and be hands-on. Above all, it must be made known to women that they too have the power to be trailblazers in the technology field and they should relentlessly follow their dreams.”

Brooke Candelore, Product Manager, BrightGauge, a ConnectWise solution

“As a woman in tech, an early challenge I faced was working in an environment where I was one of the few women in a largely male-dominated industry. I found that the key to success was gaining confidence - confidence in myself as a person and confidence in my abilities. As women, we need to empower one another and share our experiences of overcoming challenges.

Women’s Equality Day allows us to celebrate women and raise awareness of gender equality for a healthier, wealthier, and more harmonious world. I encourage organizations to hire people of different genders, backgrounds, and viewpoints. In the end, it is our differences that truly make us stronger.”

Nicole Sahin, CEO and Founder, Globalization Partners

"Women’s Equality Day is rooted in the celebration of the day that American women were officially granted the vote in 1920, and when the 19th Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution. It is now an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come to achieve greater equality, with great men, as well as women, championing gender equality in business.

Women are achieving leadership positions at an accelerated pace, within my organization 50 percent of my team are women – proof that diverse teams render better results. Also promising is that, according to McKinsey, today, 44 percent of companies have three or more women in their C-suite, up from 29 percent of companies in 2015. This is a reminder of everything that women can achieve, especially if they are in an environment that supports and encourages their success.

However, despite this progress, women continue to be underrepresented at every level: for every 100 men promoted and hired to manage, only 72 women are promoted and hired. From recruitment, to development, to women-friendly policies, Women’s Equality Day reminds us about the importance of prioritizing equality across every aspect of the organization, to ensure women's progress is accelerated further.

After all, there is so much to gain from companies focusing on creating a diverse, inclusive culture that attracts talent of all genders, ages, sexualities, and ethnicities. Time and time again, research shows that organizations that have a high percentage of diversity financially outperform their competitors. I’ve seen first-hand the powerful results that occur when people with different perspectives work together. By striving for equal, inclusive, and diverse organizations, we can make Women’s Equality Day an event to be truly proud of.”

Sofia Kaufman, CPO, Zerto

"On August 18, 1920, women in the U.S. gained the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. It took more than 70 years of protesting and combined efforts from both women and men to gain this right, which we celebrate today on Women’s Equality Day.

Even though 100 years have passed since the 19th Amendment was signed into law, there are many areas in which women are still fighting for equality. While topics like equal pay and the lack of women in male-dominated industries still need to be addressed, I want to encourage women across the world to use this year's Women’s Equality Day as a reminder of their worth. Women achieve amazing things every day, and we need to be celebrated in our success as much as our male counterparts are. It’s no longer time to be humble; it’s time to speak up, move up, and be proud of what we achieve."

Marilou van Doorn, COO at Leaseweb Global

“This year, Women’s Equality Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves that we need to get more women in tech. Just because an organization currently doesn’t have an equal ratio of men to women shouldn’t be a reason not to apply for a role it should be the opposite. When I first joined the tech industry, I was the only woman. After a while, my CEO confessed that he had noticed a positive change in the team, the atmosphere, and the overall way of working. My advice is to apply - don’t feel intimidated, be the cultural change the organization needs.

“It starts by focusing on quality recruitment. Through the right search, screening, and hiring methods, organizations can expand their talent pool and increase their inclusiveness. The key to this is to take away the unconscious bias when it comes to advertising job vacancies and the selection process. For example, use more gender-neutral terminology, allowing women to feel encouraged in applying for a role in tech. Organizations also need to ensure they are not just increasing the number of women they hire to fill the so-called 'pink quota', check that the people you hire, of all genders and diverse backgrounds, are being hired because they are the best fit for the role.

"An organization’s leadership team also plays a significant role in future talent wanting to grow and develop themselves in tech. We as a generation need to see more female role models come forward and show both the current and next generation that women can and will succeed in tech. It’s not just a man’s game. Women also can be the next CTO, COO, or CEO."

Samina Subedar, VP, Marketing, StorCentric

"Research shows that companies with a diverse workforce are more innovative, better prepared for decision making, and perform better financially than their homogeneous counterparts. Armed with that knowledge, it’s important to take stock of our accomplishments this Women’s Equality Day and reflect on where we can improve by recognizing who gets left behind. When we speak of women’s equality, we must factor in race, socioeconomic status, ability, religious beliefs and so much more. The poet Audre Lorde captured this sentiment when she said, ‘I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.’ Protests and conversations in support of equality have reinforced the importance of promoting a voice for all. As leaders, we have the opportunity to extend access to opportunities to women of all backgrounds. Diversity is good for business, but it’s also important to embrace our differences, fight prejudice, and actively promote inclusivity and equality in the workplace, now and in the future.”

Dalibor Siroky, CEO and Co-Founder, Plutora 

“It is important that every organization or team be made up of the best possible selection of people to achieve success. The way to do that is to bring together people of different backgrounds, perspectives, and genders. By combining diverse voices, you create a stronger team and encourage an environment of acceptance and equality.

With diversity being front and center and a positive force in nearly every aspect of our lives, it’s more important than ever to ensure that women’s voices are elevated and being heard. Isn’t that what Women’s Equality Day is about in the first place: commemorating the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote? With that barrier legally removed, we need to be aware of more subtle and cultural obstacles like unconscious bias and lack of diversity. It’s no secret that the number of women in tech is lower than we’d like to see, and we need to find ways to change that by integrating the voices of those in our industry equally. If we can do that, we all benefit.”