Based on demographics, there should be as many women as men in today’s IT organizations. But gender parity is still an aspirational goal rather than reality for many enterprises – especially in the senior leadership positions.
How can women IT professionals advance their careers? And what can technology leaders do to support their aspirations? This year, Enterprise Connect launched its inaugural “Spotlight Award for Women in Communications,” with an eye on recognizing strong leaders and role models within enterprises. Beth Schultz, program co-chair, Enterprise Connect, moderated a discussion with the awardees, who offered the following tips:
• Kristina Russell, director, Unified Communications, MedStar Health. “Find women in your industry who have similar positions,” she said. “LinkedIn is a great platform for professional connections. There is a lot of value in having like-minded people in your network.”
• Gauri Bhalerao, senior manager, collaboration, networking strategy, and engineering, Yum! Brands “You need to avoid over-thinking an issue,” she said. “Make a decision and don’t second-guess yourself.”
• Kim Corazzini, senior director, CX Transformation, Capital One. “Take your seat at the table and speak up,” she said. “Your voice is very important, so don’t mute your comments on a video call or sit in the corner.”
• Jennifer Berry, architecture director, voice infrastructure and contact center engineering, Cigna. She said, “Look at the gender-related data and make your leadership aware of the difference. Be factual, rather than emotion, and you can be a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion.”
• Josée Duchesne, supervisor networks and telephony, CCVP, information services, Pembina Pipeline Corp. “Get involved with other women in your organization,” she said. “Talk with other managers, and learn from their diverse experiences.”
Other ways to advance gender parity
There are plenty of other ways for IT leaders (men and women) to support IT career opportunities for women at all levels. Here are some suggestions:
• Expand the pipeline. Support high school and college students considering STEM careers. This can build relationships with academic institutions that can help to supply needs for entry-level positions.
• Recruit more women job candidates. “Your IT department can benefit from a diverse pool of candidates” said Russell. “If you’re not getting enough women applicants, work with your HR department, as well as the leadership team, to come up with a different strategy.”
• Hire women summer interns. This step can also be used as a “try-out” period to see if a pending graduate would be a good fit for your organization.
• Become a mentor. “As a leader, you can empower other women and support them with learning and career opportunities,” said Corazzini.
• Recognize and reward women achievers. For instance, Avaya sent out a global announcement when Jenifer Bond, vice president of U.S. State, Local and Education (SLED) Sales, was recently named to the 2020 list of 100 Rising Female Stars by CRN®, a brand of The Channel Company. She was recognized as one of the women who are helping to shape the future of the IT channel.
• Offer flexible hours and working arrangements. One result of the COVID-19 pandemic is that working from home is easier for many women caring for children or aging parents.
Finally, look at both barriers that may lead to a glass ceiling in your organization. Then develop a plan of action to empower talented women professionals to join their male colleagues on the leadership team.