Today is National Women’s Equality Day. Of course, you know that women aren’t really equal to men. They’re underrepresented in boardrooms, they earn less than men, they face a tougher time getting promoted, and let’s not forget the impact that Covid has had — it stripped the workforce of large numbers of women.
And so while today is a day aimed to celebrate the19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote in the United States, it’s also a day to reflect on the progress, and lack thereof, that women have made in the workforce.
With that in mind, numerous female leaders in the B2B tech world sound off below on what National Women’s Equality Day means to them (their views gathered by Touchdown PR). Here’s what they have to say.
“Two buzzwords often used in the workplace by women in leadership positions are ‘lean in’ and ‘work-life balance.’ On this year’s Women’s Equality Day, I would like to emphasize that these terms set women in technology up for failure.
“In an industry plagued by gender disparities, it is not always enough or easy to ‘lean in’ or achieve ‘work-life balance’ for women. Unfortunately, both terms imply that if a woman works hard enough and asserts herself just the right amount, she can thrive at home and at work. What both of these terms fail to account for is the fact that succeeding is not solely the responsibility of individual women and completely disregards the barriers that societal structures can place around them.
During this holiday, I urge the industry to rewrite this narrative. In order for a technology organization to be successful, we need to foster an environment where women feel listened to and are encouraged to participate, while also feeling that they have a team of people to support them.” — Kate Nowrouzi, VP of deliverability and product strategy, Pathwire
Breaking the Image of a 1950s White-Collar, Middle-Class Male
“Women’s Equality Day makes me think about the paths that have been laid, the ones we’re fighting for, and the battles that we won’t be able to finish. The right to vote, the CEO position, equal pay, body autonomy, the presidency — there are a million and one fights we’ve had, and have to have — on the long, splintered road to equality. Each battle won is another brick laid down for future generations to walk further, so that humanity can evolve.
“I worry that we are not advancing that road fast enough. I know brilliant, talented and wonderful women who have pushed throughout their careers and I see them consistently held to higher standards, only to be paid less. Being expected to perform better and more consistently, yet not have the title. To be shamed for showing up as a whole person and not this ‘ideal employee’ made in the image of a 1950s white-collar, middle-class male.
“Yes, this day is about celebrating how far we have come, but it should also be a day that we remember with fury that there are more battles to win so that those who we mentor, those who we raise don’t have to have the same fights we have today.” — Kate Bachman, director of partner communications, ConnectWise
The Impact of Role Models
“It is disheartening to see young girls that excel in math and science decide not to pursue a profession in technology because of fear and lack of encouragement. We cannot wait until they get to age to enter the workforce to provide support; we must take action when they are young.
“Having female and male role models allowed me to be confident throughout my career. Understanding how women get work done in the field, how they handle complex situations, and how they get around barriers, is a wonderful learning experience. Likewise, I encourage women in tech to make themselves available to new team members. Strong female leaders from school age and beyond help level the gender playing field overall, and lead us to a more balanced workplace.” — Sandy Mahla, district sales manager, Datadobi
Maintaining the Pressure to Diversify
“This Women’s Equality Day, it is critical that as leaders, we remember that attracting capable people requires a commitment to showing them that they have a valuable seat at the table. It’s human nature to want to see someone who looks like us, someone we admire, in a role that we hope to be in ourselves one day. So by diversifying who we see in leadership positions and on corporate boards, we’re not just creating diversity as a lip service. We’re letting women and minorities know that there is opportunity for all.
“Several new initiatives, including work by the SEC and Nasdaq to require diversity on boards, have emerged recently. Namely, The Black Boardroom Initiative, which helps pair candidates with companies seeking directors, and an organization — with which I am proud to be involved personally— FirstBoard.io. This curated group of accomplished female executives in technology is working together to increase the representation of women on boards and at the highest level of corporate governance and management.
These programs aren’t just virtuous; they’re helping meet the increased legal requirements for diversity on public boards as showcased in the newly approved Nasdaq plan. It’s exciting that numerous institutions are finally taking notice of the benefits of the unique insight and expertise different types of people can bring to the executive team and board room. I predict this is just the start of something great, and the technology industry must band together to move this already amazing progress forward at an even more rapid pace.” — Sherry Lowe, CMO, Exabeam
Closing the Pay Gap
“The first Women’s Equality Day was celebrated 50 years ago, but still all these years later women still face challenges everyday. It’s common knowledge that women are still outnumbered in the technology industry, but what’s more cause for concern is that the gender pay gap is still an issue. Just last year, women made $0.81 for every dollar made by a man.
“As any business leader can attest, there are many things that you just can’t control. At Wisetail, we place our focus on the things we can, which has helped us create an environment to develop motivated talent. With this approach, we’ve been able to grow our workforce to a nearly 50/50 ratio. We didn’t get there with hiring mandates or gender-focused goals in mind but rather by putting an emphasis on looking for the most qualified and hardest working people we could find. The most important quality we look for in new hires is the ability to help us evolve and grow as a company rather than focusing on physical characteristics.
“This Women’s Equality Day, I encourage all business leaders to step out of their comfort zone and tackle difficult conversations head on. Don’t shy away from the uncomfortable realities of human existence; instead use those conversations to help you discover the best candidates for your team. You’ll see that this approach will naturally create a more diverse and successful company.” — Ali Knapp, president, Wisetail
“On August 26, and all year long, we can do our part in a variety of ways. To start, support the wonderful teachers that are extending hands-on STEM learning opportunities to all and cultivating an environment of gender equality. In addition, actively advocate for educational programs that show real world examples of successful women in technology, which can in turn provide inspiring role models.
Next, champion female-based internships and hiring at your organization (not just the right thing to do, diversity optimizes business processes and creates competitive advantage for your company).
And, are you a woman in technology or marketing? Then, please consider acting as a mentor. There are numerous organizations around the world focused on such mutually rewarding opportunities.” — Samina Subedar, vice president of marketing, StorCentric
A Focus on Relationships
“My hope for women in tech is to not only take an active role in your own career but also focus on connecting and building relationships with other women. Building connections, seeking out a mentor or becoming a mentor yourself are all rewarding ways to continue to grow, learn and lead. We can all benefit from building relationships that challenge us and help us to thrive personally and professionally.
“Since becoming a mother in addition to a working professional, the support of family, friends and colleagues has been instrumental in my success in the workplace. In order to progress and really drive forward issues related to women’s equality, we also have to keep ourselves whole. That means different things to different people; for me it’s maintaining a good work-life balance. With two demanding kids myself, I’ve found that setting clear boundaries between work, family and personal time have allowed me to minimize stress and maximize productivity.
At the end of the day, Women’s Equality Day is about uplifting each other and making sure all women have the tools and opportunities to succeed. Trust your intuition, seek out the resources you need and find the connections that drive you forward.” — Michelle Fitzgerald, director of demand generation and events, Plutora