Celebrating International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day, we share the thoughts of some of the industry’s female leaders – and one man – on diversity and gender parity in business, STEM and more.

Elizabeth Hatt, director UK&I, Dell Boomi 
“It is essential to create an inclusive and collaborative culture that embraces the strengths and diversity of viewpoint that both genders offer. I fundamentally believe that far greater success is achieved as a result. If we can have equal representation, we should. One could say it’s a balancing act but this is no act – it is a reality; harnessing the characteristics of both genders makes us stronger as a team. To achieve these ends we, by necessity, need more women in STEM.

“How we do that is not an overnight process. We need to reach out and educate young women at school age, college and university. We need to do more in presenting STEM as an attractive space for a career. And we need to mentor those who have started careers in STEM. Mentoring matters, from the young in experience to the old.

“I have the privilege of working with outstanding female leaders in the industry, yet I cannot help but notice the pervasiveness of males on stage. The audiences are becoming more diverse and I believe there is an opportunity to address an under-represented portion of those audiences. We need more of a visible balance of gender representation that will in-turn encourage more women to step forward.

“I have recently returned to work as a new mother. Motherhood is a whole new world of juggling – not just logistics but emotions. Proudly, I work for Dell where support is available, provided and encouraged to do this – and many organisations could learn from this.

Michelle Senecal de Fonseca, area vice president, Northern Europe, Citrix
“The UK is on track to hit one million women in STEM roles by 2020, with a critical mass of 30 per cent female employment in such roles ‘within reach’, according to WISE. While we should champion such progressive development, there is still significant work to be done – as well as encouraging more young girls into STEM subjects, employers must support women in the STEM workforce to ensure that they remain there.

“The reality today is that women are often still required to do the lion’s share of domestic and emotional labour, in and outside of the workplace. Employers who can provide more flexible hours and a ‘work from anywhere’ culture will be more attractive to both women and men, as they look for ways to balance their busy lives. Changes in legislation to share parental leave are a good start in encouraging all employees to share the load at work and at home, but businesses need to provide a culture where all genders can thrive, regardless of their responsibilities outside of the office.

“Investing in improving gender parity isn’t just a nice to have. Research has shown a clear link between diversity and innovation: the most diverse companies are also the most innovative. However, gender diversity must go beyond tokenism to make a significant impact. A Boston Consulting Group study in Europe found that women must hold at least 20 per cent of management positions to see an impact on innovation revenue. Despite this, organisations faced with today’s challenging economic environment can rush to fill leadership roles – putting speed above diversity goals. Given the proven financial benefits of hiring a diverse workforce, STEM businesses that focus on speed of hiring alone will quickly lose out to the organisations prioritising the right balance of women and men in management roles.”

Mollie MacDougall, threat intelligence manager, Cofense
“Just last year, a report was released by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, revealing some of the excuses of FTSE 350 companies for the lack of women in boardrooms. Almost a year later, there is still a great amount of work ahead. Women continue to be underrepresented at the board level – especially in tech, and certainly in the cyber security sector.

“Today is the perfect opportunity to address this – starting by encouraging more girls to have an interest in STEM subjects from a young age. With the need for more skilled cyber security employees, women should be encouraged to explore a profession within this exciting field. There is a huge opportunity for businesses and schools to work in tandem to nurture, encourage and develop diverse talent to look at STEM and cyber security as a viable and lucrative career path, it just needs to be taken.”

Sam King, CEO of Veracode
“On International Women’s Day this year, let us champion all women and girls, and reflect on the contributions made by the women who have advanced issues of societal importance in all aspects of the world.

“At Veracode, we lead by example, and we’ve created an environment and culture where women in leadership positions are neither rare nor surprising. More than 30 percent of our employees and more than 20 percent of our leadership are women. It is important that technology companies are reflective of society as a whole. Diversity in our workforce – genders, sexual orientation, background, ethnicities, educational levels and other measures – is the key to ensuring that we grow stronger and more compassionate via the differences in our perspectives.

“This International Women’s Day is a celebration of women’s accomplishments, and a reminder to look at every person as an opportunity to create new talent for your company.”

Bridget Kenyon, Global CISO of Thales eSecurity 
“STEM industries can be difficult environments for women to pursue and create successful careers. International Women’s Day is significant for the global STEM community, and specifically the cyber security sector. It provides us with both a moment to reflect upon the outstanding work which women have already done, and a checkpoint to review our progress toward the future we want, where it should be as easy for women to make a mark in the sector as it is for men.

“Sadly, recent events are not driving progress. For example, cyber specialists have warned that the sectors reputation is putting promising students off a career in cyber security. Additionally, this month marks the anniversary of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a sign that there is a desperate need to increase the maturity of the sector.

“Many factors have led our sector to where it is today, and a lack of diversity has played its part. Going forward, those working to solve these problems will encourage apprenticeships and lateral movement within organisations; but lasting success will lie in shifting cultures and developing innovative approaches to inclusivity.”

“It’s great that the UK government has acknowledged the importance of tackling gender disparity in information security. Initiatives such as the GCHQ’s CyberFirst Girls competition are very positive, and as part of a coordinated approach by government and communities to initiate culture change, they can be highly effective tools. We are also seeing mentoring and school visits by women in STEM careers, as well as many ‘grass-roots’ groups such as Women in Tech, which encourage women to get together to improve their prospects, share successes and learn from challenges.

“The need for information/cyber security talent will continue to grow over the next few years, as businesses protect themselves against an increasingly sophisticated threat landscape while having to comply with legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Women may be under-represented in security today – but they can play a critical role in bridging the skills gap.
This International Women’s Day, let us celebrate what we have achieved, and let us plan what is yet to come – a bright future for women to share.“

Alison Dodd, UK MD of T-Systems
“It’s important, on International Women’s Day, to celebrate the achievements of women within technology. At T-Systems, with women currently occupying 30 per cent of the UK Management Team positions, I am proud to say T-Systems is leading the way in bringing diversity to the fore because it matters to our customers, partners and colleagues. There is more work to be done because gender imbalance is still dominating the UK technology industry as women still only take up 5 per cent of leadership roles.

“In order to keep the momentum up and develop more female talent within the UK tech workforce, we are delighted to sponsor the Rising Star category of the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards. We hope, by supporting internal and external initiatives, more female UK tech superstars will be developed to drive UK businesses forward.

“In addition to the Sponsorship of the Rising Star award, T-Systems is a signatory of the TechSheCan charter which pledges the business into positive action to address the current gender talent imbalance and ModernMuse which gives young women access to senior UK business leaders to answer questions on their working lives and to help shape their future careers.”

Mark Barrenechea, CEO, OpenText
“Gender equality is not just an issue that impacts women – it affects us all. When we work together to achieve gender equality, it will create a better future.
“There is no better time than International Women’s Day to take bold steps. Our managers and executives must be champions of gender equality. Organisations that achieve greater gender balance enjoy a stronger financial performance, improved collaboration and innovation, better client relationships and higher employee engagement. Diversity is a business issue and every voice can change the axis of the world.”