Gender Dilemmas in Tech: Practicing Mindfulness
As a leader in the tech industry, I enjoy my executive role at PointSource, helping run a growing digital transformation firm working across many clients and industries. When I am asked to participate in women-in-tech speaking panels or events, I am happy to engage in thoughtful conversation with a variety of leaders.
Yet, my yes always comes with a little bit of reflection. I wonder how much longer this industry will have a heightened sense of awareness of gender. When will the focus stop being about who we are and more about the work we do?
One day we won’t feel the need to have an additional panel or a separate professional event to put a focus on the topic. Until then, I hope to leverage my position to encourage more thoughtful conversations about how we can navigate this unique position and create lasting change.
When I look to the future, I see younger generations of women in tech who can focus solely on doing their jobs well. The only way to remove gender barriers in the future is to eliminate seclusion today, especially in three key areas.
Men and women must work side-by-side in order to have the same opportunities. It’s important for teams to practice gender-blind collaboration because it breeds trust and higher functioning teams. All humans, regardless of gender, have strengths and weaknesses. If you comprise teams of the right people for the right jobs, with the right skills, and – even more importantly – the right combination of skills – then the outcomes will be better. When we encourage and push one another to achieve, this inspires us to succeed and flourish in our field.
Strengths Not Attributes
Too often women get labeled with gender attributes instead of strengths. For example, a woman might be put into a management position because a difficult team needs a “den mother.” Contrast this with a promotion for a woman who has a strength in consensus-building and is a perfect skill fit for a leadership role on an opinionated team. The outcome might be the same, but the perspective and rationale is very different. When positioned to the team, those harmful words will leak out, even unintentionally. Do you expect the team told they have a new den mother will perform better, or the team who is told they have a new leader intent on helping them align?
Highlighting the significance of unity is always the best practice. Equally essential, is the belief that women having more expertise in a certain area of work has nothing to do with gender. A woman with heightened knowledge of a subject or field should simply be labeled as a leader and celebrated as such.
Women in executive or leadership positions should embrace their enhanced roles while supporting other women in tech. When we present as a united, encouraging and pushing one another to achieve, this inspires us to succeed and flourish in our field.
Girl Like to Code (So Do Boys)
Like my 9-year-old daughter, many girls enjoy gaming and coding. And, not surprisingly, they like to enjoy their learning alongside their friends. And again, not surprisingly, their friends include both girls and boys. I watch carefully not to over index on too many girls-only clubs or lessons, lest the empowerment message instead turn into one of segregation. By giving young girls the right guidance and support, they quickly learn that their roles in tech are indeed integrated and productive — and most importantly their work is valued over and above their gender.
Talking about change isn’t enough, and real progress is being made. In 2016, there has never been more women in tech leaders, especially in the form of high-powered, C-suite executives.
With the right mindfulness from both genders, we can banish the issue of gender disparity.
Written by: Stephanie Lynn Trunzo, COO, Chief Digital Officer, and Partner at PointSource, LLC.