As different as they were, Katherine Johnson, Hedy Lamarr, Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper and Ada Lovelace all had one thing in common. The NASA mathematician, a movie actress from Hollywood's Golden Age, a Naval Commander and an English Countess were women in technology who blazed a trail for future generations.
Indeed, women in technology have been making an impact for hundreds of years, despite limited access to some professions and unconscious bias in the workplace.
As you might have guessed, greater diversity in the workplace leads to greater success. A McKinsey & Co. study found that diverse teams, including those with more gender diversity, are more innovative, creative and associated with higher profitability. And technology itself can build up peace and reduce gender inequality, according to the United States Institute of Peace, by breaking down social barriers and fostering communication.
As we celebrate International Women's Day 2020, with the theme "An equal world is an enabled world," women everywhere share their insights on how to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, improve circumstances and celebrate achievements. At Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS), senior leaders reveal words of advice on equality in the workplace gleaned from their decades of experience in the field of IT.
1. Take on new challenges. One of the surest ways to advance your career is to take on more responsibilities. This shows your initiative and uncovers new areas of development and opportunity.
Colleen Demetor, Vice President of Contract Administration for Sungard AS, says, "The professional growth opportunities I've had in my career stemmed from my willingness to take on new tasks – no matter how simple or complex – and my eagerness to share my knowledge with others. This approach has not only empowered me, it has also empowered others."
By broadening perceptions of your job, your role and your responsibilities, you begin to challenge stereotypes about yourself and open yourself up to further growth.
2. Speak up and share your unique perspective. Shawn Nelson, Senior Director, Cloud Services Product Management, advises women to "always remember that conflict drives innovation."
While the idea of conflict in the workplace may sound negative, it can lead to new ideas, effective negotiation, more simplified organisational structures and sharper leadership skills. According to research released by Fierce Conversations and Quantum Workplace, nearly half of all employees hold back on voicing their opinions at work — whether to their colleagues or managers. But Glassdoor found that both "open dialogue" and "honesty" are traits that help employees get promoted. "Don't be afraid to speak up and share your unique perspective," added Nelson.
3. Know your worth and advocate for yourself. Karen Grafje, SVP of Global Human Resources, recommends that women take inventory of the value they bring to an organisation and make sure their managers understand the results they produce: "No one will advocate for you better than you will for yourself. In addition to working hard, knowing your worth and advocating for yourself are critical to your success."
Sungard AS backs this up with programs designed to help employees identify their strong points and actively use them to be more effective, efficient and productive.
4. Recognise each other's achievements. "I've been fortunate in my career to have worked with exceptionally talented mentors who have demonstrated the power of uplifting women in the workplace and celebrating accomplishments – big or small," says Karen Wentworth, SVP, Global Corporate Communications. "When we recognise each other's achievements, unique talents and perspectives, we have the power to drive unity and change for the better."
Not only can recognition boost confidence – it can lead to increased motivation and improved retention while lifting an organisation's reputation.
5. Don't just talk about diversity and inclusion – do something about it. Patty Boujoukos, Chief Compliance Officer, says leading companies don't just talk about diversity and inclusion; they back it up with action.
"Embracing things like work-life balance and offering flexible work arrangements for everyone goes a long way in creating a positive culture in organisations," she says. Diversity and inclusion not only help organisations meet compliance obligations – these critical initiatives can increase the overall bottom line with a more vibrant and representative workforce. "I have seen the positive impact these changes have made on the legal profession over my 28-year career, but there's still much more to do."
You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a Hollywood A-lister to build gender equality in the world. Sungard AS supports International Women's Day through its programs to address the growth and development of its employees and its ongoing efforts to help employees recognise their greatest strengths to improve self-awareness and relationships with their work, coworkers and managers.
For women in the workforce everywhere, not just in IT, it’s all about what you can to truly make a positive difference for women. See #EachforEqual or International Women's Day for more ideas and information on how to get involved in the campaign to accelerate women's equality.