Empowering Others in the Workplace – It’s Everyone’s Job
Discover the key takeaways from the Ascend 2022 Women in Technology Panel
Today, women make up only 25% of the IT workforce. This underrepresentation limits prosperity and growth not only for women but for the industry as a whole. Ascend 2022’s Women in Technology Panel sought to address this disparity and discover enablers for moving forward on creating more inclusive workforces. Panelists including Sandra Moran, Chief Marketing Officer, WorkForce Software, Sheryl Johnson, Partner, PWC, Phyllis Waud, Sr. Director Channels & Alliances, Syntax, and Susan Behn, VP Infosemantics, Inc., joined moderator Yvette Cameron, Sr. Vice President of Global HCM Strategy, Oracle to offer their insights on topics ranging from workplace bias to mentorship. Keep reading for some key takeaways from the conversation.
Overcoming Workplace Bias Is Everyone’s Job
Every person in every organisation has biases, whether they like to admit it or not. To overcome the impact of these biases and create a more inclusive workplace, the first step is to acknowledge and understand why these sometimes-unconscious judgments occur. The next is to make an active and conscious effort to not allow these preconceived notions to affect our decision-making and thinking. Susan Behn reminded the audience that these outcomes were not inevitable, “You can control your reactions and choose to not act on your biases.”
Sheryl Johnson shared how PWC leveraged data to pinpoint and address potential implications of biases. During promotion season, the company found that some employees were not being recommended for advancement despite their exemplary job performance. These discrepancies sparked conversations with managers that encouraged them to think more critically about their selections and to foster more opportunities for all employees to receive consideration.
Combating bias in the workplace requires a company culture where diversity is truly valued. Pulling from experience, Sandra Moran encouraged companies to focus less on the “what” and more on the “why” when implementing initiatives to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. Leaders must look beyond simple measures such as quotas and focus on cultivating consensus throughout the entire organisation on the proven advantages of a diverse workforce at all levels.
Moving from Awareness to Empowerment
Diversity, equality and inclusion are values communicated through action. Phyllis Waud shared a few of Syntax’s efforts to overcome workplace bias, such as its internal Women in Tech organisation that brings together women working in locations across the globe in every role to discuss how they can continue to advance in their careers. Waud also shared the company’s Trust Works initiative, highlighting the importance of trust in creating a culture of inclusiveness.
In a time when more people are working remotely, Susan Behn pointed out the importance of actively listening to coworkers. It is easy to turn off the camera and not engage. Showing interest in someone’s work and personal life can be a simple way to create a deeper connection and open a passageway to empowerment.
Redefining the Role of a Mentor
The mentor/mentee relationship can be an enriching and rewarding experience for both parties if done right. When asked how to find the right mentor, Sandra Moran highlighted the importance of clarifying what you are looking for in a mentor and what you hope they will do for you. Mentors are not mind readers, so it’s essential for mentees to be open, candid and prepared for feedback. Yvette Cameron shared the importance of being proactive as a mentee and unafraid to take full advantage of the relationship with their mentors.
Building on this conversation, Sheryl Johnson discussed how sometimes it’s not enough to be a mentor and how leaders can take more active roles as sponsors. She believes sponsorship holds a greater sense of accountability, requiring sponsors to prioritise their mentees and create an action plan for opening doors.
Bringing Your Whole Self to the Workplace
Across all industries, women share a common struggle with self-confidence in the workplace. To combat this, Phyllis Waud emphasised the importance of helping women discover their superpowers, specifically the unique skills and talents that they bring to their work. Sandra Moran echoed this belief, pointing out the importance of honing in on translatable skills such as problem-solving, attention to detail and organisation, especially in the fast-paced technology industry.
“If you’re saying yes to things that are going to keep you stuck where you are, you need to find better ways to say no to make room for the yes’s that are going to have the biggest impact on your career goals.”
Sandra Moran, CMO, WorkForce Software
The panelist also urged women to consistently seek feedback from their managers and fellow team members. Welcoming criticism in the spirit of learning and improving can reveal new ways to stand out, develop new skills and be competitive in your role.
For each panelist, the roads to their success came with their own unique twist and turns, roadblocks and false starts. It’s clear that while the journey for every woman will look different, they are paved with common stories of risk-taking, empowerment and mentorship. When organisations create company cultures where these values can flourish, they make room for more women and minorities to step into their power and lead change.
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