Female CEO

If you were a fly on the wall in an Executive Leadership Team (ELT) meeting at Alludo, first of all, you’d be swatted or escorted outside. We take security seriously around here. But you’d also witness something interesting:

The ELT at Alludo is made up of 43% women. And, of course, we have a female CEO. This should be typical—especially given that women represent more than half of the population and more than half of the current workforce[i]—but it’s not.

Globally, women hold 31% of senior management positions. That statistic masks another gap, because according to Catalyst, women are significantly more likely to be at the helm of HR than they are to be in other top roles such as CEO or Chief Legal Officer.[ii] Only 23% of managing director and CEO roles worldwide are held by women, and that number is less than 10% among the Fortune 500.

Perhaps it’s worth noting, then, that Alludo’s CEO and Chief Legal Officer are both women, and the head of HR—we call it Chief People Officer—is a man.

Women in leadership

CEO Christa Quarles is frequently asked about women in leadership, especially since she’s at the helm of a company in the male-dominated technology space. For Christa, representation is not a “nice to have,” but rather an essential. “You need to see it to be it,” she says. “When women are represented, more women participate. Of course, that’s an inherent Catch-22: in order to have more women represented in the first place, you have to have more women participate.”

That means someone has to show up first. At Alludo, that someone was Christa herself. After she joined, people followed. Many of them were women. They joined because she’s someone they wanted to work for, with a vision and purpose and leadership style worth following. After all, choosing a role based on the person you’re working for and their sense of purpose is often more important than choosing a role based on the company itself.

Working for a female CEO

When I was researching Alludo prior to joining the company as the Chief Marketing Officer, it was clear to me that Christa walks the talk when it comes to pursuing diversity in the C-suite. In addition to a little less than half of the Alludo executives being women, I knew that Christa had built a diverse team in her previous CEO role. In my mind, Christa demonstrates very tangible support for woman in executive positions.

Becca Chambers, Alludo’s SVP of Global Brand and Communications says,  “I understand the power of representation. I came from the cybersecurity industry, where there are only a handful of female CEOs in the entire industry.  I had never been able to envision myself comfortably seated at the table, so to speak. Christa is the kind of person who pulls the chair out to offer you the seat at the table, and I knew it from the first time I met her.”

Importance of gender diversity

Christa has spoken at length about the power of diversity in the ELT. She’s serious about elevating women, and it’s not just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s also smart business. As she says, “Diversity and inclusion aren’t just nice to have—they’re fundamental.” The stats back her up: A McKinsey report found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

And the importance of gender diversity and representation in our organization goes well beyond just the ELT.  At the end of 2022, we launched our first Employee Resource Group (ERG): the Alludo Women’s Empowerment (AWE) group. As the executive sponsor of the group, we meet monthly to raise awareness of women’s rights and support female representation in all areas of our organization.  More than 26% of our global female employees are members of this active group.

A diverse leadership team is a business asset

This ability to show up fully, with innovative ideas that challenge the status quo and draw on your whole bank of experiences and skills, is a clear business asset. After all, a leadership team characterized by homogeneous identity and ways of thinking won’t get very far. In business, particularly in tech, inertia is fatal.

With that in mind, it’s important to note that Christa’s power of a CEO isn’t only in her identity as a woman, nor does she have the same perspective and skill set as other women CEOs. And that’s kind of the point. As she’d tell you, there’s no one way to be a woman CEO, and there’s no one way that leadership should look overall. Diversity and inclusion are exponential. Again, the more you see it, the more there’s an opportunity to add to it.

Let’s keep adding.

[i] US Dept. of Labor
[ii] Catalyst

I’m frequently asked about my role. What’s it like to be CEO of a technology company? What’s it like to be CEO through a rebrand? What’s it like to be CEO, period? But one of the more common lines of questioning tends to center around what it’s like to be a CEO as a woman, particularly in a male-dominated industry. I don’t mind, because I think it’s important to talk about. As I’ve said before, I believe you need to “see it to be it,” and that’s why representation is critical.

That’s one of the reasons I was excited to participate in an interview with THINK Digital Partners for a profile as a “Women in Digital.” I wanted to share a few snippets of content from that profile here. If you have the time, I encourage you to check out their full article.

On leadership

I started my career in a hyper-aggressive environment very much like what you see in the movie Wolf of Wall Street. This world often left me feeling like there was only one acceptable model of leadership. And with my desire to fit in, I was never truly able to bring my full self to work. Anyone who has been in this position will tell you how exhausting it is to pretend you’re someone you’re not.  

I’ve since discovered that I’m a much better leader when I can bring all parts of me to the role. Leadership is not one-size-fits-all. There are so many types of effective leaders in this world. We need all of them to drive business ahead.  

I’m a big believer that culture is how people make decisions when you’re not in the room. And the only way a leader can shape a culture and build a successful company is to lead by example. For me, it comes down to a few fundamental beliefs:

  • Recognize the need to offer psychological safety.
  • Be brave enough to adjust to the new world of work. The era of 9-5, cubicles, and old-school office work is over for today’s knowledge workers.
  • Understand that employees expect their leaders to be ‘real’ in a way that hasn’t been a focal point until now. Authenticity and transparency are critical.

On challenges facing women in the industry

What specific challenges do you see women facing in the industry?

You can’t discuss women in tech without addressing the serious issue of lack of representation.

Currently in the UK, women only make up 19 percent of the tech industry. Barriers have been holding back women from the start—ranging from lack of encouragement at school to fighting against peoples’ inherent biases and myriad other issues. 

The first step is to simply recognize that diversity and inclusion aren’t just nice to have—they’re fundamental. A report by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. It’s time for tech companies to stop saying that they are committed to women in tech and to actually take action. If you know something is proven to make your business stronger, why wouldn’t you do it? 

I can’t overstate how important it is to have mentors and leaders to model yourself after and look up to. When you see more women represented, more women participate.

On career advice

Know yourself and what you enjoy doing. Don’t be afraid to change jobs in your quest to discover your passion. And once you discover what you enjoy, put in the effort and work hard at it. Aim to become an expert in that particular thing. 

Build relationships. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re at the peak of your career, everyone needs and deserves a place to ask questions and receive advice. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis. Build those relationships now so you have trusted people to turn to. 

I also once had a boss who gave me the best piece I’ve ever received. He said: “Always manage your own P&L.” By that, he meant keep an objective, numbers-based record of your value and achievements. Never leave someone’s perception of you up to chance.

On tech-based challenges facing the world

While the pandemic turbo-charged the world’s ability to work and connect remotely, the journey is far from over. The freedom and flexibility people gained in this new world is here to stay. And the future of work demands tools that make working remotely safe, engaging, and productive.

Our recent collaboration survey found that a startling 41 percent of enterprise employees have left or are considering leaving their jobs due to poor collaboration tools. People told us that poor collaboration continues to waste at least 3-5 hours of productivity each week. Clearly, this issue is far from resolved.   

On something most people wouldn’t know

I’ve practiced Iyengar Yoga for more than 22 years and I’ve found that it has brought an incredible clarity and presence in my life. When something in life starts to feel all topsy-turvy and I need to think it through, I’ll just go and stand on my head! Five minutes upside-down, and I’m grounded and ready to move forward.