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.
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.