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Glass ceilings are made to be broken
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Glass ceilings are made to be broken

Written by Gerrit Sarens on 26 August 2019 for Clients

A few weeks ago, Exellys and CIOnet joined forces and organized a Women in Tech event. 4 business savvy women shared their stories on the battles and triumphs they encountered during their way to the C-suite.

Based on their insights and stories, we’ve captured some lessons learned for the tech industry.

The 4 leading ladies we’ve interviewed, Jocelyn Darbroudi (CIO DKV Belgium), Caroline Van Rompuy (CIO Agfa), Vicky Buyse (Managing Director Gantis) and Annemie Depuydt (Director ICTS KU Leuven), were quite optimistic on gender equality: it will take some more time, but we’re getting there. The contemporary workplace is filled with 4 generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z. Generations Y and Z are the demanding generations whilst the Baby Boomers and Generation X are the founding generations when it comes to female inclusion. They paved the hard, long and difficult way for women to the C-suite. The latest generations Y and Z are finishing what their preceding generations started: to end the discrimination and exclusion of women. They are demanding society to change it as they won’t settle for less. To feed these demanding generations and to keep them happy is the ultimate challenge for tech businesses. Here are some tips and tricks for tech businesses to help the demanding generations to break the glass ceiling.

Glass ceilings are made to be broken

#1 Change the image of the IT sector

As optimistic as our 4 leading ladies are on gender equality, they are highly concerned by women in IT. Women have a difficult perception of IT and the IT sector has only itself to blame. In general, the dropout rates in IT jobs are low, but the ones that eventually do leave are mainly female. Recruiters and CIOs are breaking their head over it as the IT industry has so much to offer. Why do women leave? There is no fixed answer here, but we can have a guess at possible reasons. One of them is the image of the IT sector: a nerdy world in which they use fancy techy words (“techneukerij” as they call it in Dutch) for reinventing or reselling the same thing over and over again. Women are more sensitive to this type of positioning and that’s why they tend to drop out. So, gather your marketing team and let it revise your business’ communication. Scratch all the fancy stuff and just write what the IT industry is truly about.

#2 Don’t be a boss, be a leader

Do you want to be the boss that takes advantage of his employees or do you want to be a leader who empowers his employees? If I were you, I would go for the last one. Be the leader of the pack and empower your female staff. Here are some ways in which your female staff may feel empowered:

  • Grant opportunities or projects in which they have to come out of their comfort zone. If someone asks to lead a certain project, offer them the chance to grow and learn. Take the risk and you might get surprised by the talent of your staff.
  • Give compliments! It costs nothing but boosts the self-confidence of the receiver.
  • Stimulate your female employees to speak up and share their thoughts. You can introduce female leadership programs or organize a workshop like the I am remarkable workshop from Google. It’s an initiative to not only empower women but also underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond.

Glass ceilings are made to be broken

#3 Face the challenge of inclusion

In the workplace employers and employees get confronted daily with the challenge of inclusion. Men are for example not used to deal with emotions in a business context. Back in the days when it was a men-only work environment, they never got confronted with it. As a result, men tend to react poorly when a woman or even a man shows emotions at work with the phrase “don’t get emotional”. At home they know how to deal with it: buy some jewelry and some flowers and it’s solved (or so they think 😉). But in a business context it can lead to awkward situations. Try to avoid such situations by creating a safe environment in which it’s okay to show emotions. It’s not a bad thing, it shows that your employees care and that’s worth the challenge.

#4 Get rid of the binary view

Tech businesses have to make sure that not only their workplace, but their boardroom as well is diverse and mixed. Diverse not as in male-female but as a blend of qualities and competences. Stop hiring people for what they are but hire them for who they are. The perception of sex and gender as binary is outdated. Researchers have affirmed that not only gender but sex as well sits on a spectrum. In the end, it shouldn’t even matter whether you are a man, a woman or whatever you want. The best one should get the job, irrespective of gender or sex. The ultimate goal? Everyone should talk about leaders, not female or male leaders. Just leaders.

Glass ceilings are made to be broken

#5 Say hello to quota

Women want to be measured equally, but we’re not there yet. At this moment, sad but true, women still need quota to be considered for a c-level position. Although quota should be lifted in the end, for now they’re a must-have. Quotas help rectify women’s under-representation in prominent positions and will eventually make it common for women to take managerial positions in businesses.

Our next Women in Tech (CEO edition) in October is already full. But do you feel like joining us next time? Make sure to follow our social channels, because we’ll announce it there first: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Written by Gerrit Sarens Director Strategic Alliances