Monday, 08 March 2021 13:51

Celebrating female leaders and entrepreneurs in the tech world on #IWD2021 Featured

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March 8 is International Women's Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, and a day that "marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality", and iTWire is proud to be taking part in sharing some powerful stories from inspirational women in the world of technology.

According to the International Women's Day website, IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD tells us the day "belongs to all groups collectively everywhere", and that it is "not country, group or organisation specific."

The theme in 2021 is #ChoosetoChallenge, and we're told that "a challenged world is an alert world", and that "individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day."

IWD notes that "we can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge."

Naturally, there has been a lot of interest in #IWD2021, and iTWire has received a range of excellent commentary and stories to share, having already published IWD stories this morning, and we'll be sharing more of these later today and over next couple of days.

Articles already published today include "This International Women's Day, make the choice to challenge" featuring Kathryn Vosper, Chief Sales and Business Development Officer for Damstra Technology, "Tech industry needs to avoid leadership bias, says Adecco ANZ chief" featuring Preeti Bajaj, also the managing director of Modis Australia, an Adecco Group company and an article titled: "More roles for women in IT than just coding, female tech leader says" featuring Penelope Feros, the vice-president of online services provider Cherwell APAC.

Australian Businesswoman of the Year 2020, Kate Toon, whom we video interviewed late last month has also shared executive commentary and her story here, while author, business coach, speaker and corporate advisor, Danielle Dobson, explains how to Break the Gender Code here.  

To start with, we've been alerted to figures from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) which shows that women represent 17.1% of CEOs in Australia, while they make up 31.5% of key management personnel. This represents an incredible appetite for women to take up leadership positions in some of our country’s leading business and tech companies.

So, in this article, we have executive comment from the following women, with the order simply being the order the information was received in, and the statements starting after this list;

  1. Marybeth Sheppard, Senior Vice President Marketing, SevenRooms
  2. Gordana Redzovski, Vice President APAC, Vend
  3. Helen Souness, CEO at RMIT Online
  4. Aliky Kouroupis, Customer Success Director, MuleSoft
  5. Georgia de Pont, Head of Quality Engineering, Dovetail
  6. Lyra Mackay, Evangelist, Zoho Corporation
  7. Simone Caroll, EGM Customer Experience & People, Catch.com.au
  8. Suzanne Mitchell, Senior Marketing Director Australia, GoDaddy
  9. Michelle Price, CEO of AustCyber (Part of Stone & Chalk)
  10. Peggy de Lange, VP of International Expansion, Fiverr
  11. Lybra Clemons, Chief Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Officer, Twilio
  12. Jacquie Young, Sr. Director of Channels, APAC, Tenable

1. Marybeth Sheppard, Senior Vice President Marketing, SevenRooms:

For me, International Women’s Day is an inspiring reminder of all the women that have come before me, their experiences and what they've achieved. I believe it’s my duty to do everything I can to help improve equality for not only my own daughters, but all the women who will come after me.

I believe that leadership comes in all different forms, but the more women that can be part of leadership roles, the better. Over the course of my career, I have found that female leaders bring a unique perspective and different sensibility to decision-making and people management.

For us to fully enable women to thrive as leaders, we need to acknowledge and support women’s entire roles — not just as colleagues, but as family members, mothers, wives, sisters, caretakers, and individuals with their own passions and interests. That means supporting male employees to do the same and understanding that we can’t ask women to forgo their personal commitments and interests just to be seen as a ‘success’ in the professional world. We need support. Support from family, friends, professionals, organisations, and governments. It is in providing and receiving this support that we’ll truly have equality.

Women are well equipped to lead in the modern world where there is a greater emphasis and understanding of emotional intelligence and the importance of holistic decision-making. There are so many amazing women already succeeding and thriving in our world. The more we can share their stories, the more women we can empower and inspire to follow in their footsteps. There is no one definition, nor is there one linear path to achieve success. So, the more stories we hear and the more insight we have into their paths to success, the better for all women.

2. Gordana Redzovski, Vice President APAC, Vend 

International Women’s Day is the perfect time to recognise the resilience and grit demonstrated by so many women in the technology industry over the last year. Their perseverance to continue when times are tough, and ability to come up with innovative solutions to thrive not just today, but for years to come, has been a constant source of motivation for me personally and Vend as a company.

I’m passionate about supporting, uplifting and celebrating women in tech, both at Vend and in the community, and I’m proud to work for a company where the CEO, Chief People Officer and Chief Product Officer are all women. What’s more, there is strong representation of women across leadership roles in all teams, particularly across typically male-dominated departments like Sales and Engineering. That’s why despite the uncertainty and ever-changing post-COVID tech landscape, with such a strong female representation at Vend we believe we’re in very safe hands.

I often hear phrases such as ‘girl boss’, ‘first female CEO in the company’s history’ or ‘mumpreneur’; while these phrases are great to see, they also make me realise just how much more needs to be done. The 2020 Global Gender Gap report indicates that it will still take almost 100 years to achieve gender parity. More needs to be done to ensure there are not only more women in tech leadership roles, but that women everywhere are given the respect and recognition they deserve. The technology industry, traditionally male-dominated, should do everything in its power to encourage women and make them feel included and valued.

3. Helen Souness, CEO at RMIT Online

Diversity in leaders across all fields, especially technology, is critical for business. A recent McKinsey report found that diverse companies not only perform better, but also hire better and retain workers over companies who do not prioritise diversity and inclusion. To bridge the divide, we must make sure there are visible opportunities for women to reskill in emerging fields where we know there will be high job growth.

Although there are fantastic examples of women smashing glass ceilings, it really helps for women who enter non-traditional female professions, like software coding and data science, to see women ahead of them thriving in the same path. Having female role models women can relate to, not just today but every day, could not be more important to open up possibilities, and to provide mentors and role models in the workforce.

My most important lesson in leadership has been to empower my team. In the age of rapid technological advance and disruption in most industries, leaders can struggle to be across every new tech innovation or move by a competitor. A top down strategy is very dangerous, as leaders can be missing customer, competitor or tech insights. Innovation and market tests should be suggested and run from all parts of the organisation, ideally from people who work very closely with your customers. This will only happen if a leader resources and empowers teams to experiment and innovate at all levels of the organisation.

4. Aliky Kouroupis, Customer Success Director, MuleSoft

While International Women’s Day marks an important day for us to acknowledge how we’re tracking on equality and inclusivity – not just in the workplace but in all areas of society – it reminds us of the need for an ongoing conversation. In its Global Gender Gap Report 2020, the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates it will take 99.5 years to close the gender gap.

“When an organisation commits to creating a culture of equality, it’s not only the right thing to do but the smart thing. We know that women in leadership positions bring value, balance and enrichment to organisations. Elevating diverse voices empowers businesses to think outside of the square, to build deeper connections with our partners and customers and to ultimately become a better organisation.

“I’m in awe of my female colleagues in the tech sector who tap into their arsenal of strength and values-driven expertise at any stage of their careers – this includes working mums and caregivers – to get the job done. Women are natural networkers, team-players and collaborators, across internal and external stakeholders. And I’m encouraged by the progress across historically underrepresented sectors like tech, and the pledges by organisations like MuleSoft and Salesforce to amplify women’s voices and ensure equal pay for equal work. We still have work to do, but we’ve come a long way so that’s cause for celebration today and every day.

5. Georgia de Pont, Head of Quality Engineering, Dovetail

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to take time to celebrate the achievements of women across all areas of our lives. It’s also an opportunity to recognise the work we have yet to do to achieve gender equality, and to reset our aim and energy to focus on that goal. Perhaps most importantly, IWD provides a platform to have conversations that are often hard to bring up. Tying into the 2021 theme ‘Choose to Challenge’, we are reminded that we don’t have to wait for an international holiday to choose to challenge the systems and people that prevent us from achieving equality.

Throughout my career, seeing women excel in leadership roles has played an important part in me feeling like I could also take on a leadership role, especially within technology companies. It is so crucial to challenge your leadership team to be inclusive of women. Often women might feel the need to change something about themselves rather than asking the leadership team to become more inclusive. We need to challenge male leadership teams to ensure they are welcoming, so women leaders joining them feel like they belong in that space.

Especially as a working mother, I think flexibility is of the utmost importance to paving the way for women to succeed and thrive in the modern world. Men in the workplace should also amplify the need and value of flexibility. I’ve always really appreciated male leaders taking a day off to look after a sick family member or having a baby on their lap during a work meeting because it normalises this expectation for everyone. People must also be willing to listen and shift their behaviour when implicit biases like interrupting women in meetings or referring to meritocracy over diversity policies are called out and challenged.

6. Lyra Mackay, Evangelist, Zoho Corporation

International Women’s Day is a chance for all women, whether years into their careers or those starting on their journeys, to come together in celebration of the extraordinary contributions that have helped shape our society today. It gives us the chance to reflect on our unique journeys and the personal role models that have had a hand in where we are today.

For me, International Women’s Day is about learning from the female leaders before us, seizing and forging opportunities, and setting positive paths for future generations. I feel very fortunate with my journey so far, having been surrounded by strong women my entire life, and now, working for a successful global technology brand that celebrates and champions diversity.

Despite the technology industry being traditionally male-dominated, my experience a few years in has been refreshingly positive, and I’ve had the support and encouragement to make my mark. If I were to pass on one piece of advice to young women today it would be this - take every opportunity without fear of failure. Embrace the failures as they come, as they’ll only help lead you on the path you're meant to embark on.

7. Simone Caroll, EGM Customer Experience & People, Catch.com.au

International Women’s Day is about a global connection. It’s a day for women to come together and celebrate achievements, but also to shine a spotlight on the challenges we still face today. 2020 was a particularly challenging year for women in the workforce with women most likely to lose their jobs due to coronavirus related challenges. It highlighted the challenge we all face in keeping people engaged in the workforce while working around families, while at the same time the events of the last year have helped us redefine what is success in the workplace and the huge role that women have to play.

We need to #ChoosetoChallenge what flexibility looks like in the modern workplace. The predominantly female roles that were essential during the pandemic - nurses, teachers, childcare workers - they have the need for convenience now more than ever and every Australian deserves the opportunity to have that discussion with their employer. Women stand to benefit from that newfound flexibility, whether it’s shorter shifts, working from home or flexible hours - we all need to find a way to drive success for women in the workforce.

The theme #ChoosetoChallenge however doesn’t just apply to women. I think of the people that have made a difference in my life, men and women, who have made me who I am today through the contributions they’ve made to both diversity and innovation. They have created a set of precedents for women like me to find their way in business and give me the confidence to keep doing what I do.

I wouldn’t be able to work for market leaders and maintain a leadership position without being part of a global community that wants to make the world a better place through the use of technology.

8. Suzanne Mitchell, Senior Marketing Director Australia, GoDaddy

International Women’s Day (IWD) is an important event that acknowledges and champions the inspiring contributions women make, personally, professionally and socially every day. While as a society we’ve come a long way, unfortunately women still face challenges juggling all of life’s priorities - from career and family to personal fulfillment.

I believe, today, women should feel empowered and encouraged to pursue the right balance of what makes them happy and fulfilled, whether that’s career, family, personal pursuits or a combination of all of them. Especially so considering we’re often at our most inspiring when doing all three.

Encouraging women to be the best they can be, and dedicate time to the things that are important to them is a powerful value. I’m lucky to be a part of a company, GoDaddy, that values its people and everything that’s important to them. To me, being in an organisation that has a core value of ‘living passionately’ is hugely appealing. In my role,

I interact with talented female colleagues and female entrepreneurs, and it’s so motivating seeing them do so much inspiring work on a personal level and in their communities and industries. We’re proud of the diverse and rich communities women represent, both globally and here in Australia.

9. Michelle Price, CEO of AustCyber (Part of Stone & Chalk)

"I'm proud that at AustCyber, we 'choose to challenge' every day. We make sure there is a safe place for staff to express themselves publicly or privately and to empower these conversations to happen.

There is a leader in all of us and demonstrating the standards we want to see in our workplaces requires us to walk the talk, something I’m incredibly passionate about. But diversity is not just about gender.

It’s about being a role model and empowering other women to feel comfortable with their skills and value in the workplace and be excited about their career opportunities.

We all have a responsibility to speak up and challenge workplace gender and diversity behaviours that are not up to standard. Accountability is needed for good workplace culture, and leaders need to empower staff to call out bad behaviour.”

10. Peggy de Lange, VP of International Expansion, Fiverr

I am extremely passionate about the topic of International Women’s Day, and it is one that is very close to my heart for so many reasons. For me, this day is a reminder of how much we have accomplished over the years in the space of women in leadership. I am so proud of the goals that female leaders across the globe achieve everyday which continue to inspire and pave the way for future leaders.

While this day serves as a celebration of all we’ve achieved, it’s also a reminder that the battle for women achieving gender equality in the workplace is not over. There is still so much work to be done in order to establish a universal understanding and respect for human rights and gender equality - not only in the workplace but in the word. Ensuring that women, like men are judged based on their drive, ambition, and impact in a business rather than their gender.

In saying that, I have so many female leaders around me that continue to inspire me and make me feel so lucky to be where I am today. I also feel blessed to have so many female friends in my life that I look up to as thriving, successful female leaders as they are on the forefront of keeping the world a better and safer place for all women. I believe that there is a very bright future ahead for women in leadership.

As long as we continue to unite and maintain a collective voice, there will proceed to be strides taken in the right direction for women across the globe.

11. Lybra Clemons, Chief Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Officer, Twilio

International Women’s Day is important to me because it’s a truly global celebration of all women, everywhere.

It’s a reminder, and a learning opportunity, for all people to acknowledge the many accomplishments and successes of all women around the world.

Female leadership is leadership, plain and simple. In 2021, the world needs to stop categorising people and accept the best parts of leadership – which many women possess – then the world would be a better place.

Yet, true leadership is a perfect mix of equality and inclusion.

I believe that women have been succeeding and thriving in the modern world for generations, in various capacities.

My point of reference is for all women who have led in their jobs, their homes, and their lives – that no matter what – they will continue to fight for equality.

Equality in pay, in advancements, and in consideration.

12. Jacquie Young, Sr. Director of Channels, APAC, Tenable

“The theme of International Women’s Day this year is #ChooseToChallenge.

"It’s more important than ever for us to challenge the status quo within the technology industry. Perhaps most especially this is true for cybersecurity, as a lack of diversity is a threat to our collective success.

“Innovation sits at the core of cybersecurity and failing to innovate would mean we’re not delivering new solutions to keep people and businesses safe in the changing threat landscape. If everyone on a security team thinks the same, the race has already been lost with attackers.

"A diverse workforce is a prerequisite to unlocking the full potential of any team or organisation. Only through increased inclusion and diversity – of race, gender, perspective and thought – can our industry achieve greater creativity and innovation, think outside the box, and outmaneuver our adversaries.

“The fight for more diversity and inclusion in the industry doesn’t start or end with International Women’s Day.

"We must continue to champion women in the industry, lift each other up and give each other opportunities so that we can help create a more inclusive world for us all.” 


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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