OPTIMIZE 2019 saw AspenTech’s Women’s Leadership Forum sponsor the Birds of a Feather roundtable, where women from AspenTech and the wider tech industry discussed issues facing women in their field.
At present, women make up only 25% of tech jobs in the US, while in the UK, women are found in only 15% and just 5% of leadership positions.
Rachelle McWright, Emerson business development manager for dynamic simulation, joined AspenTech’s chief customer success officer Michele Triponey, SVP of product marketing Lina Liberti and a number of other women to discuss how they took on leadership roles in their companies.
They pointed to the support they received, not just from within their companies, but from their families and communities. This support is vital in encouraging women to take the risks needed to reach positions of power. Michele Triponey noted that she gained her first managerial position because she took a risk and volunteered for it. “I was scared to death to take that position,” she said. “It’s okay to be uncomfortable. You are going to be uncomfortable when you take your first leadership role.”
Why Gender Parity Matters
Women leave tech jobs at twice the rate of men. When it takes up to seven years to train an employee to competence, as it does in the process industries, somebody leaving their job takes away valuable skills that are time-consuming to replace.
Even large companies like Google, which start off with mission statements to ensure diverse hiring policies, find that as they grow they end up falling in line with the industry average.
However, there are a few bright spots – India has one of the highest percentages of women in technology jobs, a still relatively low 35%, but above most every country in Europe and the US. It is no wonder than AspenTech is seeing many of its new customers coming from Asian markets. They have consistently shown greater openness to new processes and new opportunities afforded to them by the digital transformation.
Women have been earning more college degrees than men over the last five years. Attracting more women to tech industries provides a broader skills base, vital to ensure fresh thinking and help the digital revolution evolve. A revolution of this scale doesn’t just require new skills, but new perspectives and new cultures, making diverse voices vital.
Rachelle McWright noted that a current culture shift is making male management more receptive to what women are thinking and also more attuned to what they are not saying. An engaged and aware management can gain insight from people who might not be comfortable speaking up. “I think it provides a springboard for the leaders that may not step up and raise their hands,” she said.
While the female leaders who guided the roundtable discussion had to develop their own support systems, many organizations have implemented formal leadership and mentoring programs to provide future leaders of all backgrounds the skills they need to advance their careers. In other companies, established leaders of both genders have committed to modelling inclusive leadership and serving as powerful examples for high potential team members.
In the end, ensuring diverse voices are heard throughout a company is an excellent way to create a dynamic management culture for everyone involved. Management that can accommodate new ideas and dissenting opinions will be more receptive to the shifts needed to drive the digital transformation.
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