This was the 2nd event I was involved with in the last month, sponsored by Intel, focused on development of an underrepresented group in the tech industry. This particular event was internally focused on our own Intel Women Leaders.
There has been a lot of buzz in the media lately about the representation of women in the workforce, specifically in the technology industry. It is a known problem that women are significantly underrepresented in Sr. Leadership roles. Women fill only ~20%of all leadership roles in the technology industry. Female representation is even lower in other industries.
There are reams of data and information that identify the problem and discuss the lost opportunity and negative impact this poor representation has on business. A quick internet search on % of women in leadership will uncover several studies. Unfortunately, it is not an easy problem to fix because there isn't one root cause that can be attacked.
But, what was quickly evident and why this symposium was so powerful, is that the symposium highlighted this as a problem for ALL of us to solve. As women, we each must take action. Pointing a finger at others accomplishes little and means there are more fingers pointing back at you.
What I walked away from at this symposium was a keen awareness that I can contribute to helping address the problem, and hopefully see it resolved in the years to come. This doesn't require some tremendous, heroic effort on my part. Rather, it starts with being conscious of my thoughts, my words and my actions. One of the speakers, Cindy Solomon, said - "the way we talk about things, changes the way we think about them." So, I believe my first step is just to start engaging others in the conversation, openly and often - talking about the problem and focusing on solutions. Subsequently, this blog becomes an opportunity to talk and engage with you.
Another nugget of insight for me was the need to cultivate and build my personal brand. Catherine Fisher from LinkedIn helped solidify the importance of this in her presentation. By leveraging social channels, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. I have a platform to establish my own personal thought leadership. This strengthens my network and my influence in ways I could never do sitting in my chair in my office, or connecting just with those in my immediate circle of influence. It allows me to share ideas and thoughts, bring transparency and understanding of my vision as a leader to others. By doing this, I hope to be an inspiration to other women. As a female leader, establishing yourself as a thought leader and engaging with others, broadens perspective and helps to bridge the gap. You become a role model to other women and give them an example of someone they can become. When we see others go before us, it is much easier to see ourselves there.
Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.
There were so many other education moments for me during the symposium….
- Make sure I do not apply my own unconscious bias.
- Be mindful of how I am portraying other women…..choose my words carefully and ensure I am not applying stereotypical terminology, such as 'emotional' or 'pushy'.
- Purposely looking for other women I think have potential and begin to support them, advocate for them, nudge them forward & then be there to back them up.
- Bring men into the conversation. They see the problem too. Let's not leave them standing on the sideline looking awkward. It will take ALL of us to make the shift that is needed. Engaging men in helping will be critical.
- Develop your network - leverage it to help you get where you want to go in your career.
- 'Courage can be learned. I need to train myself to be courageous. I need to trust that if I have the courage to take the necessary actions and persist in my goals, I will succeed' - Cindy Solomon
- There are a lot of great shoes in a room of 300+ professional women
I left the conference with a lot of insights to discuss in the coming months. I will leave you with this last thought, today. I believe Intel's 1st Sr. Women Leader Symposium is one of many efforts that are bringing focus to the unacceptable gap in women leader representation. A first step in addressing a problem is building the awareness. Now we must move from awareness into real action. I'd like to encourage you to consider what actions you can take. To truly have an impact on this problem, we ALL need to ask ourselves - If not me, then who; if not now, then when?
What will YOU do to make a difference? I welcome your comments and thoughts!
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