Concurrently, the aftermath of
James Damore's Google diversity memo and Emily Chang's investigation into
"Brotopia" exposes the prevalent sexist attitudes within the tech
community. Sadly, when it comes to women in executive roles, the number of
male-only executive boards increased in 2017.
Nancy Harris spent 30 plus years
in the tech industry witnessing its evolution and growth. Here she shares her
approach to leadership and provides some helpful insight as to how women
working in tech can achieve success as we call for a more inclusive tech
Entry-level: Examine your passions and determine the right fit
Nancy found tech through her love
of writing. She had an opportunity early on in her career to become a technical
writer, and she jumped at the chance to combine her skills and passions. She
had the good fortune to work at a large firm that afforded her solid
professional training, coupled with a varied career path that led her to a
passion for marketing and ultimately inspired her to get a second degree.
If you are an entry-level
professional, she encourages you to find an environment where you can pursue
your passion but also one that encourages professional development. Consider
how fulfilled you are in your current position. Do you have room to explore
Trust your judgment when
assessing your growth potential. It's also never too early, nor too late, to
try something new. Once you identify your passion, determine how it fits into
your aspirations and future career trajectory.
Middle management: Be flexible and do not succumb to unhealthy competition
In tech, as with most industries,
there can be a culture of competition in the workplace. Women ages 25 to 34 are
leaving tech all together due to "unsupportive work environments,"
with 56% of women leaving at the "mid-level" point.
While a certain degree of
competition is healthy and productive, it must be fostered in the right manner
or it can become toxic. It is more effective to marshal resources and energy
toward winning as a team, rather than turning one's team against each other.
One key tenet is that "the enemy is always on the outside."
Managers set the tone for their
teams. Identify the strengths of your colleagues and allow your team members to
play to those strengths. Foster healthy competition, but also focus on
collaboration. Have your leadership team take a styles inventory test, like the
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or 5 Dynamics Human Performance System, to identify
how your team tends to meld (or not). Work with each team member to ensure
you're allowing them to play to their strengths and excel.
Just remember: You are in charge
of cultivating the kind of work environment that is inclusive and conducive to
Executive level: maintain confidence and humility as you evolve as a leader
One of the most impactful pieces
of advice given to her over the years came from someone on her team. She was
managing an enthusiastic group, full of fresh ideas, who resembled a band of
renegades at times. It's a great problem to have, but focusing the team was a
challenge. She also wanted to overlay her ideas onto theirs and in retrospect,
this stifled the team's creativity. In a heated discussion with a team member
defending his position, he frankly stated, "You know, Nancy, not
everything is black and white. You need to see more grey." While it may
sound fundamental, it was eye-opening. It reminds one of the saying, "Do
you want to win or do you want to be right?"
To best lead a team, you need to
listen. That bold truth helped her to reflect on her leadership style and focus
on what was most beneficial to the team. Part of creating inclusive
environments is fostering a community where a team can be expressive and feel
safe doing so. Figure out what kind of leadership style works for both you and
your team, and what will be conducive to achieving overall company success. By
creating a workplace where all employees can thrive, you can build a defense
against the disorganized or competitive environments.
Regardless of where you are in
your career, always examine how your presence and influence can cultivate a
more inclusive workplace. The year 2017 exposed the fact that sexual
harassment, gender bias, and unhealthy workplace environments surround us.
Undoubtedly, 2018 is the year to
demand change. The technology industry praises itself for its innovation and
problem-solving. Now is the time to tap into that creative energy at all career
levels to build a stronger, more inclusive tech industry.