There is no doubt in my mind that our work has an impact on our overall wellness. As chief people officer, my role is to ensure that our employees have a meaningful experience while they are here, and when they go back into the broader world that they are better for spending their time and energy with us. A successful workplace gives its employees the grace to show up and show their full self. It is no secret that having a wide variety of perspectives in the room has a direct impact on business outcomes and is an imperative for evolving company culture. Building a culture that welcomes diverse backgrounds and perspectives contributes directly to improving performance and innovation whether you are running a sales team, developing software or coming up with new and creative ways to market products.
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However, in my own experience in the tech industry, this has not always been the case. In many places I have worked, the room was not always a welcoming place for women.
I started my career in tech because in Seattle, that was the market to be in–exciting and seemingly full of innovation. What I found is that not all companies, especially in the early 2000s, were focused on creating inclusive environments. Some of the companies I worked for had what I’ve come to know as a “bro culture” — one that was cutthroat and embodied a lot of traditional masculine stereotypes. Until I joined a company that did things differently and focused on inviting different voices to the table, I didn’t think twice about the fact that I was often the only woman in the room.
At one company, I attended a global sales training and afterward, the company tweeted a photo of the attendees. “Thank God Jen’s here,” they said. ”Otherwise, we wouldn’t have a single woman in this photo.” They laughed it off, but I knew it wasn’t a win for them. The horrifying part was that I wasn’t in a sales role at the time — I was only there on behalf of the HR department.
It was moments like that that made me realize the severity of the divide between men and women in the tech world. But continually being in those situations helped to build my confidence and my sense of self in my career. It helped me understand that I had to act differently for all the women who followed, and I had to find my voice. It inevitably shaped who I became by giving me the experience time and time again of having to stand up for myself in order to pave the path for others. It also reframed the way I see my position and my opportunity to make a difference.
I don’t think it’s fair that people should ever have to work harder because they are female. But the sad reality is, if you are a woman in tech, you typically will have to work harder, as we know whom the status quo favors. The good news is that if you are a woman in a tech role, you have an opportunity to help make it easier for the women who will follow you.
To any woman who wants to get into tech marketing or sales and for all of us who have built careers in tech already, let’s be here to support each other. Look for female mentors who have come before you or who are doing something you aspire to do and seek out guidance on how to work through any obstacles you might encounter. Fortunately, the world is changing (albeit slowly) and things are not the same as they were when I was starting out. However, as women, we objectively start behind and that is why it is so important to find someone who has been in your shoes, who has come before you, and to get their advice.
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I urge you to be bold in decisions about your career. Be tenacious – you own your own destiny. But also be aware – you won’t be handed things and you will have to work hard (and sometimes harder than you should) to achieve your goals. Playing the game to win means being strategic about who you involve in your career journey and whose feedback you seek out, and then going in the direction that you believe is best for you.
From my experience, tech companies can be prone to adopting the “bro culture” as a default if an inclusive culture is not carefully, intentionally crafted. This is not to say that these companies are intentionally excluding women, or creating spaces not comfortable for all. But, for companies to succeed, it is necessary to work to counteract the way patriarchal values quietly dictate much of our society.
To move towards a more diverse and inclusive culture, women need to be included in sales and marketing roles. When you include women and people from diverse backgrounds in these fields, you gain a greater perspective. You make hires who can contribute to the conversation in ways that can inform your products, your client relationships and your team communications, just to name a few points of impact. Having a diversity of opinion means there is a wider chance for someone on your team to say, “this messaging is not going to work for everyone, and here’s the direction I would take it,” or “have we tried this process this way?” Simply put, the more diverse your team, the more representation your company will have in terms of values, opinions and ideas.
Said another way, the cost of not having diverse perspectives in marketing and sales roles is simply too high. We are in the middle of the Great Resignation and a time of significant burnout. Employees are leaving roles because they can – the options in the market are endless. There is no better way to recruit and retain women than to build a culture that not only welcomes them but creates a place where they want to stay. Without a culture of inclusion and equity, your company is potentially costing itself talent and great work.
Making sure to incorporate more women in marketing and sales roles will have many benefits for your company. It is time for a breadth of new opinions to get their time to shine.
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