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‘Women In Technology’: When Can We Make the Term Disappear?

Five very smart, successful business executives just wrapped up a panel discussion at IT Glue's GlueCon conference in Phoenix. Oh, and those five executives happen to be women.

In some ways, I'm tired of the "women in technology" discussion. But in other ways, I certainly realize it's a necessary conversation -- because many of us men simply don't understand the barriers we create (consciously or unconsciously) for the women around us. And frankly, I've also seen some women step on each other in business, which also is an ugly piece of the diversity conversation.

Diversity in Business: Executives Offer Guidance

How do I think we can truly achieve diversity and pay equality in our businesses? Instead of listening to me, the answers are better served up by the business executives who just wrapped up a panel discussion at GlueCon. The executive participants included:

  • Holly Pateman, VP of marketing at IT Glue, moderating;
  • Christine Gassman, director of global channel engagement at Datto;
  • Jennifer Bodell, VP of channel at Pax8;
  • Jacqui Murphy, VP of marketing at Auvik Networks; and
  • Dana Liedholm, chief marketing officer at ID Agent.

The panel’s key data point: Companies with strong female leadership see a 36% higher return on equity than those without, yet only 3.6% of organizations in the channel are spearheaded by women.

Five Takeaways From the Panel

How can the industry address those diversity challenges? Here are some sound bites and themes from the panel of executives. In many cases I've paraphrased their thoughts:

1. Women as Entrepreneurs: The venture capital community is beginning to wake up to women-led entrepreneurs, though progress will take time since established investors (mostly men) tend to bet money on and patterns they already know.  And those patterns, historically, involved male-led companies. Source: Murphy.

I've seen the progress first hand by participating in Golden Seeds, an angel investor group that focuses on women-led businesses.

2. Finding and Mentoring Tomorrow's Leaders: It sounds like Datto will have a presence at the Grace Hopper Celebration 2018 conference, which is Sept. 26-28 in Houston. The organization's mission: Connect, inspire, and guide women in computing, and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative. Source: Gassman.

3. The greatest career failure or career mistake that some of the panel members have experienced:

  • "Failing to take more risks." -- Murphy.
  • "Not doing enough due diligence in terms of whom I work with. Be careful with whom you choose to work." -- Murphy.
  • "I stayed way too long in a previous career position." -- Bodell, referring to hear career before entering the technology sector.

4. Advice to women entering the tech sector:

  • "Don't be intimidated" -- Gassman
  • "Have a voice." -- Liedholm
  • "Learn technical talk for partner-facing conversations. And build a brand for yourself. Be the brand you want to personally be." -- Bodell
  • "Keep your head down, do a great job and negotiate every time you change positions as you move from one employer to another." -- Murphy, noting that sometimes pay gaps occur because women fail to negotiate during career jumps.

5. On finding the right mentors and business leaders with whom you want to work: Align with business executives who share your core values.

"The very first time I met our CEO he said, "We have three priorities at our company: Family comes first. Then comes religion if you have one. Then comes work." -- Bodell.

Signs of Progress, Remaining Challenges

So what did I learn? There were signs of progress throughout the conference. Within IT Glue, for instance, roughly 40 percent of the development team and nearly 50 percent of the product team are women.

Still, those figures certainly don't reflect the broader IT market. I suspect we'll all be attending 'women in technology' panels for another decade -- or at least until my niece Mia (current age: 18) is running (or disrupting) Google...

In the meantime, I'll close with this thought from Murphy: "It's amazing the insights you can get by just listening."

PS: Sure, I've made my own mistakes on diversity in business. But I've also made some progress -- by listening more, talking less, and hanging out with really smart women. If you know my wife and my business partner (two different people, by the way), I'm sure you realize the two great mentors, leaders and influencers in my life are women.


Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.