SIX TIPS Women Need for Successful Tech Careers

-By Eve Tahmincioglu

Making it in the male-dominated technology industry has its challenges.
But it can be done.
To help get you on the right path, DiversityInc spoke with Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, IBM’s vice president of diversity, and Dr. Laura Hass, Director of IBM Research’s Accelerated Discovery Lab, who shared valuable tips that can lead to a rewarding tech career. (IBM is No. 22 on the DiversityInc Top 50 list)

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#1 MAKE YOUR ASPIRATIONS KNOWN.

If you aspire to achieve something great in your career, it’s important to dream big, and share your dream.
Keeping dreams a secret “doesn’t help anybody,” said McIntyre. “If you can articulate your dream, folks will know what you want and what you’re up to. They can help you spot opportunities for conferences, papers, [and even] patents for special projects.”
As the support starts to roll in, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who want to support you. But in order for this to happen you’ve got to be able to tell people about it.

#2 ASK FOR HELP.

“I think that when we talk to our most successful tech women, they all had challenges,” said McIntyre. “Its amazing when you start to talk to people about your dream and how you can make your dream a reality, how much help and advice you get, [it] doesn’t make going after your dream feel so daunting.”

#3 SEEK OUT ADVISERS.

Mentors, sponsors and peer
coaches are incredibly valuable and helpful to the progression to any career and that it’s important to ask them for help when you need it. “Ask them what they did when they were in a difficult situation,” McIntyre said. “It’s important to make sure that we are collaborating, and leveraging our networks and our support ecosystem along the way.”

#4 CONSIDER BECOMING A LEADER, EVEN IF YOU NEVER DID.

“When I was newly into my PhD I had no interest in leading or managing people. Just give me a good hard technology problem and let me go,” Hass recalled.
“As I matured, I wanted to do more ambitious things. I realized that I could do them better leading a team of people, she explained. “That became a lure for me to hedge the technical and management path.”

#5 HAVE FUN.

For women who want to stay in the tech industry for the long haul, Hass said the key is to “have fun.” Hass, who started her tech career nearly 35 years ago and is now an IBM Fellow and Director of IBM Research’s Accelerated Discovery Lab, said it’s important for you to understand different things will appeal to you at different points in your life.
Throughout her career at IBM, Hass did not become complacent in one role. She stepped out of management positions to get into the roles that were more exciting for her.
“I think a lot of time people think there is only one route to their goals,” she said, noting that she has seen people divert from their career paths to start a family or take a few years off to train for the Olympics.
“Then they think that they can’t come back,” she said, but they can.

#6 FIND YOUR OWN PATH.

It’s imperative to be honest with yourself, Hass advised. Try not to pay attention to somebody else’s vision of a career path. Doing so may make you feel inadequate and then you find yourself on a career track that wasn’t meant for you.
“What I tell my mentees is — you have to be very honest with yourself and what is going to excite you, she added. “Then you have to move toward opportunities to do that.”

College-Educated Black Women Least Likely to Have a Well-Educated Spouse

A recent Social Mobility Memo of The Brookings Institution indicates a large percentage of Black women with college degrees remain unmarried because they seek to only wed a Black, educated man.
“Single black female BA seeks educated husband: Race, assortative mating and inequality,” published April 9, offers that the current trend of “assortative mating” in the U.S. — choosing a spouse with similar an educational background — is less available to college-educated Black women.
Black men are the second least likely to earn a college education, after Latino men. And Black women are least likely to “marry out” across racial lines.Therefore, if interracial marriage is not an option, the potential for a college-educated spouse decreases.
Forty-nine percent of college-educated Black women marry a well-educated man, compared to 84 percent of college-educated white women.
Using five-year estimates from the 2008-2012 waves of the American Community Survey, the authors examined race gaps in marriage patterns.

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Key Findings:

  • In the past few decades, marriage rates in the U.S. have fallen sharply, and sharpest of all in the Black population.
  •  The proportion of Black college graduates aged 25 to 35 who have never married is 60 percent, compared to 38 percent for white college-educated women.
  •  Married Black women who are college graduates are much more likely to have a husband with a lower level of education (58 percent), compared to
    whites of a similar background (48 percent).
  • According to the authors, “Even if Black women rise up the ladder, in part because of their efforts to acquire more education, one of the key mechanisms for maintaining that higher status for the next generation — assortative mating — is less available to them.”
  • This means households with two college graduates earn more income, which sets a solid foundation for the next generation.

Black Women and Interracial Marriage

In his 2011 book Is Marriage for White People?, Stanford Law professor Ralph Richard Banks focuses on the marriage patterns of Black, middle class, educated professionals.
He conducted a decade of research, including interviews focused on dating and marriage ideals and experiences. Banks cites Black women advancing economically and educationally at higher levels than Black men as a cause for low-marriage rates among Blacks in the U.S.
In an interview with TIME magazine, he discussed a gender imbalance within the Black community: “Two African American women graduate from college for every one African American male. Despite this imbalance, there is still enormous social pressure on Black women to only marry Black men — to ‘sustain’ the race and build strong black families. And this means marrying Black men even if they are less educated or earn less money. In short, no matter the personal cost, Black woman are encourage to marry ‘down’ before they marry ‘out.’”
Banks explained that, for the sake of a man, Black women are pressured to give up certain kinds of life experiences, while white women are taught to cultivate them. And Black women should be open to having relationships with men who are not Black, and focus more on class.
“This would be good for them, for their children and even benefit other Black couples by helping to level the playing field, he said.”
However, authors of “Single black female BA seeks educated husband” do note that the racial gaps in our society offer the “greatest equity challenges of the 21st Century,” more so than the marriage gaps.
Inequality toward Black men in America has contributed to the difference in education levels between Black men and women. For example, the racial gap in U.S. arrest rates.
Black women do have a lot of factors to consider when seeking a mate. Yet, there is no set formula on educational status, class or race that will definitively result in a successful marriage.

Do Boomers Have a Desk in the Workplace of the Future?

-BY BARBARA FRANKEL

I visited a chief diversity officer recently at what used to be her office. This is a powerful woman who is a major player in every way. The last time I visited her, she had a large corner office with a window and a magnificent view. This time, she showed me her temporary space, assigned to her for that week, which was out in a large open room with about 100 other people.
Had she been demoted and/or was she on the way out the door? Just the opposite, in fact. Her stock in the company had risen because she was one of the leaders to embrace what’s commonly known as the Workplace of the Future—open shared spaces without walls, separate spaces for private conversations, eating, socializing and playing games/ relaxing.

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The Workplace Of The Future

“At first, I was really uncomfortable about this. I had worked long and hard to have the prestige of a corner office and it represented a lot to me. Plus, I had a lot of stuff,” she told me. What changed her mind was that all the leaders were buying into this, so it wasn’t in any way a negative reflection on her or her status.
That, in my opinion, is the critical point in getting Boomer buy-in of what for most is a radical concept. If you single out a few people and ask them to give up their “space,” it is indeed perceived as a slap in the face.
If everyone, including those at the very top, is part of the change, it is perceived as teamwork, moving forward in a positive direction for the company.
The same can be said of diversity-and-inclusion efforts.
Think about it: If you are a white man and you are singled out and told it’s time you hired and promoted some women or Blacks, Latinos or Asians—and, by the way, we are ordering you to sponsor a resource group—you will view it as punitive, not an opportunity. But if everyone is on board, including your boss and the CEO, and you are all invested in this together, you are far more likely to perceive it as an opportunity—both for the company and for yourself.
Karole Lloyd, the Managing Partner in charge of EY’s Southeast Region, has been a strong proponent of the Workplace of the Future. The big benefits to sitting among her staff, she says, is that people get to ask her questions and have access to her so she’s able to guide and help them more. Her relationships with her employees are much stronger, she adds, as there is more time for immediate feedback and constructive criticism. And the opportunity for innovative team solutions is much greater.
Is there a loss of privacy? Not if, like EY, you design your workplace well and create enough places where people can have private conversations and work quietly if they need to. EY – Workspace of the Future
Yes, this is an adjustment for everyone. The chief diversity officer I mentioned earlier said that on the day she packed up her personal materials to take home from her office, she felt as if she was leaving the company she’d worked at for more than a decade.
“I took home three big boxes—one of stuff I thought I wouldn’t need, one of stuff I thought I might need, and one of stuff I knew I would need. Here’s the funny part: Three months later, they are all still in my garage. I don’t need them at all,” she says.
We don’t need a lot of “stuff” we think we do to succeed.
But we do need to feel valued and to understand why strategies impacting us are good for the business.

How Do You Develop Executive Presence?

What is executive presence? The answer has evolved and, most importantly, varies considerably from company to company. But it always involves good grooming, strong communication skills, and the
confidence of knowledge and preparation.
We interviewed HR/diversity executives as well as individuals who have been “taught” executive presence at five companies—Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (No. 1 in the DiversityInc Top 50), Wells Fargo (No. 17), Comcast (No. 44), TD Bank (No. 45) and Eaton Corporation.

Here are their tips—and personal stories:

Watch Your Leaders and Know Your Corporate Culture At some companies, dress is very conservative, even on “casual dress day.” At others, leaders all appear very physically fit. Pay attention to the people whose jobs you aspire to—how they dress, how they look and how they communicate with each other and subordinates.

“It’s how people come across to each other but it’s also how you present yourself physically. I’m not saying you have to have the best clothes or the most perfect hair or makeup, but you do need a general sense of cleanliness and well-being,” says Deborah Lauer, Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Organizational Effectiveness at Eaton Corporation. She cites as an example a male executive who often slouched in his chair during meetings and was perceived as lazy or bored by his peers.

“You have to show respect to your audience and be polished and poised,” adds Cathy Medeiros, Vice President, Global Inclusion and Diversity, Eaton.

Linda Verba, Executive Vice President, Head of Service Strategy and Chair, Diversity Leadership Team at TD Bank, prefers the term “leadership presence.” She notes, “Folks in leadership roles are always watching what we do every day.
The least significant thing sends signals.”

Within the Corporate Culture, Be Authentic

While following the leads of your top executives, real leaders don’t hide who they are—whether that means gender, race/ ethnicity, orientation, having a disability or being “different” in any way.
When Kimberly Banks MacKay entered corporate America in the 1980s, many women thought “executive presence” meant looking as much like the traditional male executive as possible: a suit, a button-down shirt from Brooks Brothers and an “awful ascot.” She recalls: “Many of us were advised by well-meaning mentors not to smile too much, not to look too girly.”
Today, Kimberly is Executive Director and Deputy Compliance Officer at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.
She notes that the definition of executive presence has evolved considerably, and women who don’t fit the white male mold, such as Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, are still considered strong leaders with formidable presence.
Valerie Cardwell, Executive Director at Comcast, says that at her company difference is celebrated: “I am an AfricanAmerican woman. We are different. We look different. In 2014, we still stand out. As you get up in the executive ranks that becomes more and more apparent. Early in my career, I was more concerned that I was heard. Now, I leverage the fact that I think differently and I am more strategic on how I get my ideas and suggestions on the table.”

Real Leaders Need to Know Their Stuff

Looking the part will only get you so far. Real executive presence is based on authoritative knowledge, and that means listening to what people are saying—and always, always being fully prepared.
Kimberly from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation points out that traditionally executive presence was defined by the “wow factor”—tone, appearance, style—but that “only gets you part of the way. … That will disappear quickly if it isn’t backed up by credible leadership qualities.”
Linda from TD Bank says, “People gravitate toward leaders and there are all different kinds of leaders.” She cites as an example a story of a low-key woman in corporate planning and development who “had no lipstick and came late to the meeting.” Yet “she was remarkably astute and when she spoke, she really handled a table of 22 executives with presence and clarity. … People were riveted by what she had to say.” “It’s very much about the ability to win confidence through the interactions we have with others,” notes Martha Soehren, Chief Talent Development Officer at Comcast.
“It ranges from how a leader shows up, demeanor, physical presence [including dress], energy level, tone of voice and mindfulness of what’s happening around here. For us, it also has implications of a person’s capabilities, presentation skills, and being forward thinking and inquisitive.”
In a nutshell, she says, “it’s the ability to influence and gain confidence.”
Vanessa Walsh, Senior Vice President, Leadership
Development/Engagement at Wells Fargo, emphasizes that true executive presence applies to everyone.
“It says right in our vision and values that in our culture, everyone in the company is a leader,” she says, adding that real leaders “communicate powerfully and prolifically, inspire and motivate others to high performance.”

Find the Right Mentors and Sponsors

Wells Fargo gives newly hired executives peer mentors, from like demographic groups and cross-cultural groups. They help the new hires navigate the corporate culture.
Ninety-eight percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 have formal, cross-cultural mentoring programs, so take advantage.
Ask for at least two mentors and use them to understand how to develop your own “brand” and how it works within the corporate environment.
Sponsorship programs are more likely to be organic so it is important to make sure your mentor—and other leaders— know who you are and what you can do.
“Executive presence is growth for leaders of all demographics, but we do pay attention to underrepresented groups. … Helping the person get a coach or find a mentor” is critical, says Martha from Comcast. She cites Comcast’s

Executive Leadership Career Advancement Program, which finds high-potentials (primarily women and Blacks, Latinos and Asians) and assigns them a sponsor who is a senior executive.
Damien M. Ghee, Vice President and Relationship Manager at TD Bank, notes how mentors have helped him grow. Damien started at the bank 13 years ago as a part-time customer-service representative while attending Rutgers University. “I talked to my manager at the time about wanting to be a supervisor and they were thinking of me as well. … A number of people invested time in me when I really didn’t know I needed investment,” says Damien, who was the first person in his family to attend college.
“The biggest thing I learned was to be a true listener and ask good questions,” he says. He now mentors three people, including one through TD’s MILE (Mentorship in Leadership and Excellence) program, which aligns people based on their passions and focus.
Madhav Gopal, a Senior Director in Technology Operations at Comcast, made the transition from a technical expert to a manager of people. His mentors gave him advice similar to what Damien received. He says he’s had mentors inside and outside of the company.
“The best advice I got was that it’s more important to listen than to speak. … It’s about deep engagement and having the context and the credibility,” he says. “Another thing that has helped me is to learn not to go to senior leadership with a problem but with a solution.”
Kimberly from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation emphasizes that executive presence is not a standard, rather it is a competency that is grounded in one’s own authentic nature. Thus, when mentoring people, it’s crucial to help people understand and leverage their own style. A graduate of the Rutgers School of Law, she now mentors those in the Minority Student Program. For example, she once mentored a young woman who was very quiet. “She is not going to dominate a room when she enters it but she is smart and has important things to contribute,” Kimberly says. “As a strategy, we worked on identifying three things she wanted people to know before she left the room. She still made her mark without trying to be chatty or otherwise someone she’s not.”

Learn What Else Your Company Offers

Besides mentoring, there are many worthy corporate programs to help people, especially those from underrepresented groups, develop executive presence. Martha at Comcast notes that Comcast Executive Vice President and President and CEO of Comcast Cable Neil Smit initiated a program specifically for Comcast women two-and-a-half years ago. Working with the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the program has given about 135 women so far a week of residence where they focus on leadership, executive presence and what they need to get into senior management. A big emphasis is on the women helping each other—and, Martha says, that’s a change.
“I remember when it felt like women didn’t embrace and help other women,” she says. “These women are so invested in giving feedback and helping each other.”
At Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, many programs help develop executive presence, including working with executive coaches, workshops and the ability to videotape yourself and see how you present (with expert advice). Among others, the Executive Female Leadership Program helps high potential women create winning styles and get promoted.
“And we have a strong culture of mentoring and sponsorship,” Kimberly says.
At TD Bank, Linda says the emphasis is on having frank, open conversations during performance appraisals (personal development plans) to understand what motivates people and how their “leadership presence” can be developed. There is also significant emphasis on “building your brand” and maximizing the differences that make each individual unique.
And Vanessa at Wells Fargo notes that talent programs, especially those benefiting people from underrepresented groups, capitalize on different communication styles. “It’s not about saying, ‘Do it one way.’ It’s about being authentic for you and meaningful for your audience. … We really want people to understand what they are good at doing and how they can leverage their strengths and talents so they can be good leaders.”

On-Boarding Tips From KPMG, BASF and TD Bank

Human-resources experts often say that an employee’s first 90 days will determine whether he or she stays at the company—and whether he or she is successful. On-boarding, which means making an employee familiar and comfortable with the corporate culture, in recent years has emerged as crucial to that success. How important is diversity to on-boarding? Three DiversityInc Top 50 companies with strong recruitment numbers say it’s crucial. KPMG (No. 21), BASF (No. 26) and TD Bank (No. 45) tell us how they factor diversity and inclusion into on-boarding for all employees, how they use employee resource groups to help, and how they assess success.

BASF: D&I for All New Hires

All three companies—and almost all of the DiversityInc Top 50—include a diversity and inclusion emphasis as part of their overall on-boarding for every new hire.
Bernadette Palumbo, Director, Talent Acquisition, University Relations and Workforce Planning at BASF, explains that the company has a standard oneday on-boarding for every new hire, regardless of position or which site he or she is at. “The vision here is that all of our employees should have the same experience on their first day,” she says.
All new employees also are given an on-boarding buddy, who helps that person get the lay of the land, including “silly” questions such as “Who will I eat lunch with?” or “How do I get my computer to work?” While race and ethnicity isn’t specifically factored into the buddy system, employee resource groups are included and often supply buddies.
The resource groups are also part of the “Welcome to BASF” program, with Chief Diversity Officer Patricia Rossman and Talent Acquisition and Diversity Leader Tammy Nunn-Haynie conducting sessions on the importance of diversity and inclusion and BASF’s values. These sessions are held at the company’s Florham Park, N.J., headquarters and are open to all employees, with their business unit footing the travel costs for those who can attend from remote sites. They include information on the value of employee resource groups and encourage new hires to sign up. “It’s a good way to personally engage people and to explain that anyone can join a resource group. We had an employee say, ‘I didn’t know I was eligible for the Hispanic group because I thought you had to be Hispanic,’” Rossman says.
BASF also holds an evening reception for new hires, with leaders of the employee resource groups present as well. “It also benefits the ERG leaders as they get more visibility and broaden their impact,” Rossman says.

KPMG: Emphasis on Employee Resource Groups

At KPMG, the formal one-and-a-half-day on-boarding program for all new hires includes diversity and inclusion being positioned as key to the firm’s culture, says Tori Farmer, National Director, Office of Diversity.
A one-hour, web-based training emphasizes inclusion and is required to be completed by all new employees within their first 60 days.

Employee resource groups are also involved in on-boarding, with new employees receiving a message from Kathy Hannan, National Managing Partner, Diversity and Corporate Responsibility, inviting them to join the groups. In addition, employee-resource-group leaders present at local events promoting the benefits of membership and at
the annual new-hire/promotions celebration the firm holds, emphasizing “diverse individuals who have recently been promoted,” says Farmer.

TD Bank

Traditions That Work TD Bank offers new hires a one-day training called Traditions, a facilitator-led experience to show employees the culture and values, including the diversity-and-inclusion strategy.
“Our employees are the secret salt,” says Chris Ainsworth, Senior Vice President, Head of Talent and Organizational Development. Ainsworth
only joined TD Bank last December, so he knows the new-hire experience
first-hand. “The culture is exactly as it’s been represented during the
interview process,” he says. “We are revamping Traditions right now to make it even more extraordinary and we know it is really important to see how diversity plays out here in your early days.” All new employees also go through a one-hour, web-based diversity-awareness training and new people managers have a half day of in-person, facilitator-led training.
Linda Verba, Executive Vice President, Retail Operations & Service Strategies and Chair of the Diversity Leadership Team, notes that the people-manager training, about six months old, offers lesson plans and learning modules. “Any company is only as good as its worst communicator,” she says, adding that it’s important that new hires and new managers understand the priority of diversity and inclusion to business goals.
TD doesn’t single out people from underrepresented groups during
on-boarding. “It’s sometimes difficult to get new employees, particularly people with disabilities, LGBT people or people who are multiracial, to actually self-identify. There is a greater risk of alienating people,” Verba says. She notes that a pin telling LGBT employees they can be “safe” to come out during LGBT Pride Month has been introduced at TD Bank.

Assessing On-Boarding Success

Of course, engagement and retention are the ultimate barometers, but so are employee resource group membership, employee
productivity and promotion rates of people At BASF, at the end of a new hire’s first 30 days, staff members have a conversation to see how it is going. After 90 days, new hires take a survey on on-boarding and how reflective it was of company values. One-onone reviews also are held, and at 18 months another review, including performance and career management, occurs.

KPMG also has a new-hire survey asking if the employee has joined a resource group or is interested in joining one. If there’s interest, the survey goes to the National Diversity Office and then is routed to the local chapters.
“New hires say they have found the
networking to be most influential in helping them successfully acclimate to the firm,” Farmer says.