How to influence a positive change for women in technology

As a leader in the testing community, I am often asked that question in interviews. Such discussions are common at professional conferences and in testing forums. Based on the conversations I am part of, finding a long-term solution to the technology gender gap problem is a challenge to many.

Majority of female leaders look into the ways to create equal opportunities for women to succeed in their technology career. Being a part of several technological communities, I use my worldwide network to exchange ideas and experiences. Naturally, I am looking for success stories that are “close to home”: stories of women in our testing community who stepped forward and made a difference.

I first met Jennifer Scandariato, senior director of cloud services at iCIMS, through my recent ConTEST NYC conference: she submitted a proposal that I could not pass by. Once we exchanged introduction emails, one of the first things I noticed was a logo in Jen’s signature: “iCIMS: Women In Tech.” It turned out that Jennifer championed this initiative at her company.

I am happy to share Jennifer’s story that inspired me to write this article.

 

A wake-up call.

A rather common situation for many successful career women, Jennifer first became conscious of the gender gaps by learning about someone else’s struggle, in her case – discovering the challenges her daughter was facing in sports.  While the boys on her team were encouraged to succeed, the girls were not. On several occasions, the girls were literally left behind – their achievements were not recognized, and their motivation to succeed was not encouraged.

That’s when Jennifer’s desire to advocate for girls and females was born. When she started speaking at schools and conferences about her leadership experience, the feedback she received encouraged Jennifer to look into her “own backyard”: the company she works for. Jennifer saw an opportunity to help women at iCIMS. She volunteered to start the Women In Tech (WIT) group at her company.

 

Rollout strategy.

Jennifer selected an appealing strategy by using her managerial background and skills to succeed in her endeavor. Instead of going through a “grassroots” approach that is common in our field and has mixed results, Jennifer presented her initiative as a business case. She created a business plan, with goals, a mission and action plan on how this initiative will help their company’s culture as part of recruiting and retaining good talent. Her VP signed-on as the executive sponsor. The executive team supported Jennifer, as well.

Not everyone believed in its success. There were naysayers who predicted that no one will join. But their first event attracted 300 attendees. From that moment, the initiative only grew stronger and gained appreciation and respect at iCIMS and beyond.

The iCIMS WIT initiative aims to proactively address the gender gap in the technology industry, empowering both male and female employees to take advantage of leadership training opportunities, develop mentor relationships, and recognize the success that all employees can have, regardless of gender.

Recognition by Anita Borg Foundation.

Last year, iCIMS was recognized as a “Top Company for Women Technologists 2017” by the Anita Borg Institute (ABI). ABI is the organization behind the Grace Hopper Conference, the largest gathering of women in computing that takes place every fall. ABI is an independent company which uses rigorous statistical methods to evaluate companies and is the industry benchmark for measuring the representation of women technologists in the U.S, and for recognizing the companies where women can strive.

The WIT initiative, started by Jennifer Scandariato, was a differentiating factor that put iCIMS on that prestigious list. Multiple programs, started under this initiative, provide leadership training and mentor development opportunities that allow women to advance their professional technological careers in a welcoming and supportive environment. The panel discussions initiated by WIT are inviting an exchange of opinions while fostering networking opportunities and professional connections essential for women technologists.

Jennifer Scandariato has championed the movement that changed lives at her company.

 

Jen’s advice to all of us.

Tech is a scary word to many and it is constantly changing and evolving. There are new tools, software languages and platform technologies every three to six months. I advise my audience and groups to be fearless, to take risks and not be afraid. There’s a quote from Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, that described her father sitting with her at the dinner table asking, “What did you fail at this week”? I LOVE THAT!

Sometimes, women in particular but not exclusively, want to be perfectionists. The thought of failing at something is unfathomable. Our male counterparts don’t fear as much as we do.

I encourage men and women to get out of their comfort zones, learn something new, take risks – schedule it! If you don’t…you aren’t growing and learning.

Seek advice, identify role models and emulate them. Find sponsors to amplify your advancement and find mentors. You will be surprised how this accelerates your ability to reach your dreams!

 

© Anna Royzman, Global Quality Leadership Institute  2018