Women in Tech Leadership

Recently, I gave a presentation titled Myths of Women and Men in Leadership at Walmart’s corporate headquarters. It’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart and one I feel we need to hear more about, from both men and women, if we are to build high-performing cultures and teams. The discussion zeroed in on Women in Leadership, or the lack thereof, and some learnings I have experienced personally over the years. A few of the points I discussed were:

  • How often times women play tapes/sound bites over and over, leading to too much doubt in ourselves and our abilities.

  • Why women need to be intentional, proactive, and methodical about mentorship and a strong diverse network early in their career.

  • Why women have what it takes, as proven through countless studies and real-world business outcomes, and the need to just step in. Stop waiting for permission.

It came as no surprise to me that the audience, made up of 50% men and 50% women, related to the topic, chimed in and contributed, and left me inspired to continue pushing this topic as one of necessity to businesses everywhere.

Some of the feedback that was given after the talk, again by men and women, validates the need to keep this conversation going, loud and clear, if we are ever going to elevate more women into key leadership positions. Some of the comments after the session included:

  • “I have often been described as too aggressive, abrasive, or demanding. Much of the time I feel that I act the same way as a male, but get labeled a completely different thing.”

  • “I find myself frequently telling myself that I am a good team player, but not a leader.”

  • “I would like to ask you, as you are meeting with people, let them know that they “may” encounter feedback which is not warranted because sometimes, people reflect their insecurities on you, and that’s not fair. But it is a challenge to recognize when they are doing that versus when you really need to embrace the feedback.”

  • “I feel like I understand my wife and female colleagues so much better.”

These feelings, reactions, and experiences aren’t unique to this group of employees. If you look at the challenge of gender and ethnic diversity in various industries – but tech in particular – it’s clear that many corporate leaders haven’t figured it out. There is still a lack of understanding on how to bring together a diverse workforce and create a culture of acceptance, offering a level playing field so the best of the best are at the helm of any business.

As a real-world example, Uber’s said-to-be toxic culture created a crisis that brought with it some serious business consequences. But they are hardly alone in this challenge. Most recently, companies that claim to be a true partner to HR, leading the way for new-age performance and culture, seem to get it all wrong when it comes to company culture and the value a diverse leadership team can bring to the success of the business.

There is still a lack of understanding on how to bring together a diverse workforce and create a culture of acceptance.

It’s time for something different. We’ve reached a point where we can’t keep saying we believe that a gender- and ethnically- diverse culture is a business asset without being intentional in achieving this. But, where do you start?

One of the Walmart attendees asked me if I would be available to answer questions and offer advice as she proceeds in her career. My answer is a resounding yes.

Because so many of you are facing the same challenges in yourselves, your careers, and your cultures, I’d like to answer these questions in an open forum right here on our blog. I am setting up a regular column called Leave it Better with Autumn Manning – where you can send your pressing questions about inclusion, leadership, and building a strong business culture.

I am excited about this initiative, and I look forward to hearing from you while covering more on this critical topic.

Autumn Manning