Women account for half of the world’s population but only account for less than 5 percent of Fortune 500’s CEO list. With this kind of underrepresentation, women are encouraging other women to enter and excel in the technology and STEM field.
That’s why Raleigh-based product experience cloud company Pendo held a networking event and panel discussion Wednesday night where women gathered at the Wells Fargo Capitol Center in downtown Raleigh to meet and hear the stories of how current female leaders in the business industry climbed the tech ladder.
Erica Akroyd, manager of customer success at Pendo, said the fact that women were underrepresented in leadership positions and in the tech industry is not only detrimental for women, but it also hinders businesses success as well.
“Studies have shown that when women are involved in crucial decisions, businesses perform better,”said Akroyd.
Pendo organized its “Climbing the Tech Ladder” event through its women affinity group. The company started doing affinity groups about six months ago, explained Leslie Neitzel, vice president of people at Pendo. Affinity groups are a place where those who are underrepresented gather to encourage each other, share advice and network. Pendo has multiple affinity groups, including an LGBTQ group and for other underrepresented minorities.
The event kicked off with appetizers and drinks. Businesswomen in various industries mingled and networked until the organizers announced that the event would move to the panelist discussion. The panel included Jennifer Kaelin, chief finance officer at Pendo; Susan Wall, chief marketing officer at Devada; and Jola Moss, vice president of care operations and customer experience at LogMeIn.
The three panelists gave a variety of advice ranging from how they advanced to their leadership positions today to what it means to live a work-life balance. Moss encouraged everyone in the audience to set high-achieving goals and to ask themselves why they wanted to be a leader.
“Be ready for the risks that come with the leadership position,” Moss said. “You never know what is going to happen to your job. The higher you go, the more challenged and criticism you’re going to get.”
All three panelists agreed that although you should remain professional at work, it’s important to not lose sight of your values and to be yourself.
“You have to be true to yourself,” said Kaelin. “If you aren’t who you really are at your work, then it’s not going to last long.”
The event ended with a Q&A session, where one participant asked what the panelists would like the direction of tech companies to be on this issue. Wall concluded by saying that she’d like to see more diversity especially within the engineering and software development side of companies.
“I still see very small numbers of women who are developers in these highly technical occupations,” Wall said. “I think there are skills we can encourage girls and women to invest in and learn to increase representation… it’s in these areas that we’re still lagging.”