Women In Comms

Startup's President on Squashing Self-Imposed Setbacks

WiC: What are the biggest barriers to younger generations of women in entering a historically male-dominated industry?

SGJ: It can be lonely and you will often be the only woman in the group. Seek sources of support and networks of other women. Most large companies have great programs for diversity and inclusion that connect women across the business. The Grace Hopper Conference is an example of an event that provides connections for women pursuing careers in technology.

Differences in style and approach can sometimes result in feeling, or being, under-valued. Try to find quantifiable, objective measures for your contributions. Tech companies can be a boon here as there are almost always measurable outcomes and ways to demonstrate technical merit.

Remember that business also gets done outside the office -- focus on building relationships, not the venue itself. This can happen over breakfast, lunch, coffee -- it's not always on the golf course or in the bar. Also, don't let yourself be intimidated and don't let men exclude you from an event because they perceive it to be something you might not be interested in.

Another barrier is imposing self-limiting beliefs. If you think you will hit barriers, then you are likely to. Everyone has setbacks, but how you deal with them is more important. Focus on the lessons learned to move yourself forward.

WiC: What's the biggest lesson you've learned in your career in the tech and communications industries? What advice do you have for other women in the industry?

SGJ: The biggest opportunities come from taking risks -- you have much more control over your situation than you perceive that you do and the downside is never as extreme as you might think. Tech and the communications industries transform and whole businesses emerge or die -- it is a thrilling place to work. Be bold and take advantage of that opportunity, and invest in building relationships at all levels. Not only will it help your career, it makes coming to work every day that much more fun.

Many women starting their careers in technology today are poised and accomplished and rightly ambitious about their ability to succeed. The additional advice I'd offer is that your career is unlikely to follow whatever pre-determined path you think it should -- keep your ambitions alive but also enjoy and get as much from the experiences you are having right now.

For women at any point in their careers -- you can change the game for other women and can enlist men to help. You can do this in small ways -- making sure another woman's voice is not talked over, encouraging a girl in math and science; or in large ways -- running companies, changing legislation, or empowering women's education around the word.

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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