Women and HR Tech – Making it Work

Oct 10, 2017 1:31:45 PM / by HR Tech

My favorite part of last year’s HR Technology Conference was the first annual discussion of the experiences, roles, and leadership of women in HR technology. I love learning about new software, capabilities, and people’s experiences using those tools. But understanding the intersection of people and technology will always be the part that lights me up.

I can’t wait to attend this year’s Women and HR Tech sessions to hear these successful, brilliant women explain what it’s like to work in tech, how important it still is to discuss gender issues, and how to develop effective organizations and relationships that work for both men and women.

Women in HR Technology is an interesting contrast between HR and Tech.

There are lots of women in HR. Human Resources is one area where women have thrived and achieved management roles. HR leadership is 73% women and a majority of executive HR positions between 2011 and 2016 went to women. (Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics and CEB research as reported in Workforce Magazine.)

It’s a dramatically different story for women in technology.

In 2016, only 26% of professional computing occupations were held by women. Only 20% of Fortune 100 Chief Information Officer positions are held by women. (Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled by the National Center for Women in Information Technology.)

During August and September, I interviewed over a dozen women who work for ADP* as part of a project to celebrate Women in STEM. Most are women of color. They span in age from around 30 to over 60. As a result of these conversations, I learned a lot and realized how far we have come and how much work there still is.

Discrimination is real and persists. But when you are in it, you often don't realize that's what's happening. It's just your situation. And dealing with it is how you get to where you want to go. Many of these women just take for granted the significant obstacles they had to deal with. None was deterred.

In talking to women of different ages, it's clear we have made tremendous progress overall. Younger women seemed to experience less discrimination and harassment than women who started working before the 1990's. My sense is that the progress of the women's movement in the 60's and 70's, sexual harassment laws of the1980's, and time have all been significant forces for change.

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and proudly wore my “A woman’s place is in the

House. And in the Senate” shirt. The women’s movement was full of women who grew up in the 40's and 50's proclaiming I could be whatever I wanted. But they had no idea how to help me do it, because very few women had achieved leadership roles.

When my generation of women hit the workforce in the mid 1980’s and early 1990’s, the only approach available was to try to out-man the men. So, we suited up, worked longer hours, had to be smarter, quicker, more resourceful, and often give the men credit for our work and ideas. (I have since realized that men are just as hard on each other, bully and harass each other, and often treat each other horribly. But that’s a different article. If you have a story, I’d love to hear it.)

That time between the availability of birth control and sexual harassment laws was a difficult environment where nobody was sure how to operate. It’s fair to say mistakes were made by everyone, but also important to remember the extreme differences in power.

In the 1980’s when I started my career, working relationships between genders was fraught, especially in male dominated fields such as law and STEM. The traditional roles between genders - parents, lovers, siblings and classmates - did not translate to work. And since most organizations were based on strong hierarchies, that framework of competition and concentration of authority and resources at the top restricted a lot of what was possible.

Many of the women I spoke to across all ages talked about the importance of team sports. Athletics taught them how to compete and how to work with others to achieve a common goal. I believe that sports provided the relationship metaphor we were all looking for, and it continues to provide common ground.

Today, I can offer my students, colleagues, and younger friends support, advice, and a lot of stories to illustrate both what works and what doesn’t. Women today have both male and female mentors and allies who have walked the path and changed the landscape.

It’s essential that we continue to share our experiences and encourage each other and our organizations to create and sustain working environments that really work. I was thrilled to see the Diversity Learning track at this year’s conference.

The women presenting on Tuesday at the HR Technology Conference will offer wisdom, advice, compelling and funny stories, and are wonderful examples of what is possible.

Don’t miss these sessions:

Tuesday, October 10, 8:30 AM - 9:25 AM

Driving Growth Through the Advancement of Women in Technology

Patricia Milligan

Room: Venetian Ballroom A-D


Tuesday, October 10, 9:30 AM - 10:20 AM

Women Leaders in HR Technology

Gretchen Alarcon, Cara Capretta, Cecile Alper-Leroux, Kristen Helvy, Kristin Lewis, Trish McFarlane

Room: Venetian Ballroom A-D


Tuesday, October 10, 9:30 AM - 10:20 AM

Finding, Supporting and Developing the Next Generation of Women Technology Leaders

Room: Venetian Ballroom I

Kimberly Cassady, Yasmary Diaz, Vivian Maza


Tuesday, October 10, 10:30 AM - 11:15 AM

The ROI of Women Investing in Women

Amy Wilson, Erika Trautman, Kim Seals, Brynne Kennedy, Jacqueline Loeb

Room: Venetian Ballroom I


Tuesday, October 10, 10:30 AM - 11:15 AM

How HR Technology Can Foster a More Diverse, Inclusive Workplace

Charna Parkey, Loni Brown, Jennifer Cambern, Patti Fletcher

Room: Venetian Ballroom A-D


Tuesday, October 10, 11:20 AM - 12:00 PM

Men@Work: A Career Girl’s Guide to Navigating Male Archetypes, Achieving Success and Finding Happiness

CXhristan Van Houton

Room: Venetian Ballroom A-D


Thursday, October 12, 2017: 1:45 PM - 3:00 PM

Mega Session: The Business Value of Diversity & Inclusion and the Role of HR and HR Technology

Naomi Bloom, Rita Mitjans, Patricia Milligan and Michael Krupa

Room: Venetian Ballroom I

I want to make a special pitch for this one because the speakers are people I admire a great deal. (Rita Mitjans was one of the women I talked to; she has an extraordinary story.) These HR and Technology leaders walk their talk, understand the importance of inclusion, know how to change organizations to be more diverse and inclusive for everyone, and will explain why it all makes great business sense.

I am excited about this year’s HR Technology conference and can’t wait to see you.

* To make the FTC and lawyers happy, I am working as an independent contractor to ADP as the editor of their HR blog Spark, and I was paid for my work on the Women in STEM project. This article contains my thoughts, impressions, and opinions.


Topics: HR, innovation, talent development;, women in HR Tech, Women in HR Technology

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