The 2017 HR Technology Conference kicked off on Tuesday morning with the second annual Women in HR Technology summit. Back bigger and better than ever this year – in a much bigger conference space to alleviate the overflow issues from the unexpected popularity of the inaugural event last year – the goal of this summit is to address questions such as how do we attract more women into tech and HR tech roles? And how do we help those in the field overcome the challenges of working in a historically male dominated field to thrive and ultimately grow into leadership roles?
I’ve said this before, but one of the reasons I really like this summit is that I truly believe that although the issue of promoting more women into leadership roles is certainly a prominent one in technology fields, I believe it also transcends tech to impact many industries. I work in the grocery retail industry and historically that has been fairly male-dominated; I’m sure we are not alone. More women in leadership roles is good for all business, and it’s something that should be top of mind regardless of the industry in which we work. And that could mean thinking about how we as women can help to promote ourselves, or how we’re helping those around us or in our companies to grow and thrive.
But back to the tech industry; after all this is the HR Tech conference. In the “Women Leaders in HR Technology” breakout session, we heard from leaders in the HR technology space from companies like Cornerstone OnDemand, Oracle, Ultimate Software, and Infor. They share their own struggles and challenges as they developed their own careers, with advice such as…
Refusing to “turn into a man” and buy into the idea of “the hustle” to prove that you really want to succeed. Be brave enough to say that you’re not going to give up everything else in your life up to prove how much you “want it.” -Cecile Alper-Leroux, Ultimate Software
Become confident enough in your own abilities so that you don’t stay with a company that doesn’t support your values. Don’t see yourself being a women as any sort of barrier - emulate those who you see as successful regardless of whether they are women or men. -Trish McFarlane, Infor
Even if you are the only woman in the room, remind yourself that you are there for a reason and you have something to contribute. The more you start raising your voice and saying I’m here for a purpose, it opens the door wider to build connections within the organization. -Gretchen Alarcon, Oracle
Once you’re in the room, it’s so important to stay in that room, even when it gets difficult. By doing so you start to erode implicit bias. Women need to be seen and seen more of. -Cecile Alper-Leroux, Ultimate Software
Don’t wait for the invitation; invite yourself. Make it happen. – Kirsten Helvey, Cornerstone OnDemand
And then I had an epiphany, one that came in the form of a surprise shout out from Trish McFarlane. You see, I was listening to these successful women, soaking in what I could learn from them, feeling like someone still much greener in my career than these amazingly successful women, thinking that these are the women I need to emulate. The panel then asked this question: “What are you personally doing or have done to help other women along?”
At that point Trish mentioned Women of HR, the blog that we founded with a few other women in 2010 and have collaborated on together since then. She kindly recognized me as the woman who now runs the blog, and talked about how it has helped to create a community for women (and men) to talk about issues important to women in business. She pointed out how something organized and developed completely outside all of our day jobs, something done voluntarily with no monetary compensation, something that we had the power to just do on our own, has help to create a resource and community to support women in business.
I realized in that moment the truth that we ALL can have an impact, no matter who we are or where we work or what our official job title is. Through my collaboration with Trish on Women of HR, she has helped bring me along. She has mentored and encouraged me to try things, even things I thought I couldn’t do or that scared me. But at the same time, Women of HR has helped other women too. So through my involvement with it, I’ve also had the power to make an impact. Me, who started listening to this panel thinking I had so much to learn from them, is actually already doing something to help.
So it may be big, it may be small. It may be within the confines of our own company, or in the form of something we do on our own time. It may help our own development at the same time as helping others. No matter what it is, we can all do something; we all have the power to help move the needle, in our own ways, one step at a time.
And that was a powerful realization. What are you doing, or what can you do, to promote yourself or other women around you?