There’s ample evidence that companies that have more women in their executive team perform better. Women leaders are great for business – so why aren’t more women in leadership positions?
I’m delighted to be at HERE, where we’re committed to closing the tech gender gap and have many initiatives which have allowed us to make great strides. Based on my personal experience, I can attest that mentorships and sponsorships are a key intervention to solving the diversity dilemma in tech.
The State of the Industry
The statistics available tell the same story – we still have a long way to go:
- Only 5% of leadership roles in technology are held by women.
- Only 7% of partners at global top 100 venture firms are women.
- Fewer than half of women and men think the best promotion opportunities go to the most deserving employees, and fewer than a quarter say that only the most qualified candidates are promoted to manager. On both fronts, women are less optimistic than men.
- 56% of women in tech leave their jobs, and most leave the industry all together.
But I found that it isn’t all bad news:
- Women who have a sponsor are 119% more likely to have their ideas developed.
- Research shows that company-created, and supported, sponsorship programs boost the number of women in STEM who are advancing and intend to stay by 72%.
Committed mentors and sponsors have had a powerful impact on my entering and staying in technical roles. This sentiment is shared by several of my female colleagues in tech. In fact, research indicates that women in the STEM field who have sponsors tend to soar – 37% are more likely to ask for a raise, and they’re 200% more likely to see their ideas implemented due to the increased visibility a sponsor provides.
To help shine a light on how mentorship and other actions can help forge a path forward, I asked two of my colleagues – Director of Business Operations for Mexico, Alejandra Lona, and VP Head of Planning & Innovation Enablement, Olga Selina – for their perspectives on the topic. These two HERE executives are impressive women who lead teams of hundreds and have ascended the ranks in the tech industry.
Alejandra Lona shared one way that women can have more impact – visibility.
“Being the leader of operations in Mexico is a big responsibility – and it’s even more so as a woman,” Alejandra said. “I was born and raised in a Latin culture where this is not normal at all, even for girls that have a good socio-economic position. It’s not seen as a good thing if you dedicate yourself only to work because you have to take care of your kids. There is a lot of that still in my culture.”
What Alejandra finds most important as a leader in Mexico is being an example to the next generation of female leaders, especially other women of color.
“I think it’s really important in Mexico that girls see an example, so that they can say, ‘OK, it is possible.’ Every opportunity I see that I can support young women, young leaders, I take it,” she said.
A Viable Option
Experience shows that if a young woman sees evidence that a career in tech is achievable, she’ll need a mentor. It does not have to be a formal process; it can be as simple as making time to be accessible to women, believing in them, and providing opportunities for growth.
Olga Selina said, “One of the pivotal moments in my career was when my boss at the time called me into their office. I assumed something was wrong or I had made a mistake. And then they said, ‘There is this huge department that we need a new leader for. We want you to be that leader.’ I had no experience in this area; I imagined everything that could go wrong.”
How was she able to overcome this fear? “It was realizing that my manager believed in me when I didn’t have that experience,” admitted Olga. “When people take care of people and allow them to try and potentially fail – or least believe that if they fail, it’s not going to be too bad – then those people grow. As a mentor or sponsor, you realize team members will make mistakes. The learning comes from how they recover and move on.”
A Force for Women, a Force for Good
From my vantage point, for every woman that comes into the organization, leaders like Olga and Alejandra exist to help provide new opportunities. The more we have this conversation, a broader number of qualified women will emerge, ready for advancement.
At HERE, we actively nurture the best talent – in particular, our Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) connects our female employees with mentors and sponsors. “The WIN program holds ‘Women in Tech’ events,” explained Olga. “We bring in guest speakers that are prominent in the field, and use a number of communication channels to discuss issues that affect women’s career development and progress within the industry.”
WIN also organizes an annual global tech event called WITness that provides a platform for women at HERE to share technical, business, career, and personal knowledge and insights.
The Power of Mentorship
Olga explained why she felt instilling the power of mentorship was particularly important for women.
“I think we don’t act on opportunities as easily [as men] and don’t ask for them as much as we should,” she said. “I wish when I was 25 or 30 or 35, I knew this as much as I do now. That’s why I make sure that my experience can be re-learned by other people, especially women.”
Alejandra agrees. She described her earliest role model – her mother. After becoming a widow, “she became a totally independent woman. And she’s very strong, with a very strong character,” Alejandra explained. With this early influence, Alejandra’s goals became focused on supporting others.
“It’s something I really care about,” she added. “Maybe because of the way I grew up, I really care about people. And I think that given the results, the way we work is good. But we also need to do more to help people grow – to make a positive change in people.”
The Only Way is Up
Looking to the future of the industry, Alejandra says she’s energized. “Being a part of a company with a vision that will not only make an impact in the technology world, but will make a positive impact in the way we live.”
Do you know what excites our leaders most about the future for women? Alejandra says, “We want to continue to see growth in the participation of women, and to motivate younger girls to be involved more in this industry that many women think is difficult.”
These leaders have shown me that contributing to the advancement of others with a “pay it forward” attitude is worth it.
It’s clear to me – and hopefully to you – that effective sponsorship and mentoring creates the ideal conditions for women to be supported in their roles and propelled towards further success. And as each new wave of empowered women emerge in the industry, the powerful circle continues by providing positive role models for generations to come.
If you’d like to be a part of the work we do at HERE, join us. Explore the possibilities with HERE Careers.