The Splunk .conf23 conference featured a noteworthy Womxn in Tech panel discussion which grappled with the expectations and challenges faced by women in the tech sector. Juliana Vida, group vice-president and chief strategic advisor at Splunk, addressed the issue of gender norms influencing job roles. She pointed out that societal expectations for women to shoulder the responsibility of office social tasks not only reinforce gender stereotypes, but can also distract from their professional responsibilities.
The Impact of Societal Stereotypes on Women in Tech
The conference panel went on to discuss how societal stereotypes act as barriers for women in tech. While it is commonly acknowledged that gender stereotypes deter women from tech careers, the conversation at Splunk .conf23 delved deeper. The panel highlighted the effects of these stereotypes on women who are already in the industry. Their professional experiences are often tinged with unconscious bias, as they frequently find themselves sidelined for opportunities and promotions.
Overcoming Adversity: Shefali Mookencherry’s Experience
A potent example of the challenges women face came from Shefali Mookencherry, CISO of the University of Illinois in Chicago. She recalled the hurdles she faced as a “new kid on the block” in a male-dominated industry. Mookencherry recounted her struggle to secure a meeting with a higher-ranking male colleague due to his unfounded fears of her ambitions. Eventually, their professional relationship improved, spanning a decade. Mookencherry advised women to rise above perceived victimhood, asserting that mastery in their field of work and recognition of their worth are critical for success.
Identity Struggles: Balancing Authenticity and Adaptability
The panel also explored the pressures faced by women in leadership positions. The industry often compels these women to embrace masculine personas to ensure their acceptance. Hannah Thomas, senior cybersecurity analyst at the Bank of England, spoke about her female boss who adopted a distinctly different persona at work compared to her authentic self. Thomas underscored the importance of individuality, emphasizing that a woman should not feel compelled to change her identity to fit into a male-dominated workspace.
Nurturing Support Networks: The Role of Mentorship and Allyship
One of the ways forward, according to Michelle Garcia, director of information security and compliance at Carnival Cruise Line, is building a robust support and mentorship network among women in the tech sector. She encouraged women to identify workplaces that genuinely value diversity and inclusion. Furthermore, she stressed the importance of becoming mentors to others, underlining that male allies are crucial in fostering a more inclusive culture.
Building an Inclusive Tech Sector: Collective Effort is Key
Creating a more inclusive tech sector requires collective effort. This encompasses not just women supporting each other but also the active participation of male allies. In conclusion, Garcia highlighted the choice of kindness, emphasizing the necessity for empathy in the professional world.
The discussions from the Womxn in Tech panel at Splunk .conf23 underscore the persistent challenges faced by women in the tech industry and the urgent need for systemic change. Through sharing experiences and addressing these issues head-on, the sector can move closer towards creating a truly diverse and inclusive environment.