Blog > June 2021 > WLIT Coffee Talk and Book Club Covers How to Survive and Thrive as Women in Tech

WLIT Coffee Talk and Book Club Covers How to Survive and Thrive as Women in Tech

We’ve seen a plethora of booklists circulating this past year – from pandemic “survival” guides to professional development reading lists. This week, ASG’s Women Leaders in Technology (WLIT) Coffee Talk and Book Club focused on a book that is equally important and enjoyable: Please STAY: How Women in Tech Survive and Thrive. WLIT attendees can order Please STAY during the month of June and receive 10% off.

Please STAY embraces the same message as ASG’s WLIT program: the tech industry may let women in, but it doesn’t make it easy for them to stay – and we’re here to help. Co-authors of the book, Debra Christmas and Kelley Irwin, brought decades of experience to this conversation. Debra is a Senior Executive Partner at Gartner Canada and the Founder of Stiletto Gladiators, a nonprofit consultancy for mentoring women in IT. Kelley is the CIO at Electrical Safety Authority and a Founding Partner of Women in Tech Tribe. Together, we discussed why women are leaving tech and how we can empower each other to persevere and pursue excellence.

If you couldn’t make it to the Coffee Talk, explore these top takeaways and watch the recording here.

Top Barriers Women Face in Tech

The Please STAY co-authors described three barriers hindering women’s progress in technology.

  1. Lack of women role models and mentors. This absence, couple with gender bias, impacts women professionals on a daily basis. Without role models who look like you, it’s difficult to envision yourself getting to the next level – or even knowing who to ask for advice.
  2. Find your voice. For women of all ages, though especially young women at the start of their careers, it is critical to appreciate one’s own value, knowledge, worth, talent and unique gifts. “Stand in your power,” Debra told the WLIT group. “Women make up half the population. We have big world problems, and they won’t be solved without our voices.”
  3. Be courageous. Courage is a muscle. The more you use it, the more comfortable you will feel stepping up to solve something difficult. The Please STAY co-authors reminded attendees that they can’t control or predict how people respond to them, so be prepared for any response, even if it’s conflict. It’s better to “do it afraid” than to not do it at all.

How to Engage Allies

Allyship is all about using your privilege – whether that’s your position within a company, your race or your status. Allies take that privilege and help someone who is marginalized, disadvantaged or oppressed in some way. They take the time and effort required to break down barriers and dismantle systems that keep other people down. Here’s the trick: you can’t self-identify as an ally. You have to put in the work. In most cases, men still own a majority of the seats of power, so women need help in dismantling the systems holding them back.

As Debra and Kelley shared, allyship doesn’t mean boiling the ocean. Women can start with finding individuals who are willing to listen and provide support. In turn, men can ask, “how can I help?” Kelley advised attendees to build a network of alliances. “What relationships have you established to help call out behaviors?” she asked. “Find someone who listens to you, gives you respect and is trustworthy – and ask them for help.”

Elevating Women into Positions of Power

In addition to finding mentors and allies, Debra and Kelley provided brilliant real-world advice for helping women rise through the professional ranks.

  • Advocate for yourself when you’re qualified but overlooked. Find out why you are being overlooked. It may have nothing to do with you. People could have prior commitments or be relying on nepotism.
  • Request support. Ask potential mentors or sponsors if they will advocate for you. Get feedback on the skills you will need from that person and listen.
  • Ask for what you want. As an introvert, Kelley is confident and believes in her skills but still prefers to write down her requests ahead of important meetings. Debra, an extrovert, told her boss, “I want your job,” foreshadowing what would happen just four years later.
  • Find out what you’re good at and build a team to do the rest. Surround yourself with people who have the skills you lack. Use the power of diversity; bring in new perspectives from different types of people.
  • Be intentional with your words and actions. People pay attention to your tone, affect and body language. Stop using words that add doubt. Remove “I think” or “sorry” from your vocabulary and replace them with “I know,” “I’ve experienced,” and “I have expertise in.”

Re-defining Work-Life Balance and Success

The pandemic forced many professionals to reassess what a work-life blend looked like to them. For Kelley, it’s not about equal time at work and home – it’s understanding the seasonality of demands. During holidays, there is more demand to be with family. At year-end or month-end, there will be greater demands at work. Over the last year, she had to figure out what a work-life blend looked like during the day. Rather than working all day and then shifting to home life, Kelley might take 90 minutes to run an errand that is easier to do in the afternoon, and then work for three more hours.

When it comes to success, Kelley advised WLIT attendees to write down the things they want. “Success should change throughout your life,” she said. “But always write down the 10 things you want and put them in order. You need to know what’s important to you.”

Next Books to Read

Debra recommends The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck, and Kelley recommends Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

Save the Date!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for another incredible WLIT event. ASG’s next WLIT Coffee Talk will be at EVOLVE21 on October 6 at 8:00 a.m. ET. Attendees will meet two women passionate about creating change with tangible benefits. Rocki Howard, Chief Diversity Officer at SmartRecruiters, is on a mission to disrupt the intersection of diversity and recruitment. Cyndi Weis, a true entrepreneur and the founder of Breathe Yoga, had a vision that was fueled almost exclusively by passion. Through small next steps, she is now inspired to elevate corporate cultures to have a positive impact on wellbeing. Stay tuned for more information to sign up – see you there!

Posted: 6/10/2021 8:30:00 AM by Mary Wells - SVP of Marketing