5 Ways Women in Technology Can Forge Ahead

Throughout the year, Workday has participated in different events that support women in technology. Lynn Christensen, Workday's SVP of product development, shares insights from these events that can help position not just women, but businesses for greater success.

Throughout the year, I’ve had the incredible opportunity of attending different events on behalf of Workday that support women in technology. In February, I spoke on a panel about breaking barriers at VMware’s Women Transforming Technology conference. And just last month, I attended the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and participated in the panel “Changing the Game: Women in Tech” at Workday Rising. These events represent a manifestation of a powerful movement focused on celebrating and empowering women technologists around the world, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

Throughout these events, I’ve been so inspired by the stories shared by women from all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. While we’ve made a lot of progress, it’s clear that there is so much left to do.

Here are five lessons reiterated throughout each event that I think will help not just position women, but businesses for greater success:

Technology Is Human by Nature

With all the amazing innovations we’ve seen in technology, it can be easy to forget how much tech is influenced by human nature. Behind every algorithm is someone who’s writing the code. As Dr. Fei-Fei Li, professor and director of Stanford University’s AI Lab and the chief scientist at Google Cloud AI/ML said during her keynote speech at Grace Hopper, “machine values come from human values.” Organizations and their leaders need to ensure that their workforce is diverse enough to build products and services that are fair and don’t discriminate.

Here at Workday, we have a diverse workforce across the company, from the C-suite to our newest interns. This multitude of backgrounds and perspectives helps our organization create well-rounded products—like Workday Human Capital Management (HCM)—that further our central mission of meeting the needs of customers and enabling them to drive their own diversity initiatives forward.

Everyone Must Do Their Part

Diversity and inclusion initiatives need to be company-wide. As Ashley Goldsmith, chief people officer at Workday recently stated, by making diversity and inclusion a priority, companies can build better brands, create better products, and ultimately increase business performance. And, most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.

As leaders, we must serve as positive role models to those within and outside of our companies. We can do this by looking for women to sponsor and advocating for continued career growth on their behalf. Unlike mentorships, where mentees seek out mentors, in a sponsorship situation, a business leader identifies and champions employees with high growth potential. During her interview with theCUBE at Grace Hopper, my colleague Erin Yang, vice president of technology product management, shared how having a sponsor within the company helped her career at Workday.

The Road to Success Starts with You

While it’s certainly important to have a support system, one of the most impactful things you can do to propel your career is to believe in yourself. Recognize your potential and go after what you want.

During her keynote at Grace Hopper, Diane Greene, CEO of Google Cloud and co-founder of VMware, shared a story from her childhood that really resonated with me. As a young child, her father entrusted her to steer their boat through a narrow opening between two bridges. With each trip out on the water, she worked hard to improve her concentration and accuracy to better prepare for any challenges at sea. This experience ingrained in her the value of constantly striving to do better and of trusting her own vision, which was critical as she grew older and female role models were in short supply.

Think Big to Achieve Big

Unfortunately, success isn’t always defined by how hard you work. During a panel discussion I participated in at VMware’s 2017 Women Transforming Technology Conference, I shared that working hard only gets you somewhere if you’re working on something that moves the lever and helps the organization achieve its goals. I’ve often seen women get lost in the weeds, focusing on tactical projects without prioritizing activities that will make the greatest impact. Think about the big picture—every goal you set or action you take should be part of a bigger plan.

Diversity Initiatives Can and Should Be Measured

Organizations need to take a data-driven approach to their diversity and inclusion initiatives by establishing goals, measuring impact, and reporting on the results. Data holds everyone accountable and allows you to benchmark how you’re doing against your peers.

Data not only proves the tangible benefits of improving workforce diversity, but also shifts the focus to facts—not opinions. At PwC’s “Changing the Game: Women in Technology” panel at Workday Rising, I shared how data takes the emotion out of the conversation. It can be challenging to have conversations about diversity issues, but bringing numbers to the table will add credibility and make for a more productive dialog.

It was great to see so much momentum behind supporting women in technology and to represent Workday’s commitment to fostering belonging and diversity in the workplace and beyond. With the insights I’ve gained, I’m inspired to keep looking for ways to make an impact.

Photo: Attendees from Workday at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, October 4-6, 2017.

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