I am fortunate to work with an incredible team of women — both in our programme and the wider network. Investors, mentors, founders, technologists, industry experts and more: it’s an incredible collective and one I’ve learned a lot from over the last two programmes.
To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, the programme team sat down with some of the women in our network to hear their thoughts on women in tech, STEM more broadly, mentor- and allyship, gender parity and equality and a few things in-between.
While you’re here, why not sign up for a (free) ticket to our IWD webinar?
Thanks to everyone who contributed and happy IWD2021!
What advice would you give to a female entrepreneur launching a company?
Nichola Bates, Boeing HorizonX Global Ventures and ATI Boeing Accelerator programme lead, joined Boeing just over three years ago, following a 10 year career working with early stage and scaling startups.
“I think that one of the most powerful things any founder can do is to ensure that they have a strong support network; and for female founders this is especially important, given that more than 97% of VC funding goes to male led teams. Build your own mafia of advocates and champions — infect everyone you meet with your passion & vision.”
“It’s a hard lesson I’ve learned time and time again, but if you can’t look after yourself, you cannot look after a company. It’s a “marathon, not a sprint”, however, in this marathon, there are also a lot of steep inclines and hazards. Being a founder is great, but you have to look after your physical and mental health from the beginning. Your company is important, and your team, but you are a crucial component. Remember to make yourself a priority. A routine helps a lot, surround yourself with smart people and mentors, and work on your boundaries. You don’t have to accomplish everything at once, less is more. Work out what’s essential for you and let that steer your direction. Finally, no is an incredibly powerful word, without it your yes means nothing.”
Vix Anderton is the Founder and Chief Energy Officer at The Practical Balance. She’s on a mission to help other overachievers and recovering perfectionists get sh*t done with more peace, power and purpose, even under high stress.
“Your connection to yourself is the most important relationship you need to nurture. Learn to listen to and respect your body, to its needs and its wisdom. The more you can feel what a yes and a no feel like in your body, the more you’ll be able to trust your own decision-making.”
What can leadership teams do right now to advance gender equality?
“Actively listen to your colleagues and act upon what is needed in your organisation. Don’t bring in one-off initiatives as a tick box exercise or use empty campaigns to virtue signal. One-off interventions and initiatives often end up being about ‘fixing the difference’ rather than being inclusive of all people and their attributes. We have repeatedly seen how this can lead to creating division and reinforcing a ’them vs us’ bias. We recommend taking a holistic approach to action and to bake-in inclusivity across the business which will impact EVERY individual. To create meaningful change, tackle the challenges at the root and the solutions provided must be bespoke to your colleagues, culture and be aligned to your organisation’s values, brand and mission.”
— Lyndsey Britton-Lee
“Invest authentically. Align equality, diversity and inclusion to your strategic business goals. Understand that there’s no silver bullet solution — it takes time and there’s a number of key areas that need to be addressed. The agenda needs to be owned at the top and led from the bottom up to be most impactful. We encourage all organisations to self audit their policies, processes and systems. Look at your data and take a birds eye view across the whole workplace to uncover where challenges lie. Any D&I strategy you put in place should include short, medium and long term goals which are tracked and measured according to what strategies and interventions you decide.”
— Lynsey Harbottle
Susan Schofield is the ATI Boeing Accelerator Programme Lead and VP of Strategy for Civil Airframes at GKN Aerospace. Susan is an advocate for gender equality and a founding member of the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter (WIAAC) leadership committee.
“Leaders individually can advance gender equality by prioritising conversation about inclusion. Sharing personal experiences of exclusion (gender or otherwise) establishes a shared connection about the importance of creating a place where everyone can be at their best. Leadership teams can prioritise the conversations about what needs to change and how encourage freedom to challenge tradition. Take the time to recognise the positive actions of others that promote inclusion and set these actions as expectation.”
Johanna Campion is the Venture Partner at the ATI Boeing Accelerator. Outside of the accelerator, Johanna is a mentor, investor in and board member for early-stage startups.
“Leaders can choose to make a systematic focus of each and every recruiting process to find appropriate candidates to help rebalance the workforce and advance gender equality. This means actively requiring recruiters to present a mixed or even full slate of minority, usually female, candidates, especially for roles where the existing workforce is substantively skewed one way.
“Indicating to partners and suppliers that the gender composition of the team you will be working with will be an important consideration in who you chose to work with going forwards.
“In performance assessment, promotions and compensation, focus on productivity and competence rather presence and continue to facilitate inclusive and flexible working, even when return to the office is allowed, so those with other responsibilities for caring for parents or children, which usually falls disproportionately to women, can make their full contribution and be fully recognised for what they achieve whether or not they are physically in the office.”
What are some traits that you think great leaders possess? And what are your thoughts on mentoring? Have you had a mentor or an advisor that has impacted your journey for the better?
Miriam Sarin and Anna Boon from Captivate Coaching deliver workshops and 1–2–1 coaching sessions that provide individuals with a toolkit to help them communicate in the most effective and exciting way possible.
“One of the most important traits of a good leader is the ability to be humble. Nothing gets in the way of good communication and honest relationships more than pride. It’s one of the hardest things to do, but leaving your ego at the door and truly valuing other people’s input makes for a strong, motivated team.
“In terms of mentors… someone who knows you and your work and someone you can bounce ideas off can massively inspire confidence and drive. An encouraging mentor can provide renewed positivity and can help open your eyes to opportunities that you might not otherwise have thought of.”
“I don’t believe there is any one type of leader, but I do believe great leaders are generally inquisitive, they listen well, and they inspire others by sharing their purpose. There is a dangerous belief that great leaders never have self-doubt, that they never waiver from their commitment and that they work tirelessly. That false belief holds back people from reaching their full potential, and I hope someday we will dispel the myth that there is a single leadership persona.
“Mentorship is a very valuable tool for personal development. Mentors can open doors, invite critical self-reflection, and provide a safe place to explore challenging ideas. I find most leaders have mentors in their life, although how they show up varies. Some prefer very structured interaction, and others have a more fluid, ad-hoc relationship. I believe it’s our obligation as leaders to both welcome feedback from our mentors, but also we should return the favor and help raise up voices across the organization by mentoring others.
“It’s not my job as a leader to come up with every great idea, but it is my job to create an environment where ideas thrive. I’ve been lucky in my career to have mentors model that for me, and I know my professional journey was both faster, and more rewarding because of those who supported me at every stage of my growth.”
Madlen Buchbauer leads Mobilisation sessions at the ATI Boeing Accelerator. She has been studying Kali, Boxing and Muay Thai for the last 16 years, and holds a blackbelt in Jeet Kune Do and Kickboxing.
“Every person is so different and so are leaders, but I believe a very important trait is to be at peace with yourself — to accept your strengths and weaknesses. This in turn enables them to see and appreciate other people for who they are and to help them nurture their capabilities and strengths.
“There has only been one person over the years that I would have considered a mentor and that experience has been very valuable. Having the right person inspire, guide, redirect your focus and assist you at the right times was what kept me going and inspired.”
How can we encourage young women to pursue careers in technology?
Evelina Vrabie is a CTO-in-Residence at the ATI Boeing Accelerator. Evelina is a technical founder, manager and engineer with fourteen years of experience in technology startups, on a mission to build products that make peoples’ lives better.
“Women and folks from underrepresented backgrounds need sponsorship and opportunities. Not just mentoring, coaching and sympathy, but real opportunities.”
Read Evelina’s article on the blog.
Lucy Caffery is the Head of Product Management at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) focused on ‘Impact from Science’ — getting new technology into the hands of industry and consumers via new products & services, spin outs, IP licensing or industry collaborations.
“By showing what an amazing career you can have as a woman in technology! There are so many different types of jobs and talents needed in technology companies, it really is a place where women thrive. There is an amazing history of women in science and technology — from the code breakers in Bletchley Park, Rosalind Franklin and Ada Lovelace to the women leading the current wave of new technologies — just look here for the variety, the list goes on. There are some amazing initiatives such as Stemettes, Ada’s list, Grace Hopper, SheCanCode that can all help and support young women in their careers. And lots of women in technology ready and waiting to support! Especially where I work at the National Physical Laboratory, we are committed to showcasing and celebrating the work of our staff and encouraging and inspiring future generations of scientists and researchers. We also seek to promote the diversity of careers available to young adults and children within STEM and showcase the diversity of people that undertake them.”
In her role as Head of Technology for Sustainability and Strategy at the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Dr. Cristina Garcia-Duffy is accountable for the development and refresh of the ATI technology strategy and for integration of technology cross-cutting areas including sustainability and the environment.
“More women will be encouraged to think about a career in technology and to join, to remain and to grow within technology companies if the conditions are optimum for them to do so. It is absolutely not about ability or preferences. Leaders need to ensure that their culture, policies, career development instruments and commitments to diversity and inclusion are best-in-class to attract and retain the right talent. Besides that it is about showcasing these conditions to increase awareness.”
This year’s IWD theme is #ChooseToChallenge. What does this theme mean to you personally?
Jacqueline Davidson is an active member of the Boeing HorizonX Global Ventures team. She is a champion for startups at the Boeing Company, and an advocate for a more sustainable, diverse, and inclusive aviation ecosystem.
“This past year has arguably been one of the most reflective and eye opening years in my life; and I don’t think I am alone in that. It’s made me challenge preconceived notions, reflect on my moral roots, and opened my eyes to stories and experiences in a way like never before. What this theme means to me is evolving from introspective learning to outwardly ‘doing’. What I mean is taking these learnings as more than a data point, but instead using them to be vulnerable with others, be an advocate, and create community for allyship.”
Gabriela Matic, Programme Director at the ATI Boeing Accelerator:
“For me, International Women’s day has always been a great day to reflect on how far we have come and how far we are from actually achieving true equality. All around the world, women still face great injustices and I think it’s important to challenge anyone who is in denial about that. I try to challenge gender bias and inequality whenever I can in my everyday life by pointing out lack of diversity or biased language — but a lot more needs to be done. More often than I’d like to admit I need to do this about my own biases or preconceptions too. The hope is that one day we won’t need a specific day and women in all industries will be celebrated 365 days a year.”
Ksenia Kurileva, Programme and Marketing Manager at the ATI Boeing Accelerator:
“All of us have a voice in our organisations and in our communities, and that voice matters. To me, the #ChooseToChallenge theme means using my voice to advocate for gender equality, celebrate women’s achievements and raise the visibility of women in technology and innovation. We can choose to be part of the conversation and make a difference on International Women’s Day and everyday.”
Register for our IWD: Women in Tech webinar here.
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