The Real Reason Women Aren’t Getting Ahead in Tech: “She’s Not Strategic”

Jess Iandiorio
The Startup
Published in
9 min readAug 22, 2020

Pro tip: Learn to own the mic. Extra points for jazz hands

Before I explain “She’s not strategic,” I’d like to give you a bit of background. I’m 38 years old and a two-time CMO for tech companies. I’ve joined five startups so far and held leadership positions at four of them. Along the way, I’ve had three children, and in my child-bearing years advocated for how to make tech family-friendly, how to handle exec pregnancies with “Oh sh*t! Your top female talent is pregnant, and my perspective on how to address the leadership gap: The Women In Tech Convo Needs More Men.

As my hair stylist starts to address the beginning of gray hair by saying, “Seriously, it’s not noticeable,” and my sister says, “HA! You’re going gray!” I find myself entering a new era of gray hair + perspective. That same gray hair I felt the lack of for all those years. Now I’m in da club, and my perspective has changed.

I used to see maternity leave time-outs — and the subsequent feeling you can’t ask for a raise or promotion — as one of the core issues creating the wage and leadership gap. Now that I’m on the other side, I’ve noticed a very different issue. I call it: She’s not Strategic (SNS). In this article, I want to explain what I mean, how women can spot if they’re suffering from SNS disease, and how leaders (men and women) can recognize if they’re not giving promising women a fair chance.

What do I mean by strategic?

Leaders are chosen for their ability to impact the trajectory of the business over time. Being strategic means you’re able to balance long-term objective setting alongside near-term actions and goal setting. It means you understand the market you operate in, the ancillary markets, and all of the factors that will contribute to your organization’s success. While you typically only lead one function, you actively contribute ideas everywhere. Your strategic impact is not based on individual/functional performance, but how you contribute to the success of other functions.

What’s “She’s not Strategic?”

This a bias-based issue. Both women and men in leadership are prone to unfairly judging a woman’s potential to have a broader impact. This great HBR article points out that in addition to individual biases, organizations are often prone to structural

Jess Iandiorio
The Startup

CMO @Starburst, former CMO Mirakl, VP, Mktg @Drift & VP, Product Mktg @Acquia. Love start-up culture and being SaaSy. Also love being a mom & wifey.