Whitney Cali, Chief Product Officer for myDNA, 28 by Sam Wood, FTNDA, and GenebyGene, reflects on her long career in digital and the lessons she learned and why they’re important for International Women’s Day.
After completing my undergraduate degree in business, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Information & Technology Management in the early 2000s. At the time, I strongly believed that having a thorough understanding of how technology works was critical to achieving a successful career in business. However, I quickly realised that I was one of only a handful of women enrolled in the program. And that trend has continued throughout my career in technology.
The biggest learning in my more than 20 years of working across tech is to believe you have something valuable to bring to the table. I was incredibly intimated early on by my lack of experience writing code, but what I did have was deep empathy for the people (customers) who would be using the solutions we were building.
I also learned the importance of supporting one another, especially in an industry where women are underrepresented in leadership positions. Finding role models and making connections beyond your company can be challenging and also hard to find, but it is essential for the advancement of women and girls in technology. Like many people, networking doesn’t come naturally to me. But I know that every time I sign up and show up for a local meetup or community event, it’s for a cause that is much bigger than any single one of us.
Seeing Women Leading Tech Awards and other opportunities to bring women into a room and network while also spotlighting the incredible work that is being done in the industry is crucial. For women starting out in their early careers, use this opportunity to connect with these powerhouses and seek mentorship. Having opportunities to tap into the story of how these businesswomen got to where they are now can inspire more women to join the tech industry and ultimately grow our broader community.
Yes, cultural change is happening, but this isn’t a simple problem that can be fixed overnight or even in a year. What I have seen is companies that embrace diversity are realising it’s not just the right thing to do, but a successful business strategy that backs diverse and well-rounded thinking.
The latest statistic I’ve heard is that men apply for a job when they meet 60 per cent of the qualifications whereas women tend to apply only if they meet 100 per cent of the requirements. For employers, this means you might be missing out on great candidates and should think about how you attract top talent and also look at areas of growth as opportunities to invest in the business and talent. And for women applying for roles, I’d encourage you to back yourselves.
In terms of getting more women in the workforce, there is no excuse not to get the fundamentals right – equal pay, support for diversity of hiring and promotion from all levels of the organization, and equitable training and development opportunities for everyone.
Finally, it is crucial to encourage girls and women of all ages to pursue tech as a passion and career. Technology is a creative field that needs diverse perspectives and ideas to thrive, and we should all do our part to make it a welcoming and inclusive space for women.
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