Career Advice from Global Tech Executives that #InspireInclusion 

Overcoming Challenges: Women in Tech Careers Share 3 Tips for Success | CIO Women Magazine

By Melanie Jin, Executive Director of SMB Product and Portfolio, Intelligent Devices Group at Lenovo   

Recent data shows 27% of senior-level or executive roles in technology are held by women. While this number is in stride with the S&P 500 (26.5%), more than 50% of Women in tech careers leave their job by the age of 35, according to a study done by Accenture. 

Much of the decline in numbers is due to a lack of inclusivity for women in the industry. Maintaining a diverse workforce at the mid and senior-level can prove to be a daunting task. When very few women look like you in the role(s) you aspire to, it can be difficult to visualize yourself in those roles and stay motivated to pursue. That’s why, no matter your gender, it’s important to build a strong network of allies, sponsors, and mentors to help achieve your career goals.  

I had the pleasure of connecting with my global network of female tech executives at Lenovo this Women’s History Month to discuss inclusion in technology, mentorship in the workplace and global retention of diverse employees. 

Here are 3 tips from women in tech careers:

1. Inclusion in Technology 

Lenovo is an incredibly diverse company: with more than 77,000 employees in 180 different markets, our teams and customers are in all corners of the globe. My colleague Shannon McKay is the General Manager of Worldwide Smart Collaboration at Lenovo, I asked her how technology helps power collaboration and inclusivity among teams. She said, “There is no one-size-fits-all solution to collaboration. Workforces, and individuals in them, have different needs and the spaces they occupy are fluid as they constantly have the opportunity to upgrade technology.

Overcoming Challenges: Women in Tech Careers Share 3 Tips for Success | CIO Women Magazine

What is important is meeting equity and giving employees equal opportunity to be seen, heard and contribute. For example, smarter technology allows cameras and microphones to fully capture every face and voice, digital white boarding features allow people not in the meeting room to contribute to ideation, and transcription allows those not present or hearing impaired to still participate.”  

New equipment that supports connected work empowers employees to deliver their best results. It can also help emphasize that leaders care about the many ways employees show up in the workplace and want to invest in their teams’ futures. How and where we work is more flexible than ever before and ensuring employees have the right solutions to get the job done should be one of the top priorities as a global leader. 

2. Women in tech careers: Mentorship in the Workplace 

The harsh reality is that challenges are typically unbalanced between men and women when it comes to advancing in the workplace. Even with advances in bias awareness and gender equality training in the workplace, women still represent a small fraction of the technology workforce and leadership. In fact, 66% of women see no clear path for advancement or improvement within their tech careers according to a study by the Women in Technology Network

Overcoming Challenges: Women in Tech Careers Share 3 Tips for Success | CIO Women Magazine

Women deserve a seat at the table despite the many hurdles that may come with progressing in their careers. There are several reasons why women are underrepresented in tech. First, the lack of female role models in tech and in the C-Suite can be discouraging for interested women in tech careers. Second, a lack of support networks along the path to help, guide, and motivate women in tech careers at every stage in their tech careers can limit their success. This is why professional mentorship is so important. Mentors do not have to look like you, but when choosing a mentor, it’s important to look for three key traits: 

  1. A guide that can inspire you to think strategically about how you want to advance your career 
  2. A leader with vision, creativity, and experience in your industry 
  3. An expert who is kind and can offer support during highs, lows, setbacks, and successes 

Lastly, it is critical to select a mentor that can communicate and work well with you. Some of the best mentors I’ve had view me as a partner and take the time to get know me holistically so they can offer the best guidance and support.  

3. Global Retention of Diverse Employees 

Individuals from diverse backgrounds draw from different experiences and can challenge viewpoints considered “universal” by more homogenous groups. As senior leaders, it’s our job to make sure our teams feel connected and supported. Part of this involves creating a work environment where diversity of thought is encouraged and new information or insights can be peacefully shared and considered to help grow a business. While a company may maintain a specific business culture, it is pertinent to consider the individuals that make up your organizational culture and how their contributions can benefit the business.  

When I connected with my colleague Carly Okerfelt, Worldwide Future Computing and Strategic Innovation Leader at Lenovo on how empathetic leadership can improve business she highlighted that “Research has shown that companies demonstrating higher levels of empathy and embracing gender diversity often experience enhanced employee retention, ultimately driving greater profitability and fostering innovation within the organization.

Overcoming Challenges: Women in Tech Careers Share 3 Tips for Success | CIO Women Magazine

For instance, a noteworthy increase in the participation of mothers in the workforce in 2023, nearly reaching pre-pandemic levels at about 76% and comprising 33% of all employed Women in tech careers, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, underscores the positive impact of recognizing and valuing these diverse perspectives. By acknowledging and appreciating these differences, companies can create a more supportive environment where individuals, irrespective of gender or background, feel empowered and motivated to actively contribute to the company’s success.” 

Gender disparity in tech companies is nothing new and has existed for decades, however, engaging with employees through weekly check-ins or anonymous employee engagement surveys can help all employees feel more supported and increase retention. 

The Bottom Line 

Diversity of thought is integral to business success. Environments that do not build inclusivity into everything they do stand to lose out on both talent and innovation. According to a study from Zipdo, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity in senior leadership have a 41% greater return on equity in 2023.  

At Lenovo, our teams and partners have accomplished captivating work to address inclusivity in the workplace such as spearheading sponsorship of Women in tech careers and minority-owned businesses or partnering with DE&I and inclusion experts and advocates like Shaholly Ayers to build functional devices for all people across the globe. 

Through inclusive technology, supportive mentors, and vertical communication amongst employees, companies can increase retention of a diversifying workforce and inspire inclusion for all. 

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