The Five Key Secrets of Female Technology Leaders
‘What has helped or hindered your leadership career development journey?’
It’s likely that most of us haven't taken the time to reflect on these questions and how much they impact our working lives. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we felt that it was a good time to ask our Peak community of high-level women in technology to share their thoughts and experiences about their leadership journey. We looked at the responses we received and broke them down into the five key themes below.
What is the biggest thing that you have benefited from in your journey towards becoming a leader?
Network, network, network!
The most significant factor that helped our Peak members move into leadership positions was having a support network and close professional relationships to call upon. This included friends who could act as a trusted soundboard, contacts in similar working situations, peers to seek advice and information from, safe places to offload your concerns and a community to bounce ideas off. The value of being able to speak to others on the same journey was universally cited as the biggest help towards becoming a leader.
‘[a network] has helped me to handle imposter syndrome …. and a reminder that you are not alone.’
Role Models and Believers
The next most important factor towards becoming a leader is having inspirational role models or a boss who is prepared to coach you through the transition toward your personal development and leadership goals. Another factor was a senior sponsor within your organisation who has your back and is prepared to push you beyond your comfort zone.
‘[my path was helped by] a senior person in the business believing in me and placing me into a new opportunity … I probably would have stood back if they were asking for volunteers.’
Self-Awareness and Reflection
One interesting finding from our survey was that an understanding of your strengths and limitations is crucial. What do you have to offer and where should you lean upon your colleagues’ capabilities?
Some respondents also said that understanding your personality style allows you to be authentic to your values. SHL, Myers-Briggs, Herrmann Brain and Gallup were all referenced as valuable tools to achieve this. Seek out any opportunity to learn more about who you are as a person and what you stand for.
What is the biggest hindrance that you have experienced in your journey towards becoming a leader?
An underlying fear of putting yourself up for a promotion or for the challenge of progression was seen by our survey respondents as a major barrier to development. It is important not to worry about being seen as audacious for asking for a seat at the table. Our Peak members spoke about having self-doubting thoughts, or vulnerability around not having all the answers. In the technology space, this is especially relevant as most careers evolve from being a subject matter expert within a well-defined domain. However, this is OK! One sign of a strong leader is not having to be the smartest person in the room.
Women Leading Business Conversations
Another common thread in the responses from our Peak network was that they felt men approach discussions at leadership and executive meetings in a more dominant way. Many of the women we surveyed felt that it was not their natural style to constantly be assertive and questioned if this is what is required to operate at the highest levels of leadership.
Leadership skills are constantly evolving, and expectations of future leadership skills are changing. Our Peak network felt that empathetic and collaborative approaches combined with strong commercial acumen and critical decision making will mean that the perceived need for women to adapt their style to match men will become a thing of the past. Will the true value of a diverse leadership team come to the fore?
A network of trusted peers, colleagues and mentors is critical to help the transition into leadership roles. The issues mentioned in the responses above can be minimised and managed by knowing that you are not alone in facing these challenges.
As a leader, it is important to look back at where you have come from, give time to future leaders and share your experiences to pass on the benefit of your knowledge. These duties are critical to support the next generation of female leaders.
It is also important to know who you are, what you stand for and what you bring to the table. It’s not necessary for you to take on the leadership styles that you associate with male leaders because you are at the table to bring your diverse outlook to helping your organisation achieve its strategic goals. You are also there because you deserve to be, and don’t forget it!
Peak is a tight-knit community of female technology leaders in Melbourne. The Peak group meets regularly to discuss a technology or career development topic. Each discussion is chaired by an expert speaker in the chosen field. For more information on Peak, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.