‘Overworked, Underrecognized’ Women In Tech Leadership Are Leaving
CJ Fairfield, Gina Narcisi
“It’s unfortunate that women actually tend to think that they need to hit 100 percent of the job duties in order to apply for a job. Whereas males, they’re [at] 60 to 70 percent...they’re going to do it,” says Kam Kaila, president IT By Design.
Women are still underrepresented in the C-suite and the numbers are not improving, said Lisa MacKenzie, founding partner of CRN parent The Channel Company.
Women are increasingly leaving or not pursuing leadership positions because they feel overworked, underrecognized and have a desire for a more flexible and diverse work environment. At The Channel Company’s Women of the Channel Leadership Summit West conference in Palm Springs, Calif. last week, results from a survey answered by 362 women and 84 men in the channel showed the disparities still evident in the technology industry between the perceptions and realities of men and women.
When asked about the biggest barriers to women pursuing the C-Suite, the number two barrier, according to the men surveyed, cited the fear that women “can’t handle it.”
Melissa Jung, sales acceleration content and enablement strategy lead, at Cisco, believes that men saying women “can’t handle” leadership is a perception that’s been formed in the media.
“In terms of some of the different TV shows, social media and just all around us, I think it’s this perception and this bias that has been formed around us,” she said.
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Kam Kaila, president of Marlboro, N.J.-based master MSP IT By Design, believes there is some truth to that as women have a fear of failure.
“We won’t do something unless we know we can do it at 100 percent, whereas men will shoot at the hip at 70 percent,” she said. “We expect so much from ourselves that there is some element of, I don’t know if it’s fear, more so a need to be good at what we do, and to do it well. If we think that we can’t do it well, we’re less inclined to apply even though we could. Unfortunately, I think I may agree that there is some level of fear.”
She said as some are quick starters and can “jump right off the cliff,” women are typically high researchers, tend to execute, want to see what’s happening and where things are going before making a big decision.
“I think we have higher expectations for ourselves,” she added.
But because it’s largely understood that women have may have fears around failure or the perception that they don’t have the right background, it presents an opportunity for leaders in those positions to light the way, said MacKenzie. “Maybe we see something in them. And I think it’s incumbent upon us as leaders to help those women and to show them a path,” she said.
Still, only 25 percent of C-suite positions are held by women and only 5 percent by Women of Color, according to an CNBC “Make It” study.
“In the tech industry, many women will leave the workforce once they have children,” Kaila said. “I’m constantly advocating that you can do both. As engineers, we have a very large female population within our organization. We’re probably one of the leaders in terms of balance. We’re working to get more and more leaders up in our engineering division, but we are able to offset that with other functions that are just as valuable and important to the growth of the organization.”
At It By Design, Kaila said job postings are posted internally so that everyone within the organization can see them.
“It’s unfortunate that women actually tend to think that they need to hit 100 percent of the job duties in order to apply for a job,” she said. “Whereas males, they’re [at] 60 to 70 percent...they’re going to do it. We’ve actually gone in our job postings [and] put a statement at the bottom that we want women and people of diversity to apply for this job role. We understand that you’re probably thinking that you’re not qualified. We want you to apply. We’re being very intentional about attracting those people to the workforce, about bringing in more women, bringing in people and leaders into the C-suite.”
According to a survey from Fortune Well, 53 percent of women executives – and even more so for Women of Color -- say they are lonely at work. But feeling valued is the number one reason women chose to stay in their job, according to a Chief survey.
“The bottom line is women are leaving leadership positions because of burnout. But even worse, they don’t feel supported, appreciated or valued,” The Channel Company’s MacKenzie said.
The definition of value can be different for everyone, women of the channel say. “[Value] isn’t one size fits all anymore,” MacKenzie added.
For women, it’s important to know and communicate your boundaries and align yourself with a leader and manager that’s going to support your growth, said Dalyn Wertz, executive director, indirect channel program and marketing for Comcast Business.
“One of the things that my daughter has said to me is: ‘Mom, I just see what you do is being present as a parent and then you’ve got this job, and I’m just proud of you.’ And that just means so much to me,” Wertz said. “I think you’ve got to want it, but I think you’ve got to have the support to be successful.”