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WOTC 2022: More Women In Tech Are Aiming For The C-Suite

CJ Fairfield, Gina Narcisi

A recent survey found that 45 percent of female respondents are interested in pursuing a C-level position and most are women under 30 years of age. That’s because representation at the top and access to opportunities and open doors are more visible today, women of the channel say.

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Lisa MacKenzie, founding partner of CRN parent The Channel Company

Alexandra Zagury, Cisco’s vice president of partner managed services and as-a-service sales, lives by the mantra: If you see it, you can be it.

Representation, she said, is one of the things that have made a huge difference for younger women coming into the workforce and realizing that there is a path to the top.

“The opportunities are there. It’s a very different world than when I came into the workforce,” Zagury said. “It’s really great to see the evolution. I always say it’s about making the difference so that there’s not a difference anymore, and hopefully, that’s the world we’re moving toward.”

In the 2022 State of the Women Of The Channel survey by The Channel Company that included nearly 500 participants, 45 percent of female respondents said that they want to pursue a C-level position and most are women under 30 years of age. It’s a percentage that’s climbed drastically.

“That has gone up over 10 points over time,” said Lisa MacKenzie, founding partner of CRN parent The Channel Company during the Women Of The Channel 2022 East event in New York City. “As long as we’ve been doing this study, that number has been about 30 to 35 percent of women wanting to pursue C-level positions.”

[Related: WOTC 2022: How To Turn Your Company Into A ‘Talent Magnet’ ]

“Now we have these young women who come from a new generation [and have a mindset of] ‘We can do anything.’ What are we doing for them?” she said. “We need those young people, and we need those new people moved up. We need to collectively figure out how we, with our teams, find those people, pick them up, promote them and then give them the tools and the path and the training that they need to get there.”

However, the survey found that the top obstacles to career growth that women identified as standing in their way was burnout, followed by being unsure of the path to growth and career possibilities, and finding extra time needed to move forward in their careers.

“We all tend to want to do everything. We want to bake the cupcakes. We want to show up at the PTA meeting,” MacKenzie said. “We tend to take on more of the burden. You’re just seeing this over and over in the data, we are overburdening ourselves.”

The best way to take some of the burden off is to ask for advice. Ask others for little tips and tricks on how they handle it all, she said. Additionally, 48 percent of women surveyed said they want more executive and leadership development and training.

The Next Steps

Shelliy Cymbalski, chief marketing officer for solution provider iT1, said she’s “absolutely” noticed the uptick in women who are earlier in their career journeys that are interested in the C-suite. She recalled when she was beginning her career, the C-suite looked very different than her and different than it does today.

Compared to the generation joining the workforce today, Cymbalski said she always felt like there were rules she was “supposed to” follow.

“I have found that the younger generation that we interview and bring in, they’re a lot bolder. They understand that they should be at the table,” she said. “At least for the people that we hire, it’s been really interesting that they don’t follow the same rules I followed, and I love that about anyone who’s got that mentality.”

Still, only 17 percent of women said there were enough women at the C-level and board positions within their organizations, compared to 46 percent of men surveyed who felt there were enough women in the same positions. But the responsibility of a leadership role is worth the effort, according to 66 percent of female respondents.

There’s more work to be done, according to Luxy Thuraisingam, Cisco’s head of global partner marketing and SMB. As a woman of color in technology that started her career about 20 years ago, she came up in a community that didn’t really hold her up or empower her to grow, she said.

“Representation is important for me to be visible and to see that now, especially women from my community, where unfortunately, the stories haven’t always changed,” she said. “There’s still so much work to do to even educate the communities that would be amazing leaders and it’s where I just get really, really excited and passionate.”

Sponsorship, she added, may be even more powerful than mentorship. “I want to create spaces where I can open the door,” Thuraisingam said. “Where I can take someone that’s an amazing individual and promote them -- give them a seat at the leadership table where they can present and share their content, and then fist bump for them when they’re not in the room.”

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