Do family dreams still scare women away from senior roles?

I’ve been chatting with fellow females lately about the seemingly lack of women holding senior and executive roles at tech companies.  Desiring a family is still one of the main reasons many young women stray from advancement. These women want to be successful in superior roles and also have families, but often fear they can’t have both.  Thankfully many businesses are adapting and tech careers are becoming more flexible than ever. 

Working from home
Companies such as Dell Canada strive to help its employees manage the best work/life balance, with many people in tech positions working from home at least two days a week.  A senior employee from Canadian Tire switched to part-time office hours so she could stay with her young family and work from home for most of the week, with the option of returning to full-time hours in the future.

The UK-based company Opportunity Now has been researching what holds women back from advancement since 2005.  Last year, 82% of women surveyed recognized the balance of work and family as a barrier; where as only 54% of men felt the same.  Because of this, the study says women are still viewed as less committed than men despite equal or higher education and experience. 

Down with the 9-5
With technological advancements such as cloud computing, Skype meetings and virtual co-workers (teammates from other parts of the country that connect online) – working from home is easier than ever.  Not all companies embrace this yet, so young women should explore what different places have to offer.  Being able to maintain a flexible schedule is becoming common amongst tech jobs and is attracting a whole new wave of young people.

Companies eager to keep women in pursuit of higher roles are also adding on-site or subsidized daycare services and breast-feeding areas for employees.

Poor marketing
In order to be a good leader, employees need to have business and people skills in addition to tech skills.  A Globe and Mail article stated, “HR professionals frequently complain that business schools produce graduates full of knowledge but lacking the ability to apply it.”  This is why Canada is evolving with programs such as the Business Technology Management (BTM), so students can develop the personal skills needed for more senior roles while obtaining fundamentals in business and tech.  It is hopeful these new programs will attract more women to the growing field of technology.

The Globe & Mail article suggests more companies need to adapt and get with the times to accommodate women.  Changing these perspectives starts with education.  “Business schools need…to improve their marketing to women, to show them it is worth the financial risk and highlight the myriad careers outside business consulting,” the article says. 

Women in power
Careers in tech are limitless – from becoming a bioinformatics researcher to working with textiles to running your own mobile app development company.  Men still hold the majority of the top roles in technology, but every year more women are climbing the ranks and making their mark just like entrepreneur Melody Adhami,  Xerox’s CEO and chairman Ursula Burns was the first woman in any major global company to replace another woman, Anne Mulachy. Incidentally, she was also the first African-American woman to lead a major US company.

Last year, Xerox Canada followed suit naming Mandy Shapansky as president and CEO.

Make it work
Rochelle Coleman is the Director of Windows Marketing at Microsoft Canada, a fast-paced senior job that has her traveling and working all the time.  She’s also the mother of an 8-year-old son.  While balancing the two is one of the more difficult aspects of her career, she makes it work because she loves both.  She offers some great advice to women thinking about pursuing both – saying it all boils down to staying true to your goals.

“Don’t jump into either too intensely off the bat, and give yourself some time to enjoy the great parts of both sides,” Rochelle says.  “Be very clear of your priorities all the way along.   Success isn’t about how many hours you spend in front of the computer.  Yes – you have to work hard, but you can find ways to teach yourself efficiencies and that needs to be grounded in your priorities.”

She suggests surrounding yourself with support and only stepping into management when you’re ready.  If you can’t do both – then don’t!

“There will always be times when you need to prioritize one side versus the other.   And that’s what’s great about so many jobs these days.  You can take the time to go see the school play, and set boundaries to make sure you’re with family during the waking hours,” she says. 

“But you also need to sacrifice the time and give long periods of time to career accomplishments.   You’re never really choosing one over the other – you’re making sure you don’t miss the most important moments with both.”


Tech Executives See Paths for Women, Especially Geeks
Why Women Have an Advantage in Technology
Tech Jobs Up, Women Down
Wanted: More Women in Canada’s C-Suites
Ursula Burns: An Historic Succession at Xerox

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