Women’s History Month is a time to recognize and celebrate the vital role of women’s contributions to American progress in society, culture, and technology. 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women’s constitutional right to vote. A lot has continued to change for the better in those hundred years, but there is still much work to be done to advance gender equality and diversity in the workplace – especially in the world of tech.
Despite making up 51.1% of the US population and holding 50.04% of US jobs, women continue to be underrepresented in the tech sector. Women make up only 28-42% of the total workforce at major US tech companies and hold only 26.5% of executive, senior, and management positions in S&P 500 companies. Of the women working in tech, only 5% of that number are Asian, 3% are Black, and 1% are Hispanic.
Not only have women historically faced an uphill battle to be hired, promoted, and paid equally in the tech industry, but the COVID-19 pandemic also highlighted additional disparities. In fact, 57% of women in tech feel burned out at work this year, compared to 36% of men, and women are nearly twice as likely as men to have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the pandemic. Women in tech were also almost three times as likely as men to have taken on more household work during the pandemic than their partners. Mothers who work full-time spend 50% more time each day on childcare than fathers who work full-time.
Yet, despite all these obstacles, women continue to rise in the tech world as leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators. Women are making their voices heard to demand equality at all levels. By encouraging and inspiring the girls of today to pursue education and careers in STEM and by continuing to push for “a seat at the table” in leadership, the future of tech can be a bright and inclusive one.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, Pax8 interviewed women in departments across the company to hear their experiences as women in the world of tech, their challenges, their achievements, their inspiration, and their vision for the future.
Who is an inspiring woman in history that you look up to?
Lynn Leadley, SVP of Pax8 University: Rosa Parks. I can’t even comprehend the courage and bravery it took for her to stand up to a powerful white man when she refused to give up her seat on the bus in 1955. That was ten years before the voting rights act in 1965 – incredible. We have come a long way in some areas, but still have so much work to do to advance civil rights and women’s rights.
Susan Mitnick, Chief Human Resources Officer: As a tennis player, I have always been inspired by Billie Jean King. My mother was actually able to get her to speak to our local tennis group when I was young, and then I had the opportunity to meet her and hear her speak three years ago. She has always used her platform to fight for equality in pay for women and LGBTQ rights, and now she runs the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative which is focused on equal rights, opportunity and access for everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, ability, or sexual orientation. I appreciate that she has never accepted the status quo and doesn’t take no for an answer.
Janie Lee, Pax8 University Project Manager: Rosa Parks. She had a lot of courage and was considered “the first lady of civil rights.” She lived her life as a model for others to follow and that is very inspiring to me.
Michelle Jaeger, Content Marketing Specialist: I am so inspired by Sojourner Truth, a former slave who crusaded for abolition and civil and women’s rights. It’s astonishing what she was able to overcome in her life and how she continued to fight for her freedom and the freedom of others throughout her life. She was a powerful speaker and I love the strength and simplicity of her quote, “We do as much, we eat as much, we want as much” from her famous speech Ain’t I a Woman. She delivered this speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in 1851, demanding both racial and gender equality.
Who is a female leader at Pax8 that embodies the concept of “empowerment”?
Liz Moser, Continuity Solution Consultant: This is tough because I’ve got SO many amazing women I work with and around. And there is at least one in each department! Jennifer Bodell leads by example every day and with her mantra of “Be Your Brand”. That’s empowering especially for those of us women who are part of the middle generations; we weren’t necessarily emboldened to speak up for ourselves and who we want to be.
Lyndsey Hoffman, Director of Microsoft Programs: Veronica Setzke – not only does she empower every employee to have a voice and community to lean on for our culture here at Pax8, she empowers me every day to give my best, make mistakes, and fail fast, all while being the biggest cheerleader you could ask for!
Lynn Leadley, SVP of Pax8 University: I admire Susan Mitnick’s leadership style. She will never be the loudest person in the room, but when she speaks, it is thoughtful, caring and empowering. She always has the human element top of mind, while not losing sight of the business goals.
Veronica Setzke, Director of People Operations: I love the women leaders at Pax8 and this question isn’t easy because I feel like I can’t pick just one! One of our lady leaders that I love to work with and regularly see empower others is Lisa Aaron. Her work is to empower all leaders, but specifically I have seen her contribute to strengthen women leaders through training, coaching and being a living example.
What unique obstacles and pressures do women face in leadership positions in the technology industry?
Lyndsey Hoffman, Director of Microsoft Programs: Having to balance both being a woman in the workplace and a woman out of the workplace. Often, we are challenged to “do it all” and still keep a smile on our face and meet the standards of being a mom, wife, daughter, etc. At Pax8, I don’t feel like I have to choose having a family over being a female leader in tech – a true “you can have it all” culture!
Chloe Cameron, Managing Partner at Wirehive (UK): In the UK, only 5% of leadership positions in tech are held by women – which means you will very often be the only woman in the room. This means you find yourself either a lone voice or looked to as representation of “all women” on certain issues. There can also be an institutional tech elitism which elevates technical leaders over other function leaders if left unchecked.
Michelle Jaeger, Content Marketing Specialist: Due to socially ingrained habits and entrenched stereotypes, it can be difficult at times for women to “break in” to a male-dominated tech culture that values and rewards outspokenness, assumed confidence, and assertiveness. This can be especially frustrating when those very same traits are seen as positives in men but often interpreted negatively as being “bossy,” “uncaring,” or “controlling” in women. Women are twice as likely to be labeled “bossy” at work compared to men, even though men are just as likely to show “bossy” behaviors. Additionally, the representation gap of women in leadership positions leads to unconscious bias in company decision-making, culture, and promotions, as the status quo continues to be enforced. In fact, 78% of women feel like they have to work harder to prove their worth at work.
In your personal experience as a woman in the technology industry, what challenges have you faced? What are your greatest achievements to date?
Michelle Wattier, Systems Change Manager: My biggest challenge is the same for a lot of women – balancing home life with work. Being a single mom, I had to put my kids first by supporting their school activities and social lives. And I have never regretted a single moment! I feel that it made them better individuals and allowed me to be more confident when I pushed forward with making some changes in my career goals. Moving out of a finance role into cloud security was a huge step for me. I am very proud of the work I initiated to help promote the growth of the cloud business for the company I was working for. My biggest lesson I have learned is that life begins at the end of your comfort zone!
Chloe Cameron, Managing Partner at Wirehive (UK): The reality is that as a woman, you face challenges many men don’t regardless of the industry you choose. These range from dealing with gendered assumptions, being subject to double standards, or locked out of informal power networks. However, the biggest challenges I have seen in my own career and those of my female colleagues come when we internalize those assumptions about our abilities or acceptable behavior, and they become self-limiting beliefs – not through a targeted campaign of bullying but through repeated exposure and not being called out in the moment. Therefore, while I have many projects that I am immensely proud of and look great on the CV, I count among my greatest achievements the supportive, empowering, and personal growth focused culture I have helped build at Wirehive. We’re by no means perfect, but I know from my own experiences and the feedback from employees who have joined us from elsewhere, we are a significant step ahead of many other businesses.
Why is gender diversity and gender equality critical to the future of tech innovation?
Susan Mitnick, Chief Human Resources Officer: Innovation requires the coming together of individuals with unique and diverse perspectives. It necessitates looking at a problem through a variety of lenses, while respectfully challenging and questioning each other’s ideas. To achieve this, you must provide a level and diverse playing field of thought, which can only truly occur through the bringing together of the life experiences of both men and women, as we do view things differently.
Veronica Setzke, Director of People Operations: Technology is not only used by men. Technology and innovation are not only driven by men. Therefore, we need a gender-diverse workforce in technology to give a diverse approach about how the technology may be used. I certainly don’t see the world like my male counterparts, but their viewpoint can help enhance mine and vice versa. The more diversity we have, the better the outcomes we will have.
Liz Moser, Continuity Solution Consultant: Some of the world’s greatest achievements in all of the STEM categories have been discovered by, created by and implemented by women, yet men are the ones that are usually lauded. I think this ties hand in hand with ensuring racial diversity/equality in STEM as well. We wouldn’t have won the Space Race were it not for women, and Black women at that. Imagine if those women hadn’t fought for their place at the table?
Chloe Cameron, Managing Partner at Wirehive (UK): Diverse teams are proven to be more creative, innovative, and profitable. However, it’s not just shareholder value at stake. As the technical sector becomes increasingly influential in shaping our future society, we need women to have a seat at every table to ensure technical products and services are designed with them in mind as both users and for the world they want to live and participate in. In my mind, it is no exaggeration to say gender diversity and gender equality – along with diversity and equality for other marginalized groups – is a moral imperative for our industry.
How does Pax8 shine when supporting women and their career development? In what areas does the Pax8 culture have room for growth?
Andri Halouska, Integrated Campaign Analyst: Pax8 has provided me with multiple opportunities to attend training courses and conferences to further my skill set. I feel lucky to work for a company that invests in my career growth and success.
Michelle Jaeger, Content Marketing Specialist: The Wingwomen Resource Group at Pax8 is very special. I’ve never worked somewhere before that had a women-focused group that provides new hire mentorship, social activities, volunteering opportunities, and professional development resources to help me connect with women across the company and work on building my career.
Liz Moser, Continuity Solution Consultant: We shine with having resources like Lisa Aaron and Lynn Leadley, who are both amazing women with a talent for development of others. Lisa can read the list of goals you have, look at your personality index, and help put your thoughts of what you envision into action while being transparent about where you will need to put in some extra work. Lynn has an emotional intelligence for others and that lends itself to how well her team creates and manages the tools to help everyone at Pax8 achieve more. I would love to see Pax8 educate some of our younger male peers on how to communicate with women that are either older than them or are more experienced. Overall, I feel like Pax8 is making strides, but there’s still work to do.
Chloe Cameron, Managing Partner at Wirehive (UK): The Pax8 investment in and commitment to career development for all its employees is some of the best I’ve seen. What I think makes it particularly supportive to women is its transparent and accessible leadership pathway training. Providing such a structured program and invitation to develop leadership skills takes away the fear of pushing oneself forward which disproportionately afflicts women and reduces the sway of informal power structures like “the network” which traditionally have been more advantageous to men. One area where I think Pax8 could take this to the next level is in highlighting more female role models in leadership positions — especially in typically male-dominated fields like engineering and support — both within the company but also through external mentoring networks. People can’t be what they can’t see!
What is the best piece of advice you would give to women who are trying to grow their careers in the technology industry?
Veronica Setzke, Director of People Operations: You belong here. You are not in the wrong room, the wrong conversation, the wrong anything. You belong here. Take up the space, share your voice, and never doubt that you belong.
Andri Halouska, Integrated Campaign Analyst: Always, always speak up. Your thoughts and ideas MATTER – don’t let them go unaccounted for.
Chloe Cameron, Managing Partner at Wirehive (UK): Find your tribe. Female mentorship and peer networks have been invaluable to me in developing my abilities and advancing my career, both formally and informally. And the great news is they don’t have to be within the place you currently work.
Lynn Leadley, SVP of Pax8 University: Don’t be afraid to take risks. I have reinvented myself a couple of times, as I have traversed in my career in high tech for over 30 years. Lean into others for support and seek out mentors.
Lyndsey Hoffman, Director of Microsoft Programs: Find a mentor! Having a girl tribe that will keep you honest, challenge you, and support you through the challenges we face are unmatched in helping you meet your goals for your career in tech. I recommend you find female leaders in different roles, departments, and levels. Having a balanced tribe can give you the “real talk” perspectives that we all need to help keep you motivated, growing and overcoming obstacles that may come your way.
Susan Mitnick, Chief Human Resources Officer: Use your voice. Even if others may speak more loudly and fill the room with their physical presence, your ideas are just as important to the conversation. As a woman you bring a perspective that is often lacking from the conversation and you should not be shy about sharing it. By doing so, you will be seen as a thought leader and someone that deserves a seat at the table.
Michelle Wattier, Systems Change Manager: I once attended a speaking event given by a woman who developed LinkedIn profiles for people. Her message was that how others perceive you can make or break your career, and you only get a few moments to make that first impression count. This has always stuck with me and so my advice would be to always stay professional both in person & on social media, develop good relationships, stay informed, and take advantage of all the training you can get!
Janie Lee, Pax8 University Project Manager: Keep pushing forward and elevating your knowledge of the industry. Continue to demonstrate that you belong here and are not going anywhere.
Liz Moser, Continuity Solution Consultant: I don’t like the phrase “you need to have thick skin” as it lacks empathy for anyone regardless of gender or race. It isn’t easy and there are still a lot of systemic issues with sexism, racism and even ageism in the technology world; however, we’re all here one way or another, so find what you’re most drawn to about technology and learn everything you can about that. Find a mentor or a trusted resource to talk to about the successes you have and the failures. And lastly, just keep persevering and asking for what you want.
What is your hope for the future of women in tech? What will it take for the industry to reach that?
Lynn Leadley, SVP of Pax8 University: I would like to see full and fair representation in tech (if population is 52% women, then 52% of women should be in tech and in higher level positions). To reach that, it will take everyone at all levels in all tech companies to drive towards that goal.
Chloe Cameron, Managing Partner at Wirehive (UK): Last year the World Economic Forum published their global gender gap report which stated that gender parity will not be achieved in our lifetime. At the present rate of progress, the estimated time frame is 99.5 years. My hope for the future of women in tech is not just that we achieve gender parity in our lifetimes but that the sector we have forged our careers in is an active part of accelerating this change. For this to happen the whole industry has to ask itself whether it believes its own claims that technology will save the world or is it just marketing hype? I happen to believe it is the former and hopefully enough of us in the industry agree to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Women, Pax8, and the Future of Tech
While women have come far in the workplace, it’s clear there’s still work to be done to achieve a future of gender equality, and its intersection with racial equality, in the tech industry. By daring to dream of a future in tech where women receive fair representation and fair pay, and with the continued leadership of women at Pax8, we hope to be a company that contributes to the solution, not the problem.