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Women in tech: Looking through an intersectional lens to eliminate bias and uplift each other

Women in tech: Supporting one another to eliminate bias and thrive in a hybrid work environment

Emma Downes and Ali Jordahl, Log in to subscribe to the Blog

Hello, we are Emma (Senior Social Selling Specialist) and Ali (Software Engineer) from Pegasystems. We are excited to discuss our experiences as women in tech, and to share our top insights from attending the 2022 Girls in Tech Conference.

emma downes

Emma Downes

Working in the tech industry presents both opportunities and challenges. Technology is constantly evolving, allowing you to grow with the industry and discover new areas and different niches to expand your expertise. It also requires a dynamic way of thinking and flexibility. Women in tech have an added tax of facing a credibility conundrum. We often must overcome the negative assumptions that we are not qualified for our roles and positions.

In my experience as a woman in tech, challenges such as these are easier to face when I’m surrounded by other strong women who empower me to display my expertise and skills. In my current role, I serve as a product owner of an internal social sharing tool and I work with many stakeholders and content contributors to maintain its success. I also train colleagues on how they can elevate their professional social media presence and have presented to many global teams, sharing my expertise on social media best practices. Opportunities like these allow me to make my impact visible to individuals at all levels of the organization.

The women I look up to in my career have served as my sponsors and recognize my potential. They allow me to control the narrative of my career, amplify my message, and advocate on my behalf. It’s crucial that networks like these are provided to all women working in tech, enabling us to help one another achieve our goals.

Ali Jordahl

Ali Jordahl

As a woman in software engineering, I’ve always been conscious of being underrepresented in my role and of my responsibility to use any of the privilege or power I do have to help other women in similar roles. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have wonderful teachers and mentors who have guided me through my computer science degree program and now in my career as an engineer. I am comfortable as a woman in tech and confident in my right to a seat at the table because of my support system. I feel a deep obligation to ensure other women have similar support systems and to increase diversity in the tech industry at Pega and beyond. I’m very grateful for the wonderful work environment that I currently work in while recognizing that Pega and other tech companies still have a significant way to go before achieving gender parity.

Tech companies must be intentional in their recruiting practices and seek out women and other underrepresented communities for their candidate pools. And they must ensure that appropriate mentorship and sponsorship is provided to underrepresented employees once they are hired so everyone is given equitable opportunities for promotion and career advancement.

In a hybrid work environment, women must work harder to make themselves visible and overcome the credibility conundrum.

We had the opportunity to attend the 2022 Girls in Tech Conference – (a one-day, in-person event hosted in Nashville, TN) along with 16 other Pega Colleagues. Throughout the day, we heard from an amazing lineup of speakers who shared their expertise and advice for overcoming the gender gap in the tech industry.

Team Pega at the Girls in Tech (GiT) Conference!

Team Pega at the Girls in Tech (GiT) Conference!

Pega’s Chief People Officer, Kate Parente, participated in a panel, “Thriving in the New Hybrid Workplace”, with Zafar Brooks (VP of Diversity & Inclusion at Infoblox) and Laura Drabik (Chief Evangelist at Guidewire). They discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic transformed how we work and shared their strategies for leading hybrid companies as the world moves forward. Throughout the panel, each participant reinforced the necessity of providing flexibility to employees while also providing guidance on how we can work together in-person.

Kate Parente, Chief People Office at Pegasystems, (second from right) speaks on panel at 2022 GiT Conference.

Kate Parente, Chief People Office at Pegasystems, (second from right) speaks on panel at 2022 GiT Conference.

Remote work seems to be the new standard, though the flexibility of a hybrid work structure is becoming more apparent. Going into the office increases our ability to collaborate and often speeds up important discussions and decision making. In-person work can also be more fun! Pega provides flexibility and allows us to be intentional about when we go into the office and when we work from home in order to be most productive and fit our working style needs.

While some have shifted to a hybrid schedule, many of us continue to work from home exclusively. Challenges are presented in both situations and the GiT panel participants shared great insights into how women can succeed and make themselves visible in each scenario

  • Build your network. Find people you can count on and who can also count on you.
  • Make yourself available to get to know people outside of Zoom. Create spaces and time to get to know colleagues outside of meetings. This can include both in-person events and more “fun” non-working Zoom events (virtual happy hours, scavenger hunts, cooking classes, etc.).
  • When you are at the office, sit at the table (literally). Instead of taking a seat on the outer circle of the room, place yourself in a spot where you are visible and can contribute. When you’re on Zoom, do the same by turning your camera on, showing your face, and asking questions.
  • Find new ways to share what you’re working on, virtually and in person. Host (virtual or in-person) coffee chats to talk about projects, blockers, and potential collaborations.
  • Listen to other peoples’ problems and think about how you can help them solve those problems. Help them find a solution that involves you. This allows for more visibility and helps people see your impact.
  • Don’t let your calendar own you, instead, own your calendar. Be intentional about blocking time for yourself.

GiT’s impact at Pega

Adriana Gascoigne, Girls in Tech Founder and CEO, has been a longtime partner of Pega’s and was a keynote speaker at PegaWorld 2019. In her keynote presentation, Adriana talked about the nonprofit’s goal to transform and advance women’s careers and close the gender gap. Since then, Pega has continued to support Girls in Tech and was a sponsor of the 2022 GiT Conference. Pega’s own Eva Krauss, (VP of Strategy and Transformation), also sits on the Girls in Tech Board of Directors.

As women in tech, we understand and experience gender bias in the workplace. We have learned to also recognize intersectionality and consider the experiences of individuals in underrepresented groups and marginalized communities. For women to achieve equity in the tech space, we must use an intersectional lens to eliminate bias and uplift one another.

We’ve been lucky to have multiple female mentors in current and prior roles who set excellent examples through their own work, advocated for their teammates, and taught us valuable lessons. It’s important that women advocate firmly for themselves at work and receive supportive mentorship and sponsorship. Creating a network of women who care about you and your success goes a long way and we must remember to provide the same support to others.

Learn more about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEI&B) efforts at Pega:

About the Author

Emma Downes, Senior Social Selling Specialist at Pega, empowers colleagues by providing the tools and best practices needed to build their professional online brand and amplify Pega’s brand strategy.

Ali Jordahl is a Software Engineer at Pega, building integration tools to connect Pega applications to external data. Ali is also a leader of the Americas chapter of the women’s employee resource group at Pega and is passionate about supporting and uplifting women in tech.