As Liquid Web’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), I take so much pride in working alongside remarkable women every day.
Celebrating Women’s History Month, I’ve been thinking of the many incredible women leaders in tech from all over the world, watching as they make their unique marks on an industry historically dominated by men. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with many inspiring women—subject-matter experts with high expectations who never fail to keep their word.
Raising Awareness Against Bias
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was #BreakTheBias. A part of what keeps gender diversity greatly lacking in the tech industry is a pre-disposed assumption that women lack interest in STEM careers, or if they are in the industry, that they are not as qualified as their male counterparts.
Though women make up the majority of the workforce in the United States, as of 2019, they made up only 28 percent of the STEM field, but we are making strides, and as a community, we’re working hard to change the balance.
Using my own company as an example, the number of women employed at Liquid Web has increased by 291 percent over the past seven years. We were able to achieve this growth through a purposeful strategy of stating that we wanted to increase the number of women in the Liquid Web Family of Brands; placing women in leadership positions to actively demonstrate our commitment to gender equity as driven by our CEO, Jim Geiger, by showcasing our women; and purposefully looking for growth opportunities to help them succeed.
Hiring more women means they are playing significant roles in our success. Since 2015, there has been 560 percent growth in the number of women who lead teams. Women make up 30 percent of our leadership, a number we aim to continue to grow.
How To Help #BreakTheBias
I believe in a future void of barriers and biases in the world of technology for women and underrepresented groups, but there is still work to be done.
Here are five ways to #BreakTheBias against women in tech—and six women at Liquid Web who are helping to break those barriers with their phenomenal work.
Introduce STEM Early
Many biases against women in tech are societal and cultural, beginning at birth. From the types of books and toys marketed to children of different genders, the message sent to little girls is often that science and technology are not for them.
We understand the importance of participating in programs that support STEM in schools, which helps build a solid foundation for all kids, regardless of gender or background, to see a future for themselves in technology. At Liquid Web, we engage with schools and participate in career planning and job fairs to encourage a greater diversity of those who will consider tech careers.
Nicky Bulmer-Jones, our Technical Hiring Coordinator, represents us at Dream Fair for Junior Achievement of Mid Michigan, creating opportunities for young women to envision futures for themselves in tech.
One of her favorite aspects of her current role at Liquid Web is that she is able to work within the community, meeting high school students and sharing her love of technology with them, showing young women especially that they can go into STEM fields and find success.
There are women in STEM— we just aren’t as visible,” says Bulmer-Jones. “Which is sad considering that women were well represented in the field at its inception. Ada Lovelace was the first person to publish an algorithm for a modern computer to execute. The creation of COBOL, a language still used pretty heavily in the insurance and finance industries, was led to by the efforts of a woman— Grace Hopper.”
Mackenzie Gladney, Liquid Web’s Customer Success Manager, was always interested in technology.
Mackenzie Gladney’s introduction to the world of technology was an entertaining one—games. Growing up in Melvindale, a downriver industrial suburb of Detroit, Gladney spent hours as a kid gaming—a hobby she still enjoys today. “I’m a big gamer,” she says. “For me, a chill day where I can spend time in a virtual world is my idea of fun. I’ve always loved games. From floppy discs to cloud gaming, it’s been an expansive journey over the years.”
Encourage Women to Believe in Themselves
Internalized biases are real, and those of us who have carved paths for ourselves as women in tech should offer resources and mentorship when we can, making it clear to women that there is a place for them in tech if they want it. Mentorship and early career opportunities are essential ways to support women in technology. Learn what it means to be a mentor. Invest your skills as a mentor and each young woman as a mentee.
Krissy Franklin, a Linux Support Technician, continues to grow her technical prowess.
I absolutely love this company and appreciate the opportunity that I’ve been given,” she says. “My teammates and my supervisor have been influential in my career journey. They are all so very supportive and encouraging and are more like a family than a team.”
Jennifer McMillon, a Network Operations Administrator at Liquid Web, has embraced ongoing learning.
Though McMillon came to Liquid Web with no background in tech, she has now not only been in the field for nearly a decade, but is a Red Hat Certified System Administrator and Cisco Certified Network Professional. She is also the very first woman to accept a position on the Liquid Web Network team and the first to become a Cisco Certified Network Professional.
Create Opportunities for Women
Find places on your team to invite women into leadership positions. If you have the chance to give a woman a shot, give it to her. Women have incredible capabilities and capacities. Give women opportunities to show you what they can accomplish.
Our VP of Development, Lisa Clark, leads Liquid Web’s Development team.
She turned to her father for advice. “My father asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to be a programmer. He told me to go back and not to accept anything less than what I wanted.” In 1995, at the age of 19, she did just that and began what is now a 24-year career in tech.
Crystal Baldwin, a Support Operations Manager, loves working in tech.
Tech is a new adventure for Baldwin, who started at Liquid Web just over nine months ago. “I was looking to learn something new, challenge myself, and step out of my comfort zone,” she says. “I had always been curious about Liquid Web, and heard so many good things about the company from others. When I saw an opening in management, I seized the opportunity and applied. It is so rewarding to be among the amazing women currently working in the tech field.”
Be Intentional About Bringing Diversity to the Table
One of the most organic ways to break biases against women in tech is to make sure you surround yourself with a wealth of viewpoints and perspectives.
When I’m making an important decision with Jim Geiger, it is essential for us to be in conversation with a diverse group of people, especially those who will be most impacted by any new policies.
We also rely on people like our Senior VP of Marketing, Terry Trout. We leverage her worldview, empathy, and knowledge of our business to help us create, edit, and deliver our key messages.
I’ve learned that I can be a highly effective leader in technology, even though I wasn’t a technologist. Technology companies need the highly skilled engineers who make this stuff work and they need the process driven, communicative, facilitative, strategic partners to help them execute.”
Listen and Move Forward with Purpose
Investing in equity is an exciting and ongoing process. As we work to increase representation from underrepresented groups in technology, let us celebrate the purposeful movement toward inclusion and diversification.
Michelle Frechette is our Director of Customer Success and co-founder of Underrepresented in Tech.
A genuine love of community drives Frechette. "Some of my richest experiences in life have come because I befriended people that others overlooked," she says. In addition to reaching out to others, an essential part of Frechette's journey has been learning to recognize chances for growth as they arrive and saying yes to them. "I try not to ever turn down opportunities—especially ones that push me outside my comfort zone—because I'm always eager to learn."
There is More Work to be Done
At a societal and institutional level, we have to continue working to remove barriers that keep women from pursuing careers in tech. We must listen, learn, and move intentionally towards growth to transform tech, break biases, do away with barriers, and create an environment where everyone can contribute and thrive.
And, we are making progress.
I asked my daughter, a freshman in college majoring in Marketing and Graphic Design, to tell me about any biases she’s faced as she continues her education and starts her career journey. She said, “I haven’t felt a bias towards me being a woman. In fact, I feel like my professors are expecting even more of me than I expected. Several have met with me, are already mentoring me, and even offered me a teaching assistant role for the business school. And, I feel like I work well and compete head to head with my male peers. I’m not sure what to expect when I enter the professional world but based on stories you’ve told me, I know it will be different from your experience, and I’m excited to see what’s out there!”
I feel deeply encouraged by my daughter’s experience, by the strides toward gender equity we’ve made at Liquid Web, and by the incredible women in this company. You can read my profile and learn about many of the remarkable women at Liquid Web through our Women in Tech Series. Celebrating and supporting women is who we are—this month and every month. #BreakTheBias
About the AuthorMore Content by Carrie Wheeler