Women in Tech: Stephanie Clarkson’s Exclusive Insights.

Women in Tech: Stephanie Clarkson's Exclusive Insights.

In our exclusive interview with Stephanie Clarkson, VP People at Intelliware, we delve into the importance of encouraging more women to pursue careers in technology. Stephanie shares her insights on attracting and retaining female employees in the industry, addressing common challenges faced by women in tech, and the key benefits of a diverse workforce. She highlights the crucial role of male allies in promoting gender equality and shares inspiring success stories of women at Intelliware. Finally, Stephanie offers valuable advice for women just starting out in tech, emphasizing the role of diversity in driving innovation and improving business outcomes.

Stephanie Clarkson is Vice President, People at Intelliware. She leads the growth and sustainability of Intelliware’s strong company culture and community, while actively promoting and supporting our values across our company and delivery practices. Having been with the Intelliware team since 2008, Stephanie provides strategic and tactical advice on hiring and growing people following equitable, inclusive, and lawful employment practices with a focus on the well-being of Intelliware team members. Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Guelph, a diploma in Human Resources from the University of Guelph, and a Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) designation.

How can we encourage more women to pursue careers in technology, and what steps can companies take to attract and retain more female employees in this industry?

In Canada, women currently make up less than 25% of people in STEM careers and represent only 34% of Canadians who have STEM degrees.

To address this, companies can create spaces and opportunities for women and other underrepresented groups in tech to have discussions with and access to people like them who are further ahead in their tech career journey. At Intelliware, we’ve partnered with local high schools to host an annual Ada Lovelace Day celebration where young women have direct access to real world examples of a variety of roles and career paths in tech. We’ve even had a student who attended one of our Ada Lovelace events return to complete a co-op position with us. In addition to talking about roles and career paths, we can also talk to women more directly about the job market and earning opportunities in tech as well as some of the women-friendly benefits like flexible schedules.

Furthermore, companies and talent teams need to diversify their outreach and recruitment efforts to reach more women. Some companies include at least one woman candidate in  final interviews for each role they hire and ensure every interview panel has at least one women interviewer. This drives more creative recruitment efforts, allows women to see themselves represented, and ensures interview processes are reviewed through a women-centric lens.

What challenges do women in tech commonly face, and how can we overcome these obstacles to promote greater gender equality in the workplace?

One challenge can be a lack of support from mentors, advocates, sponsors, and role models. Companies need to provide some structure around these types of support to ensure new opportunities, training, coaching and guidance are provided to women and underrepresented groups. In addition to being more inclusive and equitable for career growth support, this will also create more diverse pairings which increases opportunities for people learning from and supporting those with different perspectives than themselves. Women can also be empowered to seek strong support systems themselves, inside and outside of work.

Another challenge for women in tech and career growth is gender bias and stereotyping, which can impact career growth support, performance evaluations and recognition, and almost all work experiences. If we encourage everyone to speak up against bias in the workplace when they see it, and they feel safe and supported when they do so, this will raise awareness, help adjust behaviours and most importantly flag issues that require structure and process improvements that will limit bias and promote equality. Companies can also proactively seek out feedback and listen to and learn from their employees when reviewing culture, structures and processes for inclusion and equality.     

What are some of the key benefits of having more women in technology, and how can diversity help to drive innovation and improve business outcomes?

Growing the number of women and other underrepresented groups in tech will allow for a diversified approach to problem solving and companies will be able to approach issues and solutions through different lenses which will drive innovation. If companies can better identify the problems of, and introduce solutions to, its diverse, or potentially diverse, customer base, they will improve business outcomes and increase revenue. 

Women in Tech: Stephanie Clarkson's Exclusive Insights.

Can you share any success stories of women who have advanced in their careers at Intelliware, and what steps did the company take to support their development?

Being a woman in tech, I have always seen the shared responsibility and team delivery model at Intelliware as the key to my professional growth. For instance, at Intelliware, project delivery teams work collaboratively so that team members can learn from one another, allowing each person to diversify skills and take on solo responsibilities they might not yet have been able to otherwise. This prevents team members from working in silos and running the risk of getting too focused on their own contributions.

I would also attribute my career growth to being believed in, supported and recognized by my boss, the Leadership Team, my own team and other colleagues. Being supported by a strong team is just as impactful to growth as how the paths are carved out, because you can take on more than you think and test your strengths in the directions where the business needs you most (versus where it’s safest to do so).

What role do male allies play in promoting gender equality in the workplace, and how can men in leadership positions help to support and empower their female colleagues?

Male allies can speak up when they see gender bias or discrimination in the workplace. This is important because the issue is more likely to be recognized when males speak up due to gender bias being skewed in their favour. Another consideration is when women flag issues they are upset about, they may be perceived as being overly emotional, so in addition to the issue not being recognized, new hurdles for work and career growth may arise.

Other ways male allies can help is by actively supporting women and encouraging other male colleagues to support women as coaches, mentors, advocates and sponsors. Research by Grant Thornton in 2021 revealed that having male allies at work increases anticipated respect and support while reducing feelings of isolation. When in leadership positions, male allies should amplify the voices of the women they lead and work with, negotiate for more female representation, and ensure equal access to resources, promotions, and opportunities that help women achieve their full potential and goals. Earlier in these questions, I spoke to the positive impacts to my career growth when I felt believed in, supported, and recognized. When women and other underrepresented groups in tech are lacking this support, male allies in leadership positions can provide it, role model this to their colleagues, and implement formal processes and structures like mentoring programs that will provide more support to more people.     

What advice would you give to women who are just starting out in tech, and how can they navigate the challenges of this male-dominated field?

I encourage you to actively seek out mentors, advocates, sponsors, and role models within your company and community. Find allies that you enjoy working with and that are supportive. Ask managers and company leadership what formal support will be provided for career growth.

When interviewing for new positions, evaluate the interviewers for their collaboration, engagement and interview approaches. This is your glimpse into the company culture and processes beyond shiny websites and career pages. In addition to contributing to a positive culture, collaborative interview approaches suggest collaborative day-to-day working approaches which will allow for faster learning curves. The diversity in problem solving, communication and leadership that women bring to the table  can have even more impact when there is high collaboration. I can’t recommend seeking out opportunities for collaboration enough and if this fits your working style, I suggest asking how much independent versus collaborative work there is during the interview and weighing this answer as part of your job selection process. I look forward to everything you will bring to our industry!

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