The Women of the Channel (WOTC) leadership summit I attended last week hosted by The Channel Company inspired me through keynotes, breakout sessions, and connections I made with like-minded women in the IT commercial channel.
The conference theme: "Keep Moving Forward," strikes a balance of optimism and adversity. We heard from inspiring speakers who conveyed a sense of "if I can do it, so can you" and left us with a call to action and tools to grow our careers.

  • Siri Lindley, a World Champion Triathlete advocated that we are either winning or learning (vs failing) and that each obstacle presents an opportunity for growth.
  • Meg Gilbert, former and first woman President of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts shared the importance of self-reflection and how to hone and personify your personal brand.
  • Shannon Huffman Polson, the first female Apache Helicopter Pilot imparted that the intersection of your passions and your purpose enables grit to overcome adversity.

However, we also received data points that confirm our reality is not so rosy and that there are still many challenges facing women in tech.

  • During the conference, Alyssa Fitzpatrick from Microsoft shared that only 37% of women in tech believe they actually belong in tech per results conducted by this Stanford | Clayman Institute for Gender Research survey.
  • This result compares to 56% of men - a measurement outpacing women by more than 50%!
  • The report further states these results impact "the extent to which employees identify with their companies, believe their supervisors value their opinions and assign them high-visibility projects, and... their plans to switch career fields in the next 12 months."

Two of the event speakers left careers in tech mid-career to serve as career coaches and advocates for women, after struggling with the corporate workforce and with the aim to make a bigger impact in the world.
This information is further validated by the WOTC poll of women attending this conference who reported the top challenges we face in the workforce include

  • Overcoming unconscious bias because you are a woman
  • Being excluded/boys' club
  • Overcoming my own FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) 
  • Being heard

The conference also shared that 60% of companies represented at the event have fewer than 10% female representation at C-levels of their organization.
So, what do we do from here? Many companies around the world and the US are struggling with this challenge of promoting gender equality and driving diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
If you are a manager

  • Are you seeking to understand what your female employees need for success?
  • Are you creating opportunities, giving stretch assignments, and paying/rewarding them for the impact of their work?
  • When filling a position on your team, are you seeking female candidates outside of your direct network?
  • Are you taking informed risks on a female candidate as you would with a male candidate if she does not check all of the boxes?

If you are an organization leader

  • Are you seeking to broaden your network to include more women to sponsor them and place bets on their success in your organization?
  • Do you have diversity and inclusion goals and are you holding your managers accountable to them?
  • Are you enabling diversity and inclusion programs including funding to make them successful?
  • Are you prioritizing industry events such as WOTC that are relevant to your company's business to share your thought leadership with the industry, develop your people, and promote inclusion?

And for all of us…How are we bringing men into this conversation?

  • Eva Helén and her company EQ Inspiration, are focused on developing men to become sponsors and allies for gender equality in the workforce.
  • It is not enough to pair women individual contributors with women leaders - primarily because we do not have enough women leaders to go around!
  • When you look up in your org, what is the % of men that you see? If you are in tech, I bet it is greater than 75%. We need to bring men into the conversation to become sponsors, advocates, and allies.

There is a lot of work to be done here. How will you help us keep moving forward? Your comments and inspiration are welcome. #WOTC18 #diversity #inclusion #leadership
(Article originally published on LInkedIn)