Women's History Month (March) highlights the significant contributions and achievements of women across industries. In tech and cybersecurity in particular, it provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the groundbreaking work of females that are changing the male status quo. This month also serves as a reminder of the ongoing need for gender diversity in the industry, and the importance of creating more opportunities for women to excel and lead in technology.
We sat down with Abigail Maines, Chief Revenue Officer, HiddenLayer and Co-founder FIERCEnow.org, to talk about how women have helped advanced tech and cyber and what steps the industry can take to ensure equality while attracting and retaining more women in STEM.
In your experience, how have women contributed to the technology industry and what unique perspectives and skills have they brought to the table?
There is no technology industry without women. There can be no question we have a played a key role in creating and accelerating the industry whether you look at the academic, political and/or corporate influence.
Women work and lead with empathy which allows for faster team building and ultimately better execution. Women leaders in technology provide invaluable perspective on customer experience, employee engagement and partner strategy. Women have an innate ability to multi-task and execute cross-functionally that I have never seen a man get close to. Think about a woman you work with, research tells us that she is more than likely responsible for rearing children, taking care of her extended family, the vast majority of household chores – and she’s still planning the retirement party for your boss with NO complaint and NEVER missing a beat.
Finally, women are also fifty percent of the population – and more importantly are directly buying or influencing more than eighty percent of all consumer tech produced annually. If we aren’t buying at an ever-increasing rate the industry will not need to ask this question. It will be too obvious. How do you think the technology industry can attract and retain more women in STEM fields and encourage them to pursue leadership roles?
We need to recruit and hire women into tech from other fields to influence this number in my lifetime. We simply don’t have time to wait. We must build and execute outreach programs into alternate fields. The outreach has to be led by women in tech who are given the right resources, time and incentives to drive meaningful improvements in percentages of women across firms and the industry as a whole.
Individual women in tech need to do more. We must give new women in the industry our full support. My co-founder and I created FIERCE to do just that. FIERCE stands for Females In Every Role Change Everything. We create content, career guidance and match candidates to roles. While the work is completely mission-driven (read unpaid) we are never more fulfilled than when our efforts result in a new opportunity or advancement opportunity for a woman in our network. Working together women can accelerate each other’s careers, our organizations, the tech industry and GDP.
Longer-term the work that Girls Who Code and Girls With Impact does needs to be scaled and invested in globally. In your opinion, what steps can the technology industry take to ensure that women have equal opportunities and representation in the workplace?
Short-term men in position of power can easily improve women’s opportunities by publicly acknowledging what they learned from a woman each week. For example, “I learned how to structure a two-tier pricing system from Abigail. She showed me how to get it done on-time and under budget.” This acknowledgment must be said in groups with other men, not in 1x1s, over text or email. That simple step will drive dramatic change in a tech company. I can count on my hands the number of times this has happened for me and I have been in the industry for over twenty-five years.
Longer-term, women need advocates in “the room where it happens.” I am often the only woman in the room deciding on who is promoted and why they are going to be promoted. Men are not advocating for women at the same level, rate, or intensity as they are for men. Both sexes need to do more to improve this industry-wide institutionalized practice. Women need to ask for the advocacy and invest in the relationships that will deliver that advocacy. Men need to acknowledge their bias and consciously work to ensure they are advocating on behalf of underrepresented groups.
Not sure how impactful this will be? It’s important to note per McKinsey’s March 2022 Report: Across all industries and roles, women are promoted at a slower rate than men. Indeed, only 86 women are promoted to manager for every 100 men at the same level, according to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report, coauthored with LeanIn.Org. But the gender gap for women in technical roles is more pronounced, with only 52 women being promoted to manager for every 100 men. (Source here)
How do you plan to celebrate Women's History Month in your company, and what initiatives or events will you be undertaking to promote gender diversity and equality in the tech industry?
I plan to celebrate Women’s History Month as much as possible. I am celebrating women in STEM across the platforms we have, speaking to three diverse women’s groups and hosting a women in technology reception during SXSW.
Specifically, I am using our company’s platform to celebrate women in STEM. We kicked off the month focused on Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina in space. On March 1, I was honored to speak with the W3 women’s organization within L3Harris, a defense contractor. I am speaking on March 28th with the State University of New York at Buffalo Women in Leadership group and following that up on the 30th with a panel discussion for Cambridge Spa Group.
I will be hosting a women’s networking reception for over 200 women in technology during SXSW in Austin, TX. Finally, as a mother of a ten-year old girl, I will be including her in absolutely everything so she can see, hear and experience all of the celebrations for women.