7 Questions With Topia’s Elaine Foreman
It's time for our next Women In Tech 7 questions series! Another blog full of advice and experiences from one of our 2019 Women In Tech Award winners.
Today, we hear from Elaine Foreman, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary at Topia, a leading Global Talent Mobility Platform that enables companies to deploy, manage and engage employees anywhere in the world. Elaine was the 2019 recipient of the Aragon Research Women in Technology Award for Legal.
Read on to learn more about Elaine, and her perspective on very important topics related to women in technology.
1. Please describe yourself in three words
Thoughtful, diligent, and engaged.
2. What do you find most interesting about the technology field in which you work?
Topia’s products and services enable both employers and employees to allow career flexibility. With Topia, employers can support their employees’ mobility needs, allowing them to work in new locations temporarily or permanently. In a world rocked by a pandemic, we have seen our products used in new ways to adjust to changed work environments. By its very nature, products used to support HR impact individuals’ lives. Working in my industry, and at Topia in particular, allows me to help transform the way companies work and think about their global talent.
3. How do you find work-life balance, or what do you enjoy outside of work?
I’m not sure that work-life balance really exists, because rarely do both sides of that equation need equal amounts of attention. By building strong relationships at work and at home, I have created an environment where each side can adapt to the needs of the other. I am very fortunate to work with a CEO who understands that family comes first–and has demonstrated that when the needs of my teenage son and elderly mother have meant that I have had to step back at work. Similarly, my family is incredibly supportive of my need to finish “just one more thing.” Now that we are all together all the time due to Shelter in Place, I think we all understand each other’s work a bit better.
If I did not realize it before COVID-19, there are two things that really help me take a break. First is being outside. I have walked, hiked, and biked so much in the past 5 months to clear my head and gain perspective. Second, throughout the pandemic, we have continued to volunteer at our Food Bank. As the effects of the pandemic have grown, the number of people in need has steadily increased. I am glad to be able to help people feed their families.
4. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I have faced is being comfortable with the unexpected. As a very type A personality, accepting that my career was not following a linear path took some getting used to! I was previously laid off in a massive round of redundancies, which rocked my sense of self and forced me to look at what I wanted in my career. In some ways, I can now see that as one of the most beneficial things that happened to me professionally. Without being forced out of my comfort zone, I don’t know that I would be able to look at new opportunities the same way and be willing to take some risk. As a result of leaning into the unexpected, I have taken opportunities that have stretched my notion of what I am capable of, developed new skills, and led to a deeper fulfillment than I think I would have had if I had stayed in my narrow lane.
5. Are there enough opportunities for women in tech? How would you assess the progress women have made in the tech industry?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg said “When I'm sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, 'When there are nine,' people are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that.” A parallel can be drawn to tech. There are certainly more women in tech than there used to be, but women continue to face challenges due to the culture and access to opportunities. As long as there is a question about whether there are enough opportunities, there is work to be done.
6. What are some things you think should be addressed on macro, peer, and educational levels to encourage women to feel empowered in the tech industry?
So much has been written in the past few months about the impact of lack of access to opportunities. One of the most important things we can do is make sure we look out for those that have been underrepresented in tech–look at your candidate and promotion pools–are they diverse? If not, why not, and how can you change that?
7. Please provide a WIT call to action.
One of the few upsides of the curtailed world we are living in is that we have all had to learn to be a bit more flexible. In the “old world” working from your closet or having a child in the background of your call was unacceptable, now we know that people are doing the best they can in difficult situations. As we (hopefully) emerge from this, maintain your flexibility, assume good intentions, and work to lift each other up.