Key Takeaways from Aragon’s Women in Technology Panel
by Betsy Burton
I recently had the pleasure of hosting a “Women in Technology” panel at Aragon Research Transform briefing. The panel included a collection of bright and insightful women leaders in technology from across the industry:
- Jennifer Smith: Chief Marketing Officer at Alfresco
- Lisa Hurd Walker: VP Brand and Corporate Communication at Fuze
- Camden Hillas: Associate General Counsel at Nintex
- Niki Hall: Chief Marketing Officer at Selligent
We discussed several topics from emerging technologies, leadership vision, and personal aspirations. In this blog, I wanted to highlight a few of the take-aways that really stood out for me and the attendees.
Focus on the “Whole Person” Instead of Diversity Categories
One point made by several different panelists at the women in technology conference was that we need to reorient the way we think about diversity. Rather than thinking about employees in terms of categories—race, gender, and so on, organizations should strive to adopt a broader ideal of cultural diversity and inclusion.
To this end, organizations need to create an environment where we are developing a model of workplace diversity based on “whole person” individuals. Each “whole person” is understood through their own background, personal life, professional career, education, aspirations, and goals and experiences, not merely their race, their gender, their local, etc.
Here is the question we should be asking: how can organizations empower people to bring their whole person to engage and collaborate with peers and customers? How can organizations manage, inspire, and channel an environment where everyone is welcome?
- A critical workforce skill today, and in the future, is empathy. The ability and willingness to really listen to and strive to understand your peers, partners, and customers is extremely valuable.
- Mentoring must be viewed as directionless. In some cases, established workers may mentor newer workers, and in other cases, new workers may mentor an established worker.
AI-enabled Digital Labor Is Both Exciting and Challenging
When asked what emerging technologies the panelist felt they were the most excited about, and which where the most challenging, several panelists mentioned AI-enabled digital labor and its impact on our businesses, culture, and society (for more on this topic, read Aragon Research’s Top 10 Predictions for 2020). How will organizations integrate a diverse workforce that includes individuals and digital labor?
Some of the concerns were associated with how organizations will govern and include a hybrid labor environment that includes digital labor. One panelist mentioned that she is trying to teach her kids to say “please” and “thank you” to a digital assistant, rather than just giving commands.
- Begin to develop the personal skills and the organizational intelligence needed to manage a hybrid workforce.
- Create a new governance framework that is designed for a hybrid workforce. Digital labor will redefine the workplace in the near-future.
When asked what advice they wished they had been given at the start of their career, several panelists mentioned that they wished they had been encouraged to be brave and push forward their ideas and vision more. One mentioned, “just because you don’t think you’re 100% ready for a new role, job, or opportunity, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it.”
- Individuals, but particularly women in technology, need to learn self-advocacy skills, including salary negotiation skills, and apply themselves to new opportunities.
- We need to stop trying to reach a “work-life balance,” which implies a disconnect or tug of war between work life and personal life. Encouraging the “whole person,” we need to understand the blending between our interests and opportunities (family, work, community, etc.).
What Is Your Legacy?
One of the last questions we asked the panelist was, what do you want your legacy to be? What was interesting is that several panelists mentioned that they wanted their legacy focused on very personal engagement traits, as well as work accomplishments. Examining how panelists describe themselves can help reveal the value of cultural diversity awareness.
The words they used were “Tough but Kind,” “Kind and Fun,” “Advocate,” and “Good Person.”
- These leaders wanted to be known as strong leaders for their work accomplishments. But even more, they wanted to be remembered for how they worked with others and inspired them.
The ascent of digital labor and the emergence of new digital labor platforms will transform the dynamics of inclusion in the workplace. This panel was specifically focused on woman leaders in technology. Advancing women in technology is a critical goal. However, it is through the experience of these leaders that we can apply these lessons for the next generation of whole individuals working in a hybrid workforce. Such an approach would recognize the importance of diversity in the workplace while expanding the value of diversity to encompass a deeper understanding of individuals.