Dancing on the (Glass) Ceiling: Women making moves in Leadership

ANS culture, Women in Tech, Thought leadership, Women in Leadership

In 1978 Marilyn Loden, then a mid-level manager at an American telecom company, spoke at an exposition about the progression of women in the workplace. “It seemed to me there was an invisible barrier to advancement that people didn’t recognize,” Loden said. That day, she called it the “glass ceiling.” The term would become a buzzword for many discussions about women in the workplace in the future and today the phrase comes up more than ever.

We are all for equality at ANS, so I spoke to Olivia Jaskolka, Director of Marketing at ANS, to find out her view from the other side of the proverbial glass ceiling.

So Olivia, you have been at ANS for over 10 years now, what has your experience been of the ‘glass ceiling’ concept?

I started out as an Events Co-ordinator and worked hard to get to where I am today. To be honest, throughout my career I’ve been oblivious to the concept of the “glass ceiling”. All I knew was that if I worked hard, pushed myself, took on challenges outside of my comfort zone, I would be rewarded with reaching my career goals. Nothing has stood in my way; not men, women, or metaphors.

Having a female on the board at ANS and other strong women in senior management roles are important examples to not only other women in the business, but also to the wider audience. It shows other women that there is absolutely a place for them at the top.

Whilst the invisible barrier stopping women from advancing in their careers was firmly in place a few decades ago, there are plenty of cracks in it now. Maybe I’m just lucky to have never knowingly experienced gender discrimination, but I think that concept is a little out of date 40 years on, particularly at ANS. There’s simply no room for inequality at a forward-thinking, modern company like ours and I’m sure other organisations would agree.

Some women have described men as the bad guys and others say that men are their biggest advocates – what do you think?

I’m definitely against branding all men as bad guys. That’s not fair or even remotely true. I’m all for promoting women in leadership but I don’t think we should do it to the detriment of men. Most of my managers, mentors and senior leaders have been male over the years and I have learnt an infinite amount from them. Their influence has definitely helped shape the person I am today, in a good way 😉.

It’s no secret that the number of working women in technology is significantly lower than most other UK work sectors, in fact, just 17% of those working in Technology in the UK are female. How do we get more women in Technology?

I believe in the value that diversity can bring, and I advocate equal opportunities for everyone. But I also believe in hiring the right people for the right job. If a man and a woman both applied for the same job and the man was more suited to the role I would 100% go with him instead of simply ticking the diversity box by hiring a female.

For me it’s less about evening out the gender balance and more about ensuring there are equal opportunities for anyone who is passionate about a career in technology. Both sexes have different skills sets and qualities that they can bring to the table to help drive innovation and business.

Why do you think females are so poorly represented in the technology field?

It’s a big question, and for me the answer is two-fold; Culture and Education. Over recent years there’s been more and more noise about Women in IT. There are initiatives and events, groups and a constant stream of content which is great awareness activity that certainly contributes to changing the culture. But in order to make a real difference we need to make significant changes to the education of our young women. Although the number of girls opting for STEM subjects at a young age has been on the rise recently, the numbers are still not where they should be and it is a big problem. It’s too late trying to encourage them to join the wonderful world of tech when they are already well into university and embarking on their career journeys. Changes in education needs to start when they are young, at primary school age and continue through to university. There’s also an obligation on organisations, large and small, to get involved at this level. If I remember correctly (and it was some time ago) career education in schools leaves a lot to be desired so there’s a huge impact to be made here.

What advice would you give to a woman looking to start a career in tech?

I would say absolutely do it. There is no other industry I would want to work in and I would passionately advocate it to anyone (female or male). The world of technology is fast-paced, and it’s exciting to feel like you are placed at the forefront of leading innovation. There is no other industry like it. Forget the statistics from the past and make your own. Technology is already integrated into society and it is more and more each day. As technology moves forward, so do businesses, so why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it? If you have a passion for technology and you are driven by innovation, then go for it. Encouraging women to start a career in tech is important for the industry, but let’s do it for the right reasons.

And anyway, looking to the future, shouldn’t we be more concerned with what gender the robots are going to be that will eventually take all our jobs! 😉

Technology isn’t the only field that needs a woman’s touch, have a read of another ANS blog about how we can get more women into tech sales.

Posted by Kate Auchterlonie