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Women in STEM

Leading in Tech with Lipstick and Heels

Lewis Carroll described it best when he said, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” 

It’s only natural that we don’t lead like men. We are women, with our own traits that make us different but just as effective. As I reflect on my career, my success began when I became comfortable in my own skin. The Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC) and its community of women was instrumental in my evolution. 

It finally became apparent to me one day when I received yet another set of football tickets for a job well done. I don’t know nor care about football. I don’t play golf or sit in smoky cigar bars drinking. I prefer dresses, high heels and a dark-red lipstick, even if some don’t see it as an engineer-like appearance. The day I stopped conforming to other’s ideas of a leader in cybersecurity was a glorious one.

Clear bias

Despite my accomplishments and seniority, it is normal for others to seek confirmation from my male colleagues to answers I give about a technology matter. Avoiding eye contact with me, while referring to my male colleagues — despite my expertise — isn’t unusual either. What irks me most, however, is the difficulty of being taken seriously as an engineer, despite successes, and receiving acknowledgment for my contributions and knowledge. When I talk tech, men often struggle to hear me. 

Bridging the gender gap is a hot topic, but inclusion should be too

Eventually, I stopped being apologetic. I understood that I don’t need to have all the answers. When I make mistakes, I own up to it, apologize, learn and move on. I’m not bothered when I’m asked to bring coffee and ask for copies to be made for me in return. When asked how I juggle motherhood with my career, I ask how they juggle fatherhood. At any appearance of hearing loss, I acknowledge the kudos to my colleagues’ ideas loudly, while re-offering mine. I speak up and communicate my boundaries when it’s unclear. I extend kindness, but never rude or mean, and still get sad when it’s seen otherwise. 

My formula to success takes a page from Dr. Seuss: 

  1. Vision – “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting so get on your way!” 
  2. Integrity – “To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.“ 
  3. Empathy – “A person’s a person no matter how small.”
  4. Stay true to yourself – “Today you are You, that’s truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” 
  5. Find your own way – “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
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