Women in Tech (WIT) Conversations is a virtual forum for women that was recently launched to encourage interaction and provide professional insights into the advancement of women in South African tech.
In a collaboration between legal technology firm LexisNexis South Africa and IT provider Dell Technologies, the sessions will bring together some of the leading women in technology to share their professional experiences.
Interested parties who would like to take part in the next WIT Conversations event on Monday, March 8, 2021 at 2 p.m. on the occasion of International Women’s Day, can register here.
During the first event in the series, which took place on February 18, LexisNexis CEO and Chairman of the Board, Videsha Proothveerajh, gave insights on the topic of love lessons in leadership.
“If you lead from your heart, you can never go wrong,” she said as she outlined some advice for those working their way up the frontiers of the new economy in careers.
Proothveerajh has more than 20 years of experience in high profile ICT companies such as EDS, Microsoft and Intel and runs her own business with an emphasis on business strategy and value creation. Her awards include recognition as the most influential woman in business and government for ICT in Africa; a Forbes Change Maker in Africa; one of the 50 most inspiring women in South Africa as part of the global Inspiring Fifty initiative; and among the Africa 50 of the data center and cloud leaders driving change in Africa.
Her advice to the participants was:
1. Know your strengths
“The tech industry is synonymous with disruption. Then there are the social and cultural differences of our time, and we have an environment that is not always pleasant for either sex. In such an environment, we can be recognized as women for what we bring to the party – things like compassion, humility, human connection and empathy at all levels. These are just as important, if not more important than traditional corporate language in terms of business deals, process efficiency, innovation and leadership. We have to start bringing our strengths as women to the table, ”she said.
2. Say yes to change
Being able to change is a new skill necessary for future success. “Decades ago we talked about IQ as the most important thing,” said Proothveerajh. “In the last few years the focus has shifted to EQ and now we are talking about AQ, the adjustment quotient. Going forward, both EQ and AQ will be the hallmarks of great leaders, ”she said.
“As a company, too, we have to change in order to move forward. However, if we want to live in a world where both sexes are equally respected and valued, we need to consider how we can accelerate this path of change. Change is necessary for growth, but how we encourage and implement these changes is also very important, ”she shared.
She said one formula for success is to drive change that is expansive and motivated by transformation. “When giving your teams a reason to change, you need to be able to put a narrative on the table that reflects what is in it for that person, team, department, or company, and the benefits Change has. Transformation is about aligning people with purpose rather than offering a mild carrot and whip method. ”
3. Be fearless
Proothveerajh challenged the participants to be brave, courageous and a force to be reckoned with.
“Intent is very important, and it is necessary to pursue goals that were once considered big, hairy and bold. Even when silence seems safer, you need to learn to speak out loud, tell your truth, and use your voice on behalf of those who have no voice. To be exceptional means to be willing to take risks and use the platforms we have to create change, not only in our businesses but also in our communities, societies, our country and the world, ”she said.
4. Know your why and know yourself
Proothveerajh said it is important to regularly seek feedback for yourself during professional travel and receive it in a way that makes it convenient for people to provide ongoing feedback.
“When you understand your why, you can understand your purpose and what brings you joy and purpose. If you can relate it to what you do every day, the cliché applies – you will never work for a day in your life, ”she said.
5. Love you first
“To be authentic means to love yourself first, to be selfish at times, to be kind and to take care of yourself even if you have let yourself down. Know who you are, understand your gaps, and be ready to work on them, ”she advised.
“Ignore the inner dialogue and the cheat syndrome. Practice being kind to yourself. Take care of your mental, emotional and spiritual well-being because you cannot pour out of an empty cup, ”she added.
6. Play your trump card
Proothveerajh said that “playing the gender card” should not be perceived as negative. “As women, our gender can be more of an opportunity than a threat. This is not about playing the victim. We should look at what we bring to the table uniquely. We’re great at many things because we’re empathetic, cooperative, strategic and non-transactional, comfortable with ambiguities, curious and looking for solutions, ”she said.
7. Build alliances
Proothveerajh stressed the importance of working together and being ready to celebrate the next woman’s success. “We have to strive to empower others and give them space. Together we are so much more powerful, but also more effective, ”she said.
8. Take small steps every day to make big changes
While every woman’s journey is different, small steps can be taken daily to affect your career.
“My personal perspective is to start each day with a grateful heart and be grateful for the amazing opportunities that are presented to me. If I lead with a grateful heart, I always attract more positivity into my life, ”she said.
9. Be your own fan club
Proothveerajh said it is not always necessary or helpful to look for awards and praise outside of you. “I am my own fan club. It’s also important to have a strong group of people who care enough about you to call you when necessary, ”she said.
“Achieving an impact in your company has to be measurable. Identify your individual and unique worth, understand your worth, and communicate it regularly. Play with your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses, ”she added.
10. Know your personal non-negotiable things
“There is no one size fits all when it comes to balancing family responsibilities with leadership responsibilities. Be very honest with your children, your family, and your support system. Also, know the non-negotiable things that you wouldn’t want to go without based on what’s important to you and your family. For example, one of me never misses my children’s birthdays, ”she said.
The WIT talks are taking place at a time when women continue to be underrepresented among workers with disruptive technical skills. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2020 shows that they represent only 14% of professionals in cloud computing and engineering, 28% in data and AI, and 36% in product development.
Sabine Dedering, Regional Sales Director at Dell Technologies, outlined Dell’s Moonshot goals for 2030. “By then, we want women to represent 50% of our workforce and 40% of our management team. Our workforce in each country should also represent the demographics of the countries in which we operate. Empowering women and girls – especially women of skin color – to join the IT sector and study STEM subjects is very important to Dell Technologies. “
Proothveerajh said LexisNexis also managed to change the face of the company last year. “Three out of five of our executives are women, while we only had one before. Six out of ten of our board members are women too, ”she said.
The importance of embedding gender equality in the future of technology has only increased with the rapid changes in the labor market and the digital acceleration of COVID-19. This offers another opportunity to balance the efforts between the demand side of growing jobs and the supply side of sustainable skills.
“Women need to raise their hands and be counted,” concluded Proothveerajh.
Future sessions of WIT talks will explore topics including: the importance of self-love; Recruiting women in engineering; University mentoring; Create your own board; and the reintegration of women into the workplace.
The next WIT discussion session will take place on Monday, March 8, 2021 at 2 p.m. to commemorate International Women’s Day. Register here.