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Women leaders from Progress and other companies recently sat down for a powerful discussion on their wide-ranging experiences in business and technology.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to take part in an intimate dinner discussion focusing on women in business and technology. In addition to three female leaders from Progress (Melissa Puls, CMO, Colleen Smith, VP and GM of our OpenEdge business and Kimberly King, VP of Channel & Alliances) we were joined by women leaders from Aspire Financial and Smith & Nephew. We also had in attendance editors from Computerworld, ARC and ZDNet as well as analysts from 451 Research and IDC. The event was hosted by our new CEO, Yogesh Gupta.
Throughout the discussion the group of men and women covered a multitude of topics—the role of women in business today, the challenges faced and how to overcome those challenges, the importance of role models, mentorship and STEM initiatives and much more. The discussion was insightful on many levels, with each woman providing her perspective and personal experiences. It was clear that the discussion ran deep for many in the room.
What I found most interesting were the levels of gender bias that still exist today. We heard stories of managers telling female employees “you’re being too emotional”; a woman being told, “you should be more apologetic when asking questions”; and women in senior positions being practically ignored in decision making processes. There were even stories of gender bias amongst women—about the perpetuation of women that think, “well I’ve done it on my own, so now you have to do it on your own.” Not to say I’ve never faced any sort of gender bias, but the depths of bias some of these women experienced was utterly shocking—causing others to literally gasp at what they were hearing.
While the event certainly touched on the “negatives,” it also provided some inspiring discussion points. For example, Kelly Morgan of 451 Research cited that “70 percent of women in technology have a parent that was in tech,” and many felt that millennials may be the generation that finally closes the gender gap. Why? Because unlike prior generations, they exude confidence. A good example of that came from Denyse Collins, Sr. Director of Global Supplier Quality at Smith & Nephew, who talked about her millennial daughter who recently graduated from WPI with a degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in biomechanics. Her daughter specifically called out that it was her mother’s example that drove her interest in the sciences and her choice to pursue a career in that field.
These positive moments led to a 20+ minute discussion on the importance of educating girls about the importance of the sciences earlier, in order to drive interest during post-secondary education. Also, the need for businesses to take a more proactive role in the community. Don’t just have “bring your child to work days,” as those children may already have role models—offer opportunity to children within the community to learn from you.
After I left the dinner, much of the dialog stuck in my head. I thought of the various stories our participants told. It helped me come to a realization—one that I already knew, but was a good reminder nonetheless. That is, how fortunate I am to be part of a forward thinking organization, one that does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion or location. We here at Progress are fortunate to have schedule flexibility and growth opportunities, as well as to be part of a culture of inspiration, including “Women at Progress,” a group in which women can partner, mentor or simply ask questions. Progress also has continued to look outside our walls to our larger IT community through the endeavors of our developer relations team, Telerik Academy in Bulgaria and Progress Academy right here in Massachusetts.
I’ve never felt as if I couldn’t have a voice, ask a question or garner the respect of any of my colleagues—from our CEO, Yogesh, or from any areas of the business. I cannot thank our guests enough for the insightful discussion. I look forward to hosting more events where we’ll continue the dialog around important issues such as women in business and STEM, and also look forward to our customers, partners and community doing the same.
Erica Burns has more than 15 years’ experience in high-tech PR and corporate communications. With a focus on building awareness across the media, analyst and influencer communities, she has worked with all kinds of businesses--from start-up to global tech giants to build visibility, credibility and market awareness within the business, trade and online media. At Progress, Erica and her team are responsible for worldwide media, analyst, social media and customer relations activities.
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