I’ve always raved that some of the most dynamic, powerful, inspiring bosses that I’ve worked for during my years as a technology marketer have been women. I guess “growing up” in an environment like RealNetworks, where everyone was pretty dang smart, you just didn’t see much labeling of team members by gender.
However, it’s easy to look around the web sites of technology companies and notice there are far more pictures of men in the “Executive Team” pages. So, I was really interested to hear the perspective of Dawn LePore, the CEO and Chairman of Drugstore.com, at the recent TechFlash Women in Technology event.
3 thrings stuck with me from Dawn’s conversation.
- The crowd was 30-40% men. I think these kinds of event are more powerful when both genders are in the room. We have lots ot learn from each other, so I was really excited so many men in the audience.
- Dawn’s main advice was pertinent to both men and women. She spoke a lot about her career path, and it’s clear that she wasn’t promoted out of luck or chance. She made a real decision at some point in her career that she was going to be an executive. So instead of just executing upon the tasks given to her, she sought out mentors who get help get her to the next level. She understood that merely doing her current job well wasn’t going to get her keys to her own corner office. He was going to have to be trusted to to the job of the people abover her if she wanted promotion. I think too many people do their job well and expect to be moved up, rather than seeking out help on how they can attain the next level.
- It was also clear that she had to make difficult family choices, but her and her family made them unapologetically and without regret. She made the conscious choice to forego a family until she had risen to the top level. Her husband made the choice to stay at home and be a house husband to help her attain her goals. These are hard choices, but when you are shooting for the stratosphere, hard choices need to be made.
One final thing resonated throughout the Q+A. Women from both large and small tech companies grabbed the microphone and asked Lepore how she adapted to a world where she was such the minority. I think it’s aninteresting point for men – and women – to keep top of mind. That even in organizations that handle workplace gender differences with the utmost care, there is still usually a disparity between the number of men and women in the halls. It’s something to keep in mind, that no matter how hard you try to level the field, there will still be a majority / minority dynamic at play.
Finally, I think Lepore glossed over something we all should at least think about a litlle. One reason there are fewer women in technology excecutive positions, is that fewer women are entering the technology workplace in the first place. We need to figure out why so many of our bright and talented women students aren’t considering careers in math and science. I would have liked to hear her talk more about this.