These Tech Companies Are Elevating Women Leaders. Here’s How.

Resources for education and leadership support the varied paths to professional success.
Written by Remy Merritt
August 20, 2021Updated: August 29, 2021

Since 1973, the United States has designated August 26th as Women’s Equality Day. There is much to be celebrated — the scope of workplace equality and gender diversity continues to widen, reaching new levels of intentionality and elevating underrepresented voices.

There is also much work still to be done.

Current projections from the United Nations anticipate that gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years. This particularly applies to government authority, such as heads of state and parliament, but the path appears similarly long in the corporate world.

As of 2021, while women make up 57 percent of the labor force according to CNBC, their representation in C-suite positions has stalled over the last few years at a meager 10 percent. Initiatives around diversity, equity and inclusion are certainly evolving, and organizations are striving in new and creative ways to elevate underrepresented groups. For the executive landscape to be truly representative, these initiatives must become ingrained in company culture, with consistent support to ensure the path to opportunity and success is well paved.

Combatting gender inequity requires companies to be active advocates for the professional growth of the women on their teams. Support can come in many forms — resources for career planning, educational opportunities to build skills and unconscious bias training name just a few. We met with five women leaders to learn how their companies are fostering an inclusive workplace where all employees can reach their full potential.

 

 

Olivia Leitermann
Systems Architect, Principal Engineer // Motional

For Olivia Leitermann, the educational opportunities and career planning resources that Motional provides are key in supporting all employees’ professional growth. 

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Motional?

I want to make things that people use and that improve their lives. Some of the most impactful technologies are the ones that we all use every day without thinking, like electric power and transportation. Autonomous vehicles will be revolutionary for many peoples’ daily lives, especially those who aren’t well served by existing transportation options. As a systems architect, I am working with the team at Motional to make safe autonomous vehicles a reality.

 

What professional development resources does your employer make available?

Motional recognizes the importance of professional development and makes a number of resources available for employees. A bi-annual formal review process is in place to encourage the long-term and career-focused thinking that day-to-day work doesn’t always require. Participation in conferences, classes and training sessions is also supported. Motional’s internal learning and development portal includes a number of modules in topics ranging from tech talks to introductory content to soft skills. These provide an opportunity for all employees to dive deeper into their areas of expertise, or learn more about aspects outside their own immediate job functions. Motional has also engaged with third-party platforms like LinkedIn Learning to make additional wide-ranging content available.

 

How can tech companies promote an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

Employers need to be serious about creating an inclusive and equitable workplace free from harassment and discrimination. What sets apart the companies that are doing this well is the understanding that progress on this front takes real work. It takes careful thought and proactive effort to dive into questions like whether there’s a gender pay gap after balancing for job roles, whether promotions are being awarded equitably based on experience and performance, whether job descriptions are written in ways that might differentially discourage underrepresented candidates, whether the candidate recruiting pools are diverse, whether implicit bias is sneaking into the interview and hiring process, and whether the expectations for job duties and performance are gender-tinged.

This is a hard problem, and there aren’t easy answers — just plenty of work to do. The good news is that a lot of the things that promote a positive culture for women in tech also promote a positive and fulfilling work environment for everyone.

 

 

Melissa Tiffany
Product Marketing Manager // Appetize

Appetize encourages a culture of knowledge-sharing, and in Product Marketing Manager Melissa Tiffany’s experience, women leaders are given full support in their initiatives and strategies.

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Appetize?

Building a product marketing function from the ground up has been a goal of mine for quite some time. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to do so at Appetize. When I started at Appetize, I was the first and only product marketer, which meant establishing many new processes and strategies as well as educating internal groups on the role itself and the value provided. Appetize has provided an environment where women leaders have a space to forge a path forward and positively impact the company, which has enabled me to implement many initiatives with full support.

 

What professional development resources does your employer make available?

In addition to the more traditional forms of professional development, such as conferences and certifications, Appetize also helps propel employees forward in their careers by creating a culture of knowledge-sharing and giving employees opportunities to take on new roles and responsibilities.

I feel fortunate to be surrounded by intelligent, driven colleagues who always make themselves available when you need a deeper understanding of a product, market, industry, etc. This culture of knowledge-sharing has been incredibly valuable in my professional development so far.

 

How can tech companies promote an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

The first step is to hire and promote more women throughout all aspects of the business and at all levels, but it goes beyond that. Many companies have already realized the importance of having women representation throughout their organization. However, just hiring more women isn’t enough to create an inclusive culture. It’s important to take a holistic approach by evaluating the end-to-end employee experience for ways to continuously promote an equitable environment.

There are a few ways this can be achieved. First, ensure women have the space and support needed to voice their perspectives and have an impact, as well as the opportunity to foster positive relationships with other women in the company. Second, continuously collect feedback from employees by providing a safe space to discuss diversity and inclusion. And third, train and encourage employees, especially managers, to identify, address and combat unconscious bias.

 

 

Elise Shehram
VP of Engineering // Enervee

At Enervee, Elise Shehram has worked collaboratively on a professional development program intended to encourage all employees to grow — including crossover into new departments.

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Enervee?

Playing an increasingly significant role in guiding software engineering processes, and shaping culture and values have been among my primary career objectives since I took on my first leadership role. Enervee helped me further those goals in a big way on day one. In five months, I’ve scaled my team by more than 3.5 times the size it was when I joined, all while they were busy meeting a tight delivery schedule for a large, complex feature set.

One of the major reasons I was so excited to join Enervee this year was not just the growth I’d help shape and direct but the energy and excitement that accompany that growth, and how those work together to create a positive feedback loop that has a ripple effect across the organization. Growth is rarely comfortable, but I find the challenges that accompany growth to be some of the most rewarding to overcome.

Feeling confident to take the bold actions required to meet ambitious goals demands confidence and trust from leadership. If it weren’t for the trust modeled by Enervee’s executive team, my recent successes wouldn’t have been possible. I’m proud to belong to a company that sets conditions that empower its people to thrive.

 

What professional development resources does your employer make available?

We are launching a professional development program that allows us to provide many types of training resources to all Enervee employees to support career development goals through unique learning styles. Speaking especially for those in technology, this is a topic that comes up often. As engineers, if we aren’t keeping up with new technologies constantly, we run the risk of a high career growth cost. We’re expected to not only keep up with advancing tech, but also to innovate — especially at more senior levels.

At the outset of the development of this program, some of our goals were to increase innovation, meet the heavy ongoing professional development demands of the growing technology team (while bringing that same level of attention to career development to all other departments), and supporting anyone wanting to explore cross-department transfers. This opened up tremendous growth and development opportunities for all Enervee employees.
 

How can tech companies promote an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

Make courses and training on unconscious bias available to all employees and consider making these mandatory for hiring managers or even all interviewers. There is a lot of work to do to collectively reduce unconscious biases. These biases that run below our own awareness can be especially problematic during interviews, where we risk accidentally giving advantage to those who look or act in similar ways to ourselves. Additionally, ensuring that we compose teams diversely can help support and sustain diversity across the organization.

Also, enact policies that include flexible PTO and parental leave. It is more important than ever to ensure we are supporting people so that they can be themselves at work. Providing adequate employee support throughout major life changes that can be stress-inducing on multiple levels is something to which we as employers should hold ourselves accountable. When people feel supported by their employer not just for the work they do, but for the value that their presence as a human has within the company, then we have a better chance of growing side-by-side, throughout all the challenges and opportunities that both work and life throw at us.

 

 

Sarah Zelechoski
Director, Engineering // GoGuardian

With a company value of “experiment and learn,” GoGuardian encourages employees to be honest and assertive in their professional goals. To that end, as Director of Engineering, Sarah Zelechoski is supporting her team’s growth in creative and inclusive ways.

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at GoGuardian?

My passion is for creating and fostering a strong, respectful, inclusive and empathetic engineering culture driven by values and mission. I enjoy joining teams that are growing and changing to help bring clarity, cohesion and creativity. My career endgame is to be able to positively impact as many engineers as possible. I intend to do this by helping to build safer, more inclusive, more supportive and more empowering environments where engineers can help each other learn and grow and use their unique backgrounds, skills and perspectives to affect the world.

GoGuardian has been a wonderful place for me to work toward my career aspirations. I am able to spend most days coaching engineers on how to achieve more by recognizing their strengths and working toward personal development goals. At GoGuardian, I have been given the space and trust to create plans and strategies, and am working to improve processes, technology and organizational structure within our application engineering teams. I am also supported in being honest and transparent, and guiding the teams through changes and uncertainty.

 

What professional development resources does your employer make available?

“Experiment and learn” is one of GoGuardian’s company values. As a company, GoGuardian understands that learning and professional development drive success. Every year, leadership sets aside an annual learning fund for each employee. This can be used for online and in-person courses, conferences, books, memberships and more! GoGuardian also provides LinkedIn Learning to all employees, which has a wealth of valuable learning resources for everyone and is easily accessible to everyone.

 

How can tech companies promote an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

Pay transparency and equity is one of the most important things a tech company can do to promote an equitable culture for women. We should be making sure folks are being paid fairly regardless of gender, and compensating for structural oppression. Companies can also hire gender minorities in leadership roles and provide them with opportunities for growth and management to create a more inclusive environment for women.

 

 

Jami Schomaker
Performance Marketing Manager // MobilityWare

As she progresses toward increasingly higher-level marketing positions, Jami Schomaker has found support in MobilityWare’s educational opportunities and its culture of entrepreneurship.

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at MobilityWare?

My goal is to work my way up from being in the weeds of campaigns to focusing on higher-level strategies, so that I can eventually manage a team and lead marketing efforts for an overarching suite of products. MobilityWare has given me the opportunity to learn quickly and develop self-sufficient habits that have enabled me to rise from associate to manager. I’ve been able to gain confidence in my own ability to take initiative in deciding how to grow the user base for my games. I’ve gained invaluable experience in being able to own every aspect of mobile marketing for not just well-established titles but also newly launched games.

 

What professional development resources does your employer make available?

MobilityWare gives me access to Linkedin Learning, where I’ve been able to select certain classes or programs that supplement my mobile marketing career development. Access to these classes have been very helpful in encouraging independence and a desire to learn.

 

How can tech companies promote an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

Ensure that the work environment is encouraging and supportive of a woman’s career growth, as well as the potential desire to start a family. It is important for tech companies to feel like a safe place to pursue a career path without the fear of not being supported through family planning. This is a male-dominated industry, so seeing more women — especially women that successfully juggle motherhood and career leadership — being celebrated and encouraged to rise in ranks within this industry is important.

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