As the front woman for the hugely successful band, No Doubt, Gwen Stefani burst onto the music scene about 20 years ago with a song that became an anthem for girls worldwide. “Just a Girl” was my generation’s answer to the question of where women belonged in the world and it helped launch the beginning of a new era for woman in music AND in business.
Last week Yahoo announced that its new CEO was not only a woman but, as it emerged, a pregnant woman. Marissa Mayer is a mere 3 months younger than me, which of course means by proxy I am a massive underachiever. But more importantly, it means that some of the socially held stigmas (both spoken and unspoken) about a woman’s place in the office have been challenged. It is reported that Mayer will receive compensation in the ballpark of $100 million over the next five years, which is competitive for the scope and size of her responsibilities and on par with compensation her predecessors received. In effect, closing one pay gap, overnight.
There is much controversy in the media about Marissa’s decision to remain available for work during her maternity leave. Some say more power to her, others say she’s setting a bad example for young professional women who may one day have to make a choice between work and family. Who is right and who is wrong? That is not for me to say and only time will tell if Mayer felt she made the right decision. For me, the important issue here is that she had the choice to make in the first place. This is a huge shift from where we were just 20 years ago when Gwen belted out her heartfelt angst about being forced to hold a man’s hand.
We’ve touched on this topic before, but the lack of Women in IT is a focus and a concern for our company. It is something we are working hard to champion and change perceptions on – both internally and externally. I am fortunate enough to live in UK, the first country where Avanade has an official women’s networking group. Last week we welcomed a speaker who presented on negotiations and he really drove home the concept of not being intimidated into backing down in negotiations. It’s an accepted fact that on the whole (reader alert: sweeping generalisation coming) women don’t negotiate in business as often as men. Anyone who has done business with me might giggle a bit at that notion. Like many of the women I work with, I am not a statistic and I can often drive a hard bargain.
As I sat in the negotiations discussion, I thought about Mayer and what the interviews and hiring discussions must have been like. She has clearly done a lot right in her career and also in those negotiations that landed her the job. I hope you’ll agree that regardless of the position you take on the debates surrounding Mayer’s appointment, it’s a good thing for the IT industry and business in general to have more women in the board room. It’s a very good thing indeed-for you, for me and for my daughter.
*Photo courtesy of Natalie Brodard