International Women's Day: How we #EmbraceEquity at Avanade
- Posted on March 8, 2023
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
This year on March 8, International Women’s Day (IWD) will be celebrated across the globe. This year’s theme, #EmbraceEquity, is focused on challenging gender stereotypes, drawing attention to bias and seeking out inclusion. I’m honored to have been invited to celebrate the day by sharing my thoughts and experiences as a woman working in the technology sector in Ireland.
I want to start by reflecting on why I think celebrating IWD is so important. Take Ireland as an example. These days it is a global technology hub of choice for large tech companies. The sector accounts for more than €50 billion of exports a year, with roughly 117,800 people working in jobs that require STEM skills. Yet less than 25% of these roles are filled by women.
Why we must celebrate inspiring role models
It’s hard for girls and young women to choose tech careers when they don’t see any role models to aspire to. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate the achievements of women across all walks of life. IWD is an opportunity to inspire future generations by celebrating the success of women and encouraging women and girls to achieve whatever they dream of – regardless of their culture or background. By promoting the stories of those who have gone before us, we let people know that if they can dream it, they can achieve it.
Of course, entrenched biases and gender stereotypes are also responsible for driving women away from pursuing a fulfilling career, especially when life and family pressures mount up. That’s why the theme #EmbraceEquity really resonates with me. It recognizes that offering equal opportunities is no longer enough. The important difference between equality and equity is that equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and that individuals need different resources and opportunities in order to reach an equal outcome.
My gender bias experience
This year IWD is asking us to share the passion and excitement that comes from valuing and supporting differences, and to reflect on how we can all be part of the solution, not the problem. If I reflect back on my career, which began 14 years ago, tech was a very male-dominated industry. I was often the only woman in the room and yes, I got undermined. Yes, I got spoken over and, yes, I experienced situations where I would make a point and be ignored, only to have a man repeat my point and have it affirmed. I had to train myself to speak and express myself confidently and clearly, but I was fortunate enough to have some wonderful women leaders who have supported me in my career and men who have been wonderful allies by looking out for me and helping me to excel. It’s those positive experiences that I choose to focus on.
I’ve now been at Avanade Ireland for just over two years, and it’s a very different experience to my early career. I was attracted to my role as Modern Workplace Engineering Manager because it gave me an opportunity to do what I love most, which is ‘doing what matters’ – helping organizations solve complex business problems with technology. Every day I get to deepen and scale out my skills through working on challenging projects whilst making a genuine human impact.
Doing what matters – the Avanade opportunity
Avanade also gives me the opportunity to support other projects and people that are close to my heart. Employees are given hours to volunteer and, as the lead on the Irish office’s Corporate Citizenship pillar, I work with local charitable organizations and encourage our employees to volunteer for causes that support our local community.
I’ve always been involved in volunteering and growing tech communities. Supporting women in tech as a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) is incredibly important to me. Avanade Ireland is an active member of ‘Connecting Women in Technology Ireland’ (CWiT), an organization founded by Accenture, Dell and Microsoft in 2009 that has grown to a network of over 20 Irish based technology companies with a shared mission to attract, retain and promote women in the technology sector. As a leader of CWiT, not only do I get to support other women in our tech community and benefit from their support, but I’m also involved in educating girls at school and university about careers and opportunities within the sector.
Of course, forging gender equity isn't limited to women solely fighting the good fight on behalf of other women–we need allies, too. Here at Avanade we have incredible allies across the organization, from the leadership team through to different communities, who actively support us, our events and endeavors. This is a workplace where everyone is encouraged to be their authentic self – to speak what’s on their mind, be listened to and be heard.
Not only are there mentoring and coaching sessions to help female employees on our career trajectories, but as part of our environmental, societal and governance goals, we have targets to increase female leadership representation ,which are closely tracked. It’s just one of the reasons Avanade ranked number three overall out of the top 100 companies on Newsweek’s Most Loved Workplaces list.
It’s only going to get better
There’s still work to be done across the industry to ensure that women are fully represented and supported, but I’m optimistic. As technology continues to evolve and shape the world, demand for digital skills will continue to grow, and a lot of new roles will emerge, giving women an opportunity to enter the field and contribute their talents and perspectives. By highlighting the issues that exist, IWD is creating an important dialogue about how we can work towards a more equitable and just society – encouraging everyone to see the positivity in embracing equity and diversity.