Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023: Embracing Equity
At Redbrick, we benefit from the leadership of women CEOs in three of our four portfolio companies. We wanted to highlight their contributions to our company as leaders and amplify their passion for pulling others up.
This year, our team filmed an honest conversation with Jeanette Dorazio CEO of Leadpages, Barbara Berry CEO of Delivra, and Nadia Tatlow CEO of Shift. Our goal was to create a resource that had real value for the people our organization is celebrating today: women in tech.
We gathered questions from local leadership groups, our community network, and STEM students from our partnership with INSPIRE to offer young leaders a direct line to our CEOs.
Every question gave our CEOs the space to reflect on their shared experiences together. What did we learn? Their journeys to leadership go beyond seeking opportunities and climbing a ladder. To them, pursuing leadership meant navigating male-dominated power structures.
We’re using this panel to share their critical insight on: 1) The advice they would give to young people navigating those structures and 2) How organizations can dismantle those structures from within.
We hope the thoughtful responses from Jeanette, Barbara, and Nadia offer support to the next generation of the tech industry and have an impact on any business that chooses to listen.
We’re excited to share part of this panel video at Stemstruck on March 9th, Redbrick is sponsoring this event which will be raising funds to establish a new scholarship for women pursuing careers in STEM.
Calling attention to power structures
While more than half of all Canadian companies reported having at least one woman in an executive role, just 5% are led by a CEO that’s a woman.
“You hear about the number of women [in tech], but you really have to look at the distribution of women. You’ll see women in the HR department, the administration—really important roles—and often in the C-suite, but not necessarily the key decision makers for the core business.” —Nadia Tatlow, CEO of Shift
Seeing women in the C-suite has two major effects. First, it demonstrates that it’s possible for non-male leadership to advance in tech. Seeing the potential for a non-traditional power structure fires up ambition in a more diverse group of young people to pursue a career in tech. And, the visibility of role models encourages them to set their sights on executive positions.
Secondly, more women in the C-suite creates sponsors for the next generation aspiring to leadership. Sponsors provide the advice and feedback of a mentor, but also advocate for the ability and potential of their chosen candidate: sponsors are a key part of career advancement.
“I didn’t like the power structures I saw early in my career. I made a personal vow to myself to change that and make sure everybody had a voice.”—Jeanette Dorazio, CEO of Leadpages
Gender and racial diversity in key leadership roles has a powerful impact on how many others are to follow. Without a conscious and immediate effort to expand representation in upper management and executive positions, companies will remain stuck in a cycle where diverse opinions can’t reach the top.
Recruiting women into tech isn’t enough, we need to retain them
50% of women are leaving the career ladder by the age of 35, at a rate 45% higher than their male colleagues.
More resources, scholarships, and organizations are investing in pathways for women and underrepresented groups into tech, but retaining those new recruits is a crucial responsibility that falls to tech companies themselves.
Non-inclusive company culture is one of the most significant forces pushing women out of tech. This comes in the form of a lack of support, extra expectations on their demeanor, and shutting women out of opportunities for advancement.
“When there’s an opportunity to do a promotion, it’s promoting the person who’s closest to them, which is not typically a woman.” – Barbara Berry, CEO of Delivra
For these issues, change starts from the top. Combatting a hostile, or even just a non-welcoming work culture requires dedicated education in the workplace. Workshops that draw awareness to exclusionary power structures and interactions should include the whole team, including executives and managers.
In hiring and advancement, promotions shouldn’t happen behind the scenes. Upper management needs to ensure everyone is aware of open seats. This avoids an “inner circle” situation where only an in-crowd can step forward for advancement—this can start without malicious intent, but it puts up a very real barrier to including different voices in the boardroom.
A company’s policy should also reflect its values—in a way that goes beyond just a mission statement. Proper parental and caregiver leave, comprehensive benefits, transit coverage, and support for all different kinds of employees and their families will dismantle some of the barriers that disadvantage members of your team from pursuing further opportunities.
Real commitments to inclusion and creating space for diversity in leadership will push forward the tech industry and foster new, imaginative innovation while clinging onto old power structures will hold companies back.
Continuing the conversation
International Women’s Day is an important reminder for us to evaluate our actions toward diversity, equity, and inclusion as a company. But that should be in practice for every organization, all the time and not just on one day of the year.
In 2023, we plan to keep the conversation going. Stay tuned for the next installment of this series as we share more mentorship and valued insight from our portfolio leaders.
Thank you to everyone involved in this project behind the scenes, we’re grateful to our three CEOs for their time and openness, and to everyone who submitted questions for our panel.