International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8 to honor the achievements of women throughout history and across nations, and to provide a global forum to women who want to create a better future for their communities, children and themselves. The theme of International Women’s Day changes each year as more progress is made and, of course, as new issues arise that have the potential to stand in the way of gender equality. This year, the theme is #EachforEqual, which underscores the concept that “an equal world is an enabled world,” and that gender equality is imperative for economies and communities to thrive.
Undeniably, there are still many gender-quality obstacles to overcome – especially from a global perspective. However, women (and men!) have taken significant strides collectively toward gender parity over the last decade. As of 2016, there were nearly 12 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., which generated an astonishing $1.6 trillion in revenue. Globally, women constitute almost 50% of the labor market.
Statistics show that female students awarded a college degree or certificate in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field has risen steadily in the U.S. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, slightly more than 140,000 women graduated with STEM degrees in 2009. By 2016, that number had risen to more than 200,000 – a nearly 43% increase in just seven years!
At Tech Data, the recruitment, retention and advancement of women into leadership positions around the world is essential to the company’s success as a leading solutions aggregator. Gender diversity in the workplace is in alignment with our core values – and it’s also good for business. According to research firm McKinsey & Company, the most gender-diverse companies are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability.
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2020, Tech Data is proud to spotlight some of its women in technology employees who work diligently to bring the company’s brand essence, “connecting the world with the power of technology,” to life. Hailing from across the globe, these individuals, who hold a variety of roles within the company, share how they started their careers in technology, who they look up to most, the best career advice they have received and would give, as well as what their highest hopes are for the next generation of women in technology.
Enjoy the read and the videos in this article, and please comment below to let us know how you are celebrating International Women’s Day this year. Also, be sure to follow Tech Data’s social channels for more great quotes from the women featured below and others throughout the month of March in honor of National Women’s History Month.
How did you develop your career in technology?
Ashley Easter: When I started working for Tech Data four years ago, it was in the returns department at our Forth Worth, Texas, logistics center. I have been promoted and moved departments several times since. I have been in my current role for about a year, and it’s very fast-paced and challenging in a good way. You have a lot of eyes on you when you’re shipping out a $50,000 order! I enjoy it a lot and I hope my career continues to advance here at Tech Data.
Carla Carvalho: When I came back to Brazil after participating in a post-college exchange program in Norway, I decided to apply for trainee programs and that´s how I got started in IT. I joined the IBM trainee program in 1991 and worked there for 24 years. That’s where I built my career and became passionate about technology. I am not a technical person, but it´s amazing to me how technology is present in almost all aspects of our lives.
Emah Madegwa: We live in a global digital world, and I wanted to be part of this revolution. I have been fortunate to work with the United Nations – a global organization – where I gained years of experience using my communications skills addressing social issues. I traveled to several parts of the world, interacting with people from different cultures and this strategically shaped my professional life.
Judith Schreibmayer: I started my career in IT 30 years ago. At the time, it was completely dominated by men. This encouraged me to see if a woman can be successful in this industry and make a difference. And yes, she can.
Nidhi Raj: I started out with a marketing role in technology. For me, developing a career in a field that’s changing our daily lives was a good fit because you get to learn a lot.
Jyoti Pathak: I studied math and statistics in college and I wanted to have a career in a fun, innovative and powerful area. My interest in STEM gave me the first peek into programming, which helped me launch my career in technology.
What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?
Eileen Gibson: The best advice I have ever received comes down to two versions of the same idea, given to me 20 years apart and from two of my favorite leaders. The first was to ‘speak with data.’ Early in my career, I let my emotions get the better of me. The second was this: ‘There’s nothing more devastating to an opinion than a fact.’ Essentially, use data to legitimize or challenge a hypothesis – or to promote or challenge an idea or strategy.
Irene Buchan: When I was first promoted to manager, a mentor of mine advised me to learn to delegate and trust my team and that this would help me not only keep up with the work, but also to foster stronger working relationships. She was right! Over the years, that one piece of insight has been invaluable.
Ivana Morassutti: Use every job as an opportunity to learn something new and to keep an open mind. Don´t be afraid to propose new ideas and put passion and energy into everything you do.
Siau Miin Chang: Always give your best in what you do and the rest – in terms of rewards, career opportunities and more – will fall into place.
Sirma Ozkan: Whatever company you’re with and whatever you are doing, be passionate and work hard. It always results in professional growth.
Click on the video above and hear from Tech Data’s Linda Rendleman, Senior Vice President, Endpoint Solutions, Americas, and how she started her career in technology “completely by accident.”
What advice would you give women who want to embark on a career in technology?
Heather Murray: This is something very near and dear to my heart. I’m a huge advocate of advancing women in technology. The advice I would give is to take the fear out of it. You don’t have to have a degree in a STEM field to pursue a career in technology.
Ivana Morassutti: Technology is one of the most innovative and exciting industries to be in. Emerging technologies like automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are making their way into many aspects of our lives, and it’s interesting to think about what the future may hold.
Jessica Yeck: Be flexible, this is a very fast-paced industry. Know who you are, what you want in your career and, most importantly, know your non-negotiables. Once you understand these things, be sure to articulate this with your leader and other leaders. Work hard, do your job well and never get too comfortable. Always keep learning.
Julie Lawandra: A career in IT gives you visibility into the future and allows you to stay current with new technology as it evolves. Even as you grow old, you’ll have the skills and interest to adapt to the world at a fast pace.
Manal Guirguis: Be respectful and authentic in all aspects when dealing with others, regardless of our differences. You should always treat others like you want to be treated.
Jyoti Pathak: My advice is to follow your passion and just do it, girl! Don’t be intimidated by a room full of men, or even a room full of people who don’t look like you. If you follow your passion, learn as much as you can and do good work, people will have no choice but to admire and respect you.
Which women (past or present) do you admire most?
Carla Carvalho: Marie Curie, who won the Nobel Prize – twice! She became famous because of her research on radioactivity.
Maghen Hannigan: I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by many amazing women throughout my life and career. My mom is the holy grail of amazing, in my book. Beyond the many life lessons and insane work ethic she passed on to me, she is a fighter. A while back we discovered that she had stage four breast cancer. Not only did she not let her diagnosis get in the way of her ability to live her life, she went through chemotherapy, radiation and had multiple surgeries – all while she continued to pursue her college degree and finish school. She’s got a heart of gold. I can only hope I will leave such an amazing mark on the world like she will.
Manal Guirguis: I admire many women in the IT industry. Tech Data’s own Linda Rendleman is at the top of the list! I also admire women in other industries, like Oprah Winfrey, for her ability to compete and succeed in her field.
Note: If you haven't, be sure to check out Linda Rendleman’s video near the top of this story!
Nidhi Raj: Debjani Ghosh, Delhi president, NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies). As the first woman to lead Intel in India, then the Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology and now NASSCOM, she is a strong advocate of gender diversity and equal representation in corporate India. Debjani’s life advice that inspires me is, ‘It’s time for women to stop second-guessing ourselves and start believing that we are the best at what we do. If we don’t, no one else will believe it.’
Sirma Ozkan: I have had a chance to work with many women throughout my career, and the ones I admire most were always honest, determined, focused and had extraordinary passion to succeed. They had a talent for bringing out the best in the people they worked with.
What is your highest hope for the next generation of women?
Ashley Easter: I hope women continue to move forward in their career. Don’t just be complacent and stagnant or settle for just anything. At the same time, it’s OK to admit to yourself if you’re not ready for the next opportunity just yet. But, make a plan to be ready for the next time. As women, we sometimes feel we must take on the world!
Heather Murray: I would say this: dream big. I don’t have regrets in life, but if I could go back in time, I would have dreamed a lot bigger for myself.
Maghen Hannigan: I hope that the next generation of women continue to see their own value and are comfortable enough in their own skin to go after the things they want. There is a long way to go to reach equality, but there has been significant progress. I also hope that they take the time to show compassion for all their fellow beings.
Mara Pereira: We have an obligation to keep fighting for our rights, even if we have them now. There are still many women around the world who don’t have the same rights.
Nidhi Raj: The next generation of women already has so much more knowledge of technology and its rapidly changing behavior. They’ll be more able to adapt to shifts in technology, so I expect we’ll see a lot more women IT leaders.
About the Author
Jenni Ottum is part of the integrated communications team at Tech Data. She began her career in public relations and communications with a global retail and supply chain software provider. Since then, she has held several B2B marketing communications roles in the software space. Most recently, Jenni served as senior director of public relations for SHE Media, a leading women’s media company with nearly 70,000 unique visitors per month and comprising four individual media properties, SheKnows.com, BlogHer.com, STYLECASTER.com and Hollywoodlife.com, as well as the #BlogHer conference series. In that role, Jenni led all B2B and B2C public relations and communications initiatives. Her background and profile can be found on LinkedIn.