Advancing your Career: Barriers to Leadership and Strategies to Overcome

Dr. Denise Turley
Vice President of Corporate Systems
Automatic Summary

Empowering Women in Tech: Overcoming Barriers and Paving the Way Forward

Hello everyone, I am Dr. Denise Turley, joining you virtually from Washington DC. Today, I am going to touch upon a crucial topic: barriers to leadership for women in the tech industry and strategies to overcome them. As a vice president for Corporate Systems at the US Chamber of Commerce and an academic deeply entrenched in the dynamics of women leaders, I am thrilled to offer you my insights in the arena.

What Hinders Women's Progress in Leadership?

Where are the women leaders? This question invariably arises when we look at the tech industry's demographic patterns. Although there is noticeable progress with one in four C-suite executives being women - a significant advancement from the past decade - the numbers of women of color in leadership roles remain disappointingly low. So, why does this issue persist?

Discrimination, Stereotyping, and Bias

These three factors constitute substantial barriers in most women's leadership journeys, often assuming the form of microaggressions, stereotypes, and glass ceilings. Women often face discrimination stemming from biased assumptions about their assertiveness or competence. Society often categorizes women into binary categories: overly emotional or bossy. Furthermore, women of color, in particular, grapple with inadequate representation, impacting opportunities for progress.

Access to Mentoring and Sponsorship

A notable barrier for several women technologists is accessing adequate mentorship and sponsorship, especially in male-dominated fields. It becomes difficult to navigate through complex professional labyrinths without adequate guidance, further reinforcing the problem of lack of representation.

Self-Belief and Confidence

Lastly, The lack of self-belief can also act as a significant impediment on the path to leadership. Negative self-talk and self-doubt often prevent women from seeking opportunities or advocating for themselves.

Harnessing Your Potential: Ways to Navigate the Hurdles

The barriers may seem insurmountable at times, but I am here to reassure you: you can break through them, and here's how:

  1. Evaluate Your Gaps: Objectively assess your strengths and weaknesses. Identify areas you need improvement on and chart a course of action to facilitate growth.
  2. Develop a Network: Nurture relationships. Reach out for mentoring possibilities, starting with just five-minute chats, and gradually build deeper connections.
  3. Combat Negative Self-Talk: Invest in personal growth by developing self-affirmations and consciously reinforcing your self-belief.
  4. Select The Right Organization: Look for companies that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion, which would value your worth and expertise.

In Conclusion

Your journey to leadership might seem challenging, but do not let obstacles deter you. Be resilient, stay determined, and you will find your way. Remember to advocate for yourselves, as no one else can truly comprehend your aspirations and potentials better than you.

I am honored to share my insights with you all. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please don't hesitate to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Always remember, you are worthy. Thank you.

Video Transcription

Good afternoon. Welcome everyone. I am coming to you live from Washington DC. My name is Denise Turley and I'm honored to be here with you. Wow, women in tech conference. This is so exciting.Um It is truly amazing to be here in this virtual global conference where the focus is just on us, it's just on us women technologists. And that makes me really excited. So today, I'm gonna talk to you a little bit about some of the barriers to leadership for women and some strategies that you might use to overcome those barriers. So a little bit about me, my name is, as I mentioned, Doctor Denise Turley, I've spent the last three or four years deeply ingrained in the research around the experience of women leaders and the barriers that they have to deal with and strategies on how women who have made their way to leadership have been able to overcome those barriers.

I work as a vice president for Corporate Systems at the US Chamber of Commerce. Um I am often the only woman in the room and it's been that way for a while. Um So I know what this is like I know what it means to try and overcome some of the barriers. And I'm here to share with you some tips and some of the things that I've learned. Um I wanna mention to you that you can interact with me via the chat. Uh Feel free to post any questions or comments that you have. And as I am able to, I will read through them and respond to you. Let's go ahead and get started. So using the chat function, I'm just curious how many of you have experienced one or more barriers in your career? Oh How many of you have never experienced any barriers, right? Your journey, your experience has just been completely smooth. Are there any of you out there? Yeah, there's one maybe, maybe there's more we'll see. Um So most of the time there are barriers, there are issues, there are problems, there are struggles that we must go through as we're trying to make it through. Um our leadership journey as we're trying to get higher on that corporate ladder and hopefully bust through that glass ceiling. So where are the women leaders? I mean, the women are out here, right? We definitely have a stronghold in the population.

So there the good news is there is a shift underway, there is momentum that is gaining for women to be in leadership positions. Um And we are showing up in numbers never seen before. In fact, in a mckinsey survey, one in four C suite executives right now are women that wasn't the case. 10 years ago, one in 20 are women of color. Those numbers are a little bit more disappointing, but we are at least making it there four years ago, there was not a woman of color in the C suite. Now they finally are showing up. So, so that's good news. Um We're making really good progress but there's still work to be done. So what barriers might be in the way? What barriers might you encounter as a woman in your career? And a woman in tech, right? Which is largely men, discrimination, stereotyping and bias. I wonder if any of those relate to any of you, anyone ever feel like they've been discriminated against because maybe somebody had some type of bias towards you. They've kind of already narrowly put you into a bucket because they've made assumptions based on the way you look based on your sex because you are a woman. So throughout my research, um it's, you can see it in publications from mckenzie and others.

They women are often passed over for promotions. We, we get ignored, we're discriminated against because there is a belief that women are less assertive and therefore less competent than our men counterparts. Sometimes we're labeled as overly emotional, we just can't be hard enough.

Therefore, we wouldn't make good managers and then when we are assertive, when we do try to show up, um And really take charge and move the needle on some of our projects. We get labeled as bossy or that B word comes out. Right. We just can't win. It's 2023 and we are still dealing with unequal pay. We do not get paid equally to our male counterparts. There are also some assumptions that for those of us who are mothers, that we just won't be as dedicated as reliable to the job of some of our male counterparts. So there's a lot of discrimination. There's a lot of microaggressions. There are a lot of stereotypes that exist out there for us. Another barrier, access to mentoring and sponsorship. I don't know if any of you have been lucky enough to actually get access to a mentor or a sponsor. Somebody who is a champion for you, somebody who mentions your name in rooms that you are not in anyone lucky enough to have such an experience yet there are some out there. But for most of us, we've just been unable to access good mentoring and good sponsorship, particularly in male dominated fields. Women struggle to find female mentors or female role models who can provide guidance and support, who can help share what their journey has been.

What tips can they give to you so that you can traverse these barriers in a way that perhaps they were unable to or maybe they were successful in getting over those hurdles and they want to share with you, what were the things that they did to do that? The problem is that there just aren't enough of them there. So when they're on no role models that look like you, it can be really difficult to even envision a successful career path. How can I imagine myself in leadership? How can I imagine that I can be successful as a leader when I look around my organization and I don't see people who are women or I don't see enough of them. It's really challenging for them, for me to believe that I can be successful. So we have a problem with lack of representation. There's not enough women helping other women to get promoted. In fact, one of the reasons that I'm here today doing this presentation is that I recently realized that my story is not just about me. My story is also about the other women who are coming behind me and might see me as a representative and inspiration and be able to know that they too can be successful in leadership. It would be very selfish of me to just sit in the background and not share my experience with others. And so that's part of the reason that I'm here today. Many of you have probably heard of that good old boy network, right? That matters golf trips, happy hours.

There are these things that happen where women are often excluded from and therefore we do not get access to the mentoring and the sponsorship. Let's face it, relationships matter when it comes to promotions, they just do. So, another barrier that I often hear about that came up almost every single time in my research with yourself. You are standing in your own way of being able to be successful. Huh? What I mean by that? Well, we go through this negative self talk. Sometimes I still go through, I still go through periods of self doubt. And I've had many times in my career where I just didn't think I was smart enough. I didn't think I was good enough. I just wasn't enough. And so that held me back and perhaps I didn't apply for a job or I didn't go and seek mentorship or I didn't speak out and advocate for my own self because I just was listening to that negative voice in my head that was telling me that I just wouldn't be able to do it. This also ties to what we talked about when there are not enough women who you can relate to as role models, right? If I'm already dealing with worrying and self doubt that maybe I'm not quite good enough, that's sort of compounded when I don't see other women who are in leadership positions that I can relate to and find as mentors and talk to if, if I don't see these other women being, being promoted and they look like they are fantastically intelligent, more smarter than me then.

What chance do I have? Right. I listened to a, a presentation from Michelle Obama recently. It was an old presentation. It wasn't new, but she was speaking about something very similar about holding yourself back about not having enough people who were representative of people who didn't look like her. She mentioned that she went to her school counselor in high school and she said that she really wanted to go to Yale University and she was talking about the application process. But her counselor said, no, that's not a good fit for you. So Mrs Obama walked away thinking, wow, she was, she was deflated, but she didn't let that stop her. She knew that she really wanted to go to law school. And so in spite of that counselor who didn't see the greatness in her, she was able to still dig deep and move on and achieve the goals that she had set for herself. She too came from a community where no one went to law school, no one went to college. She did not have a community where she was surrounded by women who were representative of her and could kind of show her a path to success.

But yet and still she made it, she persevered, she met her dream and she actually surpassed. So then the question is, how can you navigate these hurdles? We know they're there? Right? At times, those barriers might seem that they are just too high to get over. And so we give in, right, we succumb, we hit the glass ceiling, we think this is the top, we just cannot break through, but I'm here to tell you that you can, right? So a couple of ways evaluate your gaps. What do I mean by that? I mean, think about what are your career goals? What do you wanna do and then develop a plan so that you are objectively evaluating, what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Where are your opportunities to improve, evaluate your gaps and then develop a plan to bridge those gaps. So if you need a cert certification, if you need to go and take a class, if you need to build on your leadership skills, evaluate your gaps, identify your gaps, close those gaps. Number two, establish a network, develop those relationships that is really challenging. I know just start off within your own peer network and do your best to find just one or two people who are the next level up.

If you're a supervisor, try and network with the manager, ask them to go to copy, ask for a mentor, ask your boss for a mentor. If you find somebody that you come encounter with that, you really like the way they present themselves, ask them to mentor you, but don't go and ask them for a lot of their time. Ask them for five minutes. Most people will not turn you down. If you ask just for five minutes, combat the negative self talk, determine, develop a morning chant where you recognize and you tell yourself that you are good enough. You are smart enough, you are worthy enough and surround yourself with people who uplift you. And then lastly select the right organization. Find an organization that is promoting women that is standing behind diversity, equity and inclusion. There's no point being a superstar at an organization that will not value your worth. And so that's it guys. Um That's pretty much we have got five minutes left to go. If there are any questions in the chat. Let me know. I'm happy to help you. I'm happy to respond to them. Remember to advocate for yourself. No one else is gonna do it. No one's gonna come and tap you on the shoulders to give you a promotion.

You have to speak up, speak to your manager, tell your manager about your career aspirations, tell your network, tell your mentor, find organizations to join much like this women in tech by organizations that are within your organization and external. You guys can do it. Thank you, Jessica advocating for yourself is, is hugely important. And again, find your tribe in my experience. If you just ask someone for five minutes to grab coffee, they will not turn you down and don't be selfish with their time. Maybe ask them for five minutes once a month until you can build that relationship. And build that report and then you can start making that five minutes, 1015 and 20 trying to get valuable experience from them. Oh, that's a great question. The one piece of advice that I would give to young women who is just starting out in their careers would be believe in yourself, believe in yourself. You can and you should try know that life will give you setbacks. Everybody will not tell you yes, there is no perfect or smooth path, but do not let that stop you. You must be resilient, you must be determined and know that you can and you keep going. I wish somebody had told that to me as my younger self that just keep going. I stopped so many times in my career trying to accomplish different things because I just didn't think I was gonna be able to do it. Um So just keep trying.

I think we might have time for just a couple more questions if anyone has any. You're so very welcome. I'm honored that you guys chose this session and decided to spend 20 minutes of your day with me today. I do realize that there are many other options. There's a whole list of things on our to do list. So thank you for your time. Absolutely. So find me on linkedin, Doctor Denise Turley. Anyone that I interact with every interview that I do for a position, I tell people we are now forever connected. And that means if you have a question about absolutely anything you reach out to me, I will respond if you have a question about a job that you want to apply to. If you have a question about moving forward in your education, maybe you're considering your bachelor's degree, a master's degree or your doctorate degree. How can I get through that dissertation, as I mentioned before? My journey is so much more than about me. I want to make sure that I am helping others get to their place of success so that they too can reach their sense of excellence. Thank you guys. You're very gracious. I appreciate all of the. Thank yous coming across in the, in the chat again, reach out to me. I'm on, I'm on linkedin. Um and I will do my best to help you in any way that I can at any time that I can know that you are worthy. Thank you so much.