Breaking the Glass Ceiling for Women in Tech Leadership

Juanita DeSouza-Huletey
Founder|CEO|Lead Coach
Automatic Summary

Breaking the Glass Ceiling for Women in Tech Leadership

Welcome to my discussion on breaking the glass ceiling for women in tech leadership. As a woman with over 32 years in the tech industry, 27 of which being in leadership roles, I have become acutely aware of the systematic and invisible barriers faced by women seeking to climb the corporate ladder in tech.

I have seen, firsthand, the organization lose millions of dollars through a lack of inclusivity and diverse management, despite having the qualifications and leadership skills necessary for strategic positions. The progress in diversity has unfortunately not moved a great deal. Thankfully, platforms like Women in Tech provide the opportunity for us to share experiences and strive to bring positive change to the industry. But remember - it's not a one-person job, we all have roles to play.

The Invisible Barriers for Women in Tech

The invisible barriers that prevent women and other marginalized groups from advancing to higher positions in tech are numerous. To highlight a few, we face hiring biases, unequal pay, lack of mentorship and sponsorship, gender-based role stereotyping, minimal flexibility with regards to work-family balance, and a lack of representation at higher corporate levels. It's time for us to change this narrative.

Identifying the Challenges and Barriers: How Statistics Speak

The tech world seems to have a deafening silence when it comes to encouraging diversity and inclusivity in leadership. The statistics reveal a disappointing reality. For instance, in Canada, women only represent 23% of the entire tech workforce, with a measly 5% in leadership roles. On a global scale, only an underwhelming 24% of tech leadership positions are held by women.

Bringing About Change

Much can be done to disrupt the existing work culture and overcome systematic barriers. We can raise awareness about diversity, inclusion, and equity within organizations, encourage the implementation of coaching, mentorship, and sponsorship programs, and advocate for diverse hiring practices. It's crucial to ensure equitable pay, flexibility in working hours, and to stir organizations to actively measure and show progress towards diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

Advocacy Through Technology

In our tech-driven world, women can utilize technology to raise awareness, share personal experiences and engage discussions on the underrepresentation of women in tech leadership roles. Technology provides us with platforms where we can share our thoughts and elicit conversations from like-minded people. This can be in the form of social media platforms, blogs, digital storytelling and video channels.


The role of women in tech leadership does not need to be an uphill battle. Agencies need to encourage open communication, facilitate transparent policies, and provide their employees the much-needed support. We can create a more equal and just tech world only if we consciously acknowledge and address the underrepresentation of women. Your voice matters. Together we can disrupt the status quo, break the glass ceiling, and ensure that women's voices are not muted in tech leadership. Let's continue the conversation. Let's take action. Thank you.

Video Transcription

Well, good evening, everybody. Um Welcome to my session on breaking the gla uh the glass ceiling for women in tech leadership. Let me tell you a little bit about who I am and why I stand in life.I've been in the tech industry for over 32 years, uh 27 of which was the leadership role despite my hard work ability to get things done, solve problems that everyone runs away from. See the organization loss of millions of dollars through my art of continuous improvement. Um You know, being very inclusive and making people a priority on my team as well as different management levels. I have faced systematic invisible barriers for sea sea position for which I have never been appointed to nor given the opportunity to interview in the tech world as a woman, an immigrant and a woman of color. I see how much the refunds needle has not moved to great extent and I'll provide some statistics later on to uh uh to show that. Thanks to the women in tech, I have a platform where I can share my experience, my passion and be a disruptor for positive change in the industry in my own ways, we all have a role to play together and collectively we'll be able to change it, but it's not one person's job and that's why I'm here today.

Well, to the audience watching right now, it would be great to know how many of you have been in the leadership role or aspiring to be leaders. If you can, please put it in the chat, I only have 20 minutes. Usually I do this in an hour. So let's get started and engage in a conversation on how we can disrupt the work and culture prevailing in the majority of organizations and institutions to ensure that women have a place at the table where our voices are not muted in tech leadership and beyond. I would like to start my, my, my, my session with Kim Lin that sums up my speech. So I won't read it out as you can see it as you know, overcoming visible barriers that prevent women and other marginalized group from advancing to leadership position or any higher level position in our, in their perspective, profession has been quite a challenge. I call it invisible barriers because we face it. We know it, we see it. People who don't when you tell them most of the time, they are surprised until you point it out to them. These barriers take many forms such as hiring buyers which have experienced where you know, I put in an application and by the time I realized they've just appointed somebody, even though I'm the most qualified unequal pay, lack of mentorship and sponsorship. How can we provide that?

If we are not at those positions, stereotyping that there are some jobs that women can do or there are some leadership position that women should not take. Lack of flexibility. Especially, you know, most women, we have family responsibility, whether I work seven hours or six hours hours, seven hours, I get the work done. Should that not be enough, lack of representation and minimal. So as women and our men who are allies, we need to break down such barriers and pave the way for all to follow. The fact that I cannot get to the highest level of leadership role in tech that I deserve. Doesn't mean I should sit and watch instead I need to use my experience and every opportunity to break the glass ceiling. So other women and girls coming after us can reach the highest level of corporate leadership and advance in their careers. Most of my, my friends know that recently someone was telling me you should be the VP, you should be the CEO but what's happening? So there are tons of stories to share. I have only 20 minutes. So I avoid sharing stories, tons of stories to share, not just by me, by many of you here today. So put them in the chat or some of you that your mother experienced. Your grandmother, your sister, your wife, and a lot of stories that have never been told.

This leads to my next question. What are the key element behind the challenges and barriers? Why is human inclusion muted in majority of leadership roles? I'll use some statistics to bring out this point. So as you can see on the powerpoint in Canada, woman representation is 23% of the whole tech workforce and only 5% of those are in the female fi es. And even with that, some of these ladies in this position, I call them the bee queen syndromes. And I will explain that later, globally, only 24% of tech leadership positions are occupied by women. What do you think? These are sad numbers but they are not friction. Instead it shows the dark side of society and highlight the significance of underrepresentation of women in tech leadership positions, both in Canada and globally, there is greater need for diversity, inclusion and belonging. We hear all the noise and check boxes that being done.

But as you can see from the statistics, not much has done, we want change, we have to drive it. We cannot be a check box, we cannot be on paper as a strategic item on a line in a budget with nothing to show for it or the statistics to proof it it no, it was not in that sometimes when we women are in position of power. In many cases. Some are just occupying a seat without any influence. The Queen Be syndrome where they are afraid if they don't go with what the guys are saying, then they are going to lose their position, they have to fit in. But that's not the case with some of us. And so are the many leaders that I know we refuse to act as dummies and to be a disrupter for positive change in order to challenge the status quo and in order to bring change, but we are not here to mourn the obstacles, but we want to be comfortable and at ease with it. We need to find ways to disrupt the culture as nothing is being done by these institutions that is making change. And the statistics is saying it, they, we can't stand by uh by the roadside, waiting for them to do it.

We need to take action the question I always ask and I've been a victim of it. Shouldn't the most qualified person get a job with the benefit that goes with it with it regardless of gender. So why we know the challenges, the issues? But how come not much is being seen in real action despite all the money and noise that's being made, like I said about diversity inclusion and and now belonging, there are several factors that contribute. I've mentioned earlier, unconscious bias, lack of mentorship and sponsorship and coaching, stereotyping that some jobs are not for women. Lack of flexibility, pay equity, lack of representation and the list goes on and on. So how can we distract the work culture and overcome some of the systematic barriers?

I will pause to engage the audience and then continue. So if anybody wants to put anything on the chat, I encourage you to do so as I'm waiting, I'll be sharing an example. 28 2018, I applied for a job at a senior level. I wasn't even going to apply. The guy thought, well, knowing the culture, there's no place for me here. However, I was encouraged by my team by so many other people to do it. I did apply the next day. I was leaving to my home country, Ghana to visit my aging parents. As soon as they saw my application, I was told, oh, you need to write a test. The person that was initially they were thinking of came to me and said, oh, you are way more qualified. I have checked every single box. They said, well, I said a box for this position to write a text, not me doing a presentation about my vision for the session and all that or an interview. I can do 100 interviews. I challenge each other. But they said, well, it's not as well. I withdrew from the competition. If I couldn't write a test and leave the next day I had stuff to do. And what happened? I went back home six weeks and came back, the position was still open two weeks after I came by, the position was offered or someone, the person they wanted was appointed to it. No text, no interview, nothing.

So let us see and examine some of the issues and how we can disrupt it. For me personally, one approach is to start examining the cul the current culture prevailing in organizations to draw that awareness. And when I tell people to know how diversified, inclusive and equitable and belong in your organization needs, look past management manager and app and see how diverse it is because I did that test once in a place I was working and honestly, I was the only minority, the only person of color, there were a couple of women that I would call even Queen Bee.

Recently. I mentioned to someone how the the last 23 years they've just been appointing people to positions and all those appointments are all white people. They go. Oh, really? You should be qualified. And I said, am I not qualified for that corner office? What did they do?

They appointed someone? She was sure she go. Oh yeah, you are right. Awareness is very important. We need to raise it. She was a white lady. She said, oh wow, because she did not see that I saw it is invisible because I'm impacted their culture often favors masculine breed of men such as aggression, competition, individualism, right? Which makes it difficult for women who may possess different traits such as collaboration, management, compassion, empathy communication.

And I say we are even a better leader than most of these men to disrupt the world culture. We need to encourage organizations and ask staff questions. We need to ensure they are consciously implementing coaching, mentorship and sponsorship program to level the playing field.

And this can be done by ensuring the women who are there are not looking at other women and ignoring them, but trying to coach and provide mentorship program for other women to climb the the ladder. To embrace the, to uh we need to prioritize and embrace equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging in hiring practices. It's not just a chalk boss where we have people here. We want them at the leadership level, creating opportunities for women to take on leadership group and promoting diverse hiring practices, not by appointment, ensure that a person with the right skill set, the right experience gets the job. The organization needs to be representation of the community.

They say we need to establish metrics to show progress towards diversity, inclusion and belonging. That's the only way we will hold these organizations accountable. We talk about policies. Most of the policies are cake and not in today. We need flexible work time, we need paid parental leave.

We need women to be able to work four days a week or three days a week by ensuring that this this uh policies are changed. We need to ensure for pay equity, we are blowing the horn and ensuring this organization do uh uh uh pay equity audits to ensure every employees is at the same level and when there are gaps, hr brings it up, not hide the information premium development. Yes, some of this organization, big tech organization spends money on a lot of other stuff, but they can't spend money on training for women that are tailored specifically to, to raise awareness of the issue and also to encourage women to know how to negotiate how to deal with unconscious bias.

We need to build a strong network which is critical, how do we build it if we have to run home and take care of our families. And most of these network events are in the evening or after hours. I can afford golfing three hours, somebody six hours. Most of these networking events are tailored for the men. We need to change that and we women are sometimes the one organizing it. They are male dominant mindset events. We need to advocate for change not by work on on paper but by action by requesting for representation to leadership role in the tech industry. We need to encourage te education in with our girls and ensure there are platforms to support them. We need to ensure that whatever program is there is being sustainable, is being measured. Our part. If anybody wants to share or add their voice to this the other thing is about technology. How can we use technology to advance this course? Social media has been a powerful tool for everyone. And it's a platform that we can use to share our perspective, opinion to a wider audience, to raise awareness of the issue, share our thoughts and engage in conversation from people from all walks of life, for example, and support each other.

I posted something about my retirement on linkedin. I got individual um messages to me, not on my linkedin post, most of these individuals were from women but another male sent the same thing they are able to post that. Why, why are we not there to support creating blog, personalizing our brand, make being able to ensure that women can help shape public discourse and influence social change using social media and blogging website and publication story, digital storytelling, be podcast video channel to educate others about the invisible barriers can also be an effective way to break the glass ceiling for women to have a voice at the table by sharing our stories and insight through this medium.

We can connect with others on the deeper level and inspire others to take action. We can use technology to mobilize petition and campaigns for our cause. Justice Ruba did that during the Trump administration and he is still doing it. Lastly, we need to create and ensure we have a supportive inclusive workshop where everyone feels valued and respond and, and and respected. This involve opening communication, promoting transparency and accountability, creating an environment with where feedback is encouraged, reform existing outdated policies and regulation and calling out the Queen B syndrome and providing women colleagues with support. The good thing is that it's not hopeless yet as we are still talking about it. But that means we have to acknowledge and ensure that women under representation in tech leadership role is a proactive step and we take proactive steps to address it in a announced, what I want to say is that if you have a seat at the table, wherever you are in whatever position, never underestimate your inner strength and capabilities.

Don't let your voice be muted. Learn to challenge your own thoughts, what you can do to make a difference and break the ceiling. Thank you all for participating in this important discussion. I encourage you to continue exploring the ways to promote support women inclusion in tech leadership roles and beyond in your own small way. Whenever you are, wherever you are, you get opportunity and change will happen if we all play our role and do it collectively. Thank you.

I'll wait. If anybody have answers, the chart is open. Um I can take questions or answers. I have a minute, just a minute left. Thank you very much. And I'm looking forward to continue your conversation in the future on this. Thank you.