It's ok to be a female and break the glass ceiling

Rebecca Crook
Chief Growth Officer - EMEA
Solange Sobral
EVP, Partner
Automatic Summary

Smashing the Glass Ceiling: Female Leaders in Technology

Now more than ever, women are reaching new heights in the tech industry. However, some hurdles need to be leaped in order to ensure equal representation at the peak of the corporate ladder. In this blog post, we'll draw on insights from Rebecca Crook, Chief Growth Officer in Emir of CINT, and Solange, CINT's European VP. They'll discuss their personal experiences, efforts to promote diversity, and advice to women aiming to break the glass ceiling.

Meet the Mentors

Rebecca Crook serves as the Chief Growth Officer for Emir at CINT, a global digital specialist assisting about 7000 people globally. Similarly, her colleague Solange has been a valuable member of CINT for the past 28 years, starting as a software developer and gradually working her way up to becoming EVP and a partner of CINT.

The Current Landscape

A silver lining in the modern tech world, once a male-dominated field, is that more women are joining the industry. In the UK alone, women in technology have grown from 19% in 2019 to 26% by 2023.

However, in leadership, there's still a significant gender gap. Among the FTSE 350 companies in the UK, 40% of board seats are held by women. Although promising, this progress dwindles at the executive level, with only 18 of these companies having a female CEO.

The Courage to Break the Glass Ceiling

Making it to the top of the corporate ladder necessitates resilience, a hunger for knowledge, and self-belief. Solange shares that every significant step in her career resulted from her boldly asking for new challenges and stepping out of her comfort zone. She encourages everyone to do the same: "The magic always happens outside of our comfort zone."

Fighting Fear and Recognizing Progress

Fear, particularly related to fear of rejection or imposter syndrome, is an ever-present opponent for many, particularly women in leadership. The crucial difference is not whether you feel fear but how you respond to it; moving forward despite the fear is what differentiates those who cross the bridge to success from those who do not.

Solange prescribes three steps for tackling fear and promoting progress in one's career journey:

  1. Awareness, both individually and corporately: Recognizing the unique challenges women face in the workplace is the first step towards overcoming them.
  2. Programs: Establishing strategies within companies to bridge the gender gap and monitor progress.
  3. Action: Transforming words into deeds, with concrete actions that accelerate the process toward women's success at all levels of leadership.

Importance of Mentorship

Mentorship serves as a crucial pillar to develop and flourish in any career. When beginning a career or when entering new territory, finding knowledgeable individuals who can assist and guide you is a proven recipe for success. And the need for mentorship extends throughout one’s professional journey, not limited to the early stages.

Along their professional paths, Rebecca and Solange both sought out advice and mentorship from those who had already walked the path they were looking to explore. They now offer their experiences and knowledge to the upcoming generation of leaders in technology as mentors themselves.

To conclude, breaking the glass ceiling is not just about individual determination, but also about fostering a supportive business environment that acknowledges and actively addresses gender disparity at all corporate levels.

Video Transcription

It has started. Great. Hi morning, everybody. Uh Really pleased to be here today. Um You're joining the session. It's ok to be a female and break the glass ceiling. So I'm Rebecca Crook, Chief Growth Officer in Emir of CINT.We're a global digital specialist with almost 7000 people globally and I'm joined by my incredible colleague, Solange who we'll be chatting to today. Um She's been a real driving force in CINT in supporting females in the workplace and really spearheading some great initiatives at CINT, which we'll talk about. But I'll let Solange introduce herself first. Hi,

everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. So as Rebecca was saying, my partner with Shanty started with the company a long, long time ago. I have been working with Shanty for twin, eight years. Uh I started as the uh fifth employee, a software development and cat and have been developing all my career at the same company. Um Now, uh I'm responsible for expanding our operation into Europe into em. Uh Apart from CNC, uh I'm executive board member with Vivo Telefonica in Brazil, the one of the biggest telecom company in Brazil. Uh also uh I'm a uh advisory board uh with uh W CD, an amazing institution that promotes women uh on board at board with big companies. Uh and also I member with the uh advisory advisory diverse and inclusion committee with it, a the biggest bank in Latin America, apart from colleagues in our est board committee at A T again, thank you so much for joining for. It is very important conversation.

Thanks Solange, a great introduction. So hopefully you'll see you um in very safe hands with uh all the expertise that solange can bring to the conversation. Um I also sit on a few different boards outside of my role at CINT. Um and I've been in the industry for about 25 years now, a number of different agencies um and delighted to be part of CINT now and I'm working with Solange. So just before we get the conversation started in terms of it's ok to be a female and break the glass ceiling. They wanted to give a bit of context around kind of women in technology and how many people are kind of there. So there's been a recent survey um and it's good news because actually there's more people, more women now working in technology and it's increased year on year. So right now, in 2023 there's about 26% of the workforce in the UK uh that make up the technology industry and that's up from 19% in 2019. So, although it's small increases, it's increasing and going in the right direction, which is fantastic. I think one of the big things we're gonna talk to solange about to today is kind of how do you break the glass ceiling and how do you get into those senior leadership roles?

And in the UK, there's been a real drive to get more women in top roles. And if we look at the FTSE 350 companies in the UK, 40% of those board seats are now held by women, which I have to say is tremendous cos when I first started working on boards, that certainly wasn't the case. However, when we look at the next level and we look at chief executives, sadly of those 350 companies there, there's only 18 female CEO S. So I think there's still a lot of work that we need to do. But um really wanted just to hand over now to solange to talk a little bit about kind of her journey. We've heard obviously really early into CINT uh in terms of her employee number and now she's EVP, she's a partner of CINT. So she's really done tremendous things. So over Tues launched to talk a little bit about kind of where you started and where you are now.

Amazing Rebecca. So, yeah, in fact, I started my journey uh in a small uh CG in Brazil uh in the countryside of Brazil. And um and I, I like, I like to say that uh I was born with a lot of nos, no for being woman. No, for being black. No, for not having uh um um financial conditions uh to, to have a high quality uh um studies in schools on my child teenagerhood. And um believe me or not in Brazil, uh Rebecca was bringing some figures in Brazil around or more than 50% of the whole population are, are, are women and more than 56 of the population are black. And believe me or not only 0.4% of the executive positions in big companies in Brazil are required by black women. So for a black woman to break the glass ceiling in Brazil, it's almost impossible. So back to my teenagerhood, you know, uh uh I think it was quite uh um quite clear for me that education could be my lever. Uh And also something that uh I think I realize it quite soon. Uh It was that uh I need to believe myself, I need to believe in my dreams. Otherwise, you know, there is only knows, at least myself I need to believe. And um with nine years old, uh I decided for technologies, don't ask me why.

But uh nine years old, I decided for technologies, I had a financial support from one of my uncles. So uh it gave me the chance to apply in a very good University in Computer Science in Brazil, uh followed my, my master's degree at one of the biggest unicom biggest universities in Brazil as well. At the end of my master's degree, uh I started with Shanxi as you know, very beginning uh back to 1996 and um something to share uh uh about my career. Um Let's say that the, the biggest opportunities I have, you know, to do a jump or to go to the next stage to the next level, no one gave me for granted. Now I have to ask for every single one of them, open my opportunities, asking for a new challenge. So I did it myself and uh again, 100% of them absolutely out of my comfort zone fear. But uh I think there is no way, right? Iii I used to say that there is no magic in our comfort comfort zone. The magic always happened outside of our comfort zone. So you have to go for it if you want to go to the next to the next stage.

So here maybe to share one of my, my first tip, um opening opportunities, take risk. But at the same time, Rebecca, you know, for my, my entire career, I asking for help, you know, especially when, when you think about how complex the corporate environment are nowadays, it's almost impossible to go to the top alone. So, you know, ask help. You know, I have a lot of help support from leadership and also, you know, uh uh support for exchanging learning with my colleagues with friends uh at my corporate environment. It may be something that, you know, trying to summarize in, in three key elements that, you know, help me uh to arrive uh where I am today, maybe the third one. and back to my background as I shared, you know, I was born, no and no and no. Uh I think being resilient and, you know, bringing uh um um um uh posits, can I say that Rebecca Posits uh was really important, you know, every single day, you know, uh uh uh to keep the journey, you know, thinking that it's possible when uh you know, you're going to find energy uh to be there and not give up.

Thanks a lot. I mean, you picked up on quite a few really, really interesting points that really resonate with me also as a, as a female and, and probably hopefully resonates with people on the call. And I have just added, if anybody's got any questions, please feel free to put them in the chat and solange and I can pick those up and answer them as we go along. I think, um your point about being resilient and not giving up, I think it's a really, really valid point. I think certainly from my perspective, particularly when applying for roles or promotions and trying to progress and get on. You do have to be resilient and you will get some rejections along the way. But that's ok. Cos failure is ok too because I think from every, everything you learn from it, don't you as you go along and it doesn't mean that you can't do it. Um But the thing I, the thing I wanted to ask you, Solange was around, um kind of that fear that you mentioned the fear of rejection or that fear of imposter syndrome. Should I be here? Should I have a seat at the table? Be great to hear kind of your views on, on, on kind of that? And what kind of prevents women from getting kind of promotions and, and progressing?


is so so important this conversation uh about fear, you know, like I'm in Brazil now and I was participating of the biggest event uh for women in Latin America on Saturday here in Brazil called it Women on top. And uh to be quite honest with you, you know, talking to CEO S and Vice presidents of big and global uh uh different companies, you know, almost 100% of them was talking about fear, especially at the moment, right? That you can see technologies, you know, en enabling disruptions and everything. So yes, uh uh uh I think fear is there. But uh at the same time, I think our attitude, you know, for, for this fear is what is going to, you know, again, put ourselves on the next stage, on the next level because everyone has fear. And I used to say that uh um what differentiates someone that crossed the bridge and someone that do not cross the bridge, it's not fear because everyone has the fear. But this attitude, you know, uh against the fears and um thinking a little bit about it. Uh and again, back to my career, I think the first barrier for, for women, for myself or in my context, it was lack of awareness.

But let's say first individual awareness, Rebecca when I studied mic aggressions, you know, uh first time I was emotion, I was crying and then, you know, II, I could breathe and feel energy to understand that uh a lot of situations that I face during my career in the workplace, you know, it, it was not about me, but it was about being a woman, you know, so I was individualizing everything situation thinking that maybe I was not ready as I was saying, I was not OK, I couldn't articulate as men.

And uh you know, I could realize it was not about me, but it was about something that every single woman or majority of them, majority of women, you know, needs to, to challenge our needs to, to, to face during our careers in the workplace. So I think when you know what's going on, you know, giving us, you know, a little bit of energy and strength to face it. The second barrier for me is the same but lack of awareness uh on the corporate environment. Because for me, Rebecca, I think the biggest mistake that a company can make nowadays is to think that everything is. So if you think that everything you solve it and you're not measuring your numbers, you're not measuring your diverse inclusion or Esgkpis, maybe, maybe you are failing as a, you are failing as a company. So, you know, uh um uh I think we need to, to that companies need to really face brutal effects, take a look at the numbers. And for me, you know, uh coming to the, the third barrier, I think that prevent us, you know, to succeed in our careers uh as uh women uh uh at leadership or at companies.

Um is the, the, the um talk about lack, lack of awareness, lack of corporate awareness. And uh unless uh you know, lack of programs, lack of strategy to tackle uh uh the gaps that probably if you, if you are aware you are going to, to, to solve or to address, I still can see a lot of companies talking about ESCG talking about diversion inclusion. But when you see the numbers or if you track the numbers, there is no progress and not as we're saying, Rebecca, you can see some little progress but we need to, to, to, to bring it to a high speed, to close this gap, you know, on, on, on the next, on the next year. So lack of programs, la lack of practical actions. For me, this is to be you that is preventing us really,

really good points in there that you've made solange. And I guess, kind of what I'm interested in and I think might be helpful for other people on the call to hear is you've been absolutely instrumental at CINT in kind of setting up the ESG and kind of how it's really part of the DNA of, of CINT and it runs through everything we do every day and it's not an afterthought where some companies are just doing it for the sake of it.

It's really, really key to what we do as a business. Do you? I like to talk a little bit about kind of setting up the, the, the committee and just how important it is to everybody within the organization because I think there's some really good tips in there. Maybe what people could take back to their organizations too.

Perfect, Rebecca. Um to your question, you know, II I again, I, I, it will share a little bit of my, my journey on this subject. So back to 2008, 2018, 2019. Uh I started studying uh diverse and inclusion and uh you know, like, uh quite soon I was shocked uh uh about the numbers, you know, I was, I was in Brazil at the time. Uh And uh I was shocked uh with uh with the numbers, but um my reaction was not only complain about it, complain about government, complain about companies, but what I did, uh I, I thought, let me take a look at my numbers, you know, the numbers that I have, you know, under my management uh uh scope, you know, and I took a look at the numbers on my, what you call it business units, our growth units at Saint, right?

And uh not different. Our numbers was not that good as I would love to. So, uh uh at that time, I uh engaged with my leadership and I said, look, maybe we can change the whole, maybe we can change Brazil, but for sure, you know, we have all the autonomy to change our own numbers. So at the time, uh we ramp up four affinity groups. Uh one for people. It, it's another one for LGBT Q A plus community, women and black people. So we, so uh studying these subjects uh and take a look at numbers, pay gap, you know, uh uh career progression and uh really, really practical hiring numbers, uh really, really practical uh kps and subjects. We could understand our gap and then come up with some programs to address, you know, that was the beginning of everything when a growth unit or a business unit was bringing this subject to the business nowadays. Luckily, are, thank God, we have ESCG uh uh at A T uh spread across all the business units and enterprise units. We have uh an, a dedicated ESCG team.

Uh We have uh uh ESC, the advisory board committee, you know, to support BT to support the revision of the strategic programs. And uh I can say today, Rebecca that uh eseg our diversity inclusion is part of our culture at ST in a very decentralized way. But why I started with my start because for me as an individual, especially as a leader, we need to think about what is our responsibility to change our company or at least to change our area, our team. And uh for me, that's the main. So what are we doing for change that?

Yeah. And I think with diversity and inclusion, it's a journey. I think that every company is on globally. And I think um it's gonna be a continuous cycle because there's so much to do. And I think with it being part of the culture of a company, I think that's what really helps shift the dial and, and kind of really kind of move things in a positive way. I wanted really conscious of time. So I just really wanted to talk to you a little bit about um mentorship. So you, you spoke uh very clearly in the beginning when we first started chatting around help and asking for help and it's not a bad thing to ask for help. So it would be really good to hear your kind of experience on how you might go about it within an organization. Some companies have mentorship schemes or careers advisors or different things. What's your experience been and kind of where, where do you typically turn to? And I guess I'm thinking back maybe at the start of your career when you're not so senior, where do you go for help? What do you do?

Rebecca? I think a good point if you're, if you are always thinking about, you know, progress, you always need support, you always need this kind of program. Uh So I think it's really, really important, Rebecca and again, back to numbers, you know, if you take a look at, you know, how fast main careers are progressing and how fast or maybe not so fast winning career are progressing. It's clear that, you know, we need to have affirmative reactions to accelerate it and for sure mentorship programs or even if you open your agenda as a leader to help someone that maybe is 00 or maybe is in another level, you know, we we can help. So again, sharing a little bit of my experience, but I'm not going back to my, to my, to the beginning of my career, I'm going to talk about something quite recent. So around 2, 2.5 years ago, uh you know, I was like in a quite comfort zone in Brazil right after 26 years. And uh and I decided, you know, just to start from scratch, moving to England, moving to London with my family to start almost a new journey of expanding our operations into Europe.

And uh you know, joining uh uh in AM and a, with another company and developing a marketing that I know nothing and speaking a language that believe me now is not that good, but two years ago, it was terrible. But I was there, you know, brave, you know, that's, that's my, my, my new challenge. That's something I would like to achieve. And uh it's impossible in this kind of situation of not counting with someone that had the same kind of experience. Even you Rebecca, you know, how many learning and exchanging, you know, we had about how to be a female leader, how to lead relationship in, in England. So, yes, this program is really, really important, not only for the beginning. So I think for the whole career uh for men as well, but uh putting the focus here on women, uh uh I think companies need to have structural uh uh uh uh mentorship programs and as women as, as women, we need to ask for them uh every single time that you think is going to help us to go to the next stage or to survive on the stage that we

are. He said, thank you so much, Solange. I hope everybody um that's tuned in has found that helpful and you've got some useful tips that you can take back into your day to day and please feel free to uh connect with solo or eye on, on linkedin or anything like that. Um Obviously, we're always happy to support other uh women in the tech industry. So, thank you, everybody.

Thank you so much, everyone. Thank you, Rebecca for leading this conversation.

Thank you.