We share our insights from a recent SIM Seattle CIO roundtable. The panel of female technology leaders expressed concern about the pandemic’s effects, especially the disproportionate effects on women and traditionally underrepresented minorities (URM).
The vaccine rollout is opening up possibilities for where we work and how we work. As we grapple with what the “new normal” looks like, we must acknowledge there were (and remain) several populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and those discrepancies have long-term implications.
As of January 2021, over 2.3 million women had left the workforce in the U.S. – setting back years of progress in gender equality and representation. In this special CIO panel event, we heard from prominent Women in Technology leaders about how the pandemic affected their careers and teams, what they learned from this unprecedented time, and their plans to recalibrate and rebuild towards a more inclusive and equitable workplace.
Two specific topics we covered included mentorship and talent retention.
Don’t Underestimate the Role of Mentorship
Several panelists pointed to the crucial role mentors played in their career journey. There was an agreement this support is even more important during stressful times like the pandemic. Helping their mentees overcome self-doubt was one of the highest impacts these mentors had early in the panelists’ careers.
Learning authenticity was another part of the journey for one of our panelists, who stated this as a crucial step into growing as a leader. She said, “trying just to be one of the guys” was a trap she overcame.
What Will Make People Stay in the Workplace?
Another topic we discussed was how the pandemic changed the workplace in general. Employees have found their voice and now have set their expectations higher than before COVID.
One question we threw around: Will companies continue to accommodate employees who need workplace flexibility to juggle child and elder care responsibilities? This kind of company benefit will be crucial in retaining leaders and bringing back the millions who have left the workforce since the pandemic.
Another point of expectation lies in functioning technology. One attendee stated the successful use of collaboration software like Microsoft Teams was one of the bright spots to come out of this crisis. On the other hand, one of the panelists lamented that it took a crisis to drive adoption this adoption, but that this is historically then norm.
Finally, we touched on how it is crucial to allow employees to bring their “whole self” to work and what that means.
The CIO roundtables are always interesting and thought-provoking. I’m glad to have the opportunity to spend time with these tech leaders.