Finding my voice in a man’s world: Continuing the conversation on women in technology
Author: Emily S. Anderson, Organizational Change Management Lead, Arbela Technologies
Last month we celebrated International Women’s Day. While it is important that we have a dedicated holiday celebrating women around the world, we recognize the need for ongoing conversations around the challenges faced by women, and particularly for women in the world of technology.
I recently chatted with Maureen Grosvenor, Director and Co-founder of GroKlub (Pty) Ltd. Maureen has emerged as an authoritative speaker on women’s challenges in the tech world, backed by her own experiences as a software developer, business owner and entrepreneur. She has won the Oracle Sustainability Innovation award in 2015 and 2016 and she is one of the Inspiring50 Women in STEM winners for 2018 and a finalist in the South African Standard Bank Top Women Awards for 2019 and in 2020. Here are excerpts from our conversation which offers insight for women working in technology and consulting.
Emily: You talk about the power of perception and using it to change your own narrative and career. Can you tell me more about that?
Maureen: Often perception is really reality. Many women are confronted with perceptions that define their reality, especially in the workplace. It’s hard work to change that, but it’s not impossible. When I realized that I was in control of how people perceive me, it completely changed my outlook on how I could harness perception to drive my own narrative. Of course, to achieve that you must be willing to own your work, your responsibilities, your mistakes, and be willing to collaborate with everyone, including both men and women.
Emily: What’s one way you can take charge of changing how people perceive you?
Maureen: I get that question a lot and what I advise women is to be in command of your voice when engaging with others. Know the value you bring to the table, own your presence and run with it. Be convinced that you are in the right place at the right time. Don’t apologize when you bring up an idea or speak up. Starting off with an apology immediately diminishes what you are about to say, giving the perception that you don’t believe in your own contributions. State firmly what you are wanting to say. I also encourage women to talk about their successes, not in a way of bragging but in a factual manner. Don’t hide. Highlighting your own achievements to others can positively influence your own perception of yourself.
Paying attention to how you speak, and how you talk about yourself, is important. You’re not going to change perception overnight, but through being aware and acting on that awareness with consistent action, you can see some real changes in how others view you.
Emily: It seems some women think that if you change how you act or talk about yourself, others will see you as fake. How do you counter that kind of thinking?
Maureen: Yes, a lot of women suffer from fear of being something they are not, sometimes referred to as “imposter syndrome.” But if you’ve accomplished something that means it’s real. Stop thinking you’re an imposter. You deserve to be here. Part of that kind of thinking is often related to someone’s relationship with mistakes. Many women are afraid of failing, but my daughter often refers to mistakes as “Failing Forward”. If you are trying, you’re learning. You can only move forward from failure and that becomes part of your path, it’s not fake.
Emily: At Arbela, we stress the importance of allyship when discussing women’s advancements and equality issues. What are your thoughts on allyship?
Maureen: Allyship is so important. Men must be involved and support women’s success. That of course requires mutual respect. However, allyship applies not just to men, but women as well. Sometimes, allyship between women is even more important. I like the saying “Empowered women empower each other.” If you have had success, seize opportunities to engage with other women, share your insights and listen. When we come together and collaborate, we will better understand each other. When we are genuinely interested in seeing each other succeed across the board, that’s when we elevate all of us.
Emily: Do you have any tips on how to continue to evolve and develop ourselves professionally?
Maureen: It’s very important to empower yourself with knowledge and skills to back up how you engage with others. Start building your skills base when you’re young and never stop learning. I am still teaching myself new things all the time. In terms of career development, I advise women to sit down with your manager or leadership team and make sure they take your professional goals seriously. Communicate what you’re hoping to achieve and make sure it is tied to direct steps for career development.
If you would like to learn more about defining your presence and developing your own narrative in the workplace, I encourage you to watch our recent webinar presented by Maureen.