ConnectHer hosts its first Fireside Chat
ConnectHer, Attivio’s women’s group, held its first fireside chat featuring our female C-Suite leaders, Allyson Barr (Chief Marketing Officer) and Dorit Zilbershot (Chief Product Officer). A co-op student from Northeastern University, Veena Iyer, hosted this inspiring talk, demonstrating our value Embrace Challenge with Confidence. Following are a couple of interesting questions and answers we found valuable to sharing. This interview has been edited for content, length, and format.
ConnectHer: How did you establish your place in the IT industry, which tends to be male dominated?
Allyson: My path into technology was by accident. Initially, I didn’t experience the disproportionate number of men to women in the industry. However, what I found really interesting as I progressed in my career was how the female population became even less represented the more senior my roles. With a background in women’s studies, I’m aware of the dynamics and language that is spoken between yourself and others in the room, I try to recognize who is not represented in a discussion or decision making, and strive to be comfortable calling out discrepancies.
Dorit: For me, it was from Day 1; it was clear there were not a lot of women in Computer Science. Early in my career when I was leading a team, there were a few women. It has become natural for me to make sure women’s voices are heard. Specifically, an eye-opening moment occurred in a Women and Leadership class I was taking at the Harvard Kennedy School. I learned that it's not a woman’s fault regarding how women act. It’s about society and culture. My strategy as a single woman in a room (full of men) was to act like a man by adopting their behavior, language, and actions - be tough, aggressive, and do not show weakness. In that class, my perspective changed. Since then, it has been my passion to encourage women to step into Engineering roles and take a seat at the table.
ConnectHer: We often hear that fewer women apply for tech jobs. Why do you think it is? Are we encouraged to apply?
Dorit: No matter how much we talk, there’s a bias. There’s a bias in school; even kids learn bias from society. My daughter who’s in school denies it, but when I observe her behavior, I can see it. There’s a study that compares women in Computer Science in the US and India. The study shows women in US have more opportunities in fields other than STEM. In India, going into a STEM field is one of only a few options for women. Overcoming biases is not easy but hiring managers and HR can play a significant role encouraging women to pursue careers in tech such as, writing tailored messages to attract women and building awareness in the tech job market.
Allyson: I read a study once that describes how men and women perceive their ability to get a job. Women tend to apply for a job where they meet 90% of the job requirements, while men are comfortable pursuing a position when they meet something like 60% of the job requirements. Women recognize the fact that there will be additional scrutiny, so we are more self-censoring. So, it is important to encourage both women and men to take a leap and find the right people to help them grow and overcome this mindset.
ConnectHer: Who motivates you to move forward?
Allyson: For me, people in my network who tell me, “Of course you can do that!” When I have an idea and share it, they don’t look at me funny, but say “of course” you can do it. This is precious.
Dorit: When there’s someone who helps you pitch an idea, it’s powerful. You don’t want people who question you all the time. Having a supportive environment is important.
ConnectHer: Women stereotypes - Are women leaders too aggressive?
Dorit: We should change the terminology. Instead of aggressive we should use assertive and instead of emotional we should use passionate. The most important thing is to treat people with respect, while getting the job done. Women in Israel are tough, and my cultural background might be portraited as a tough person in the US society. But being tough is not a bad thing. I want the work to be done but I also treat people with respect. Trying to have balance is the key. At the end, my takeaway is; accept yourself, and accept you being tough, being passionate, being women. We’re great leaders, great engineers, great marketing people, etc. and we shouldn’t let these words define us. Allyson: Also, men are just as emotional as women, they just tend to show their emotion differently. And it’s important to help them express their emotions as well, if you see them getting upset, sad, or frustrated. It's an incredible opportunity to build one-on-one relationships with people by acknowledging the emotion, having empathy, and giving them a safe space when needed.
It was quite an engaging session. There were many more questions from the audience that were answered by these inspiring panelists as well as other audience members. It was truly a supportive environment that reflects the mission of ConnectHer; anchor trusting relationships, build confidence, and nurture positive attitudes.
Would you like to join us in our efforts to balance gender in technology and ensure all voices are heard? Check out our job on Career page. We have several openings and frequently post new updates.