Women are rarely hired in managerial positions. Data from 2017 shows that women constitute only 25.3% of board members at the largest listed companies in the EU. With only 3.3% of CEOs being women, very few women achieve the top positions in large companies.
At Divante, we have a relatively large number of women managers. Our culture thrives on diversity. We believe that the future of IT depends on excellent collaboration between women and men. Today, we asked Marta Borowiec-Salwa, Head of Custom Solutions, Sabrina Janssen, Head of Sales DACH, and Gosia Myszka, Head of HR, about their careers in a male-dominated industry. We also talked about how they cope with their everyday work and work-life balance.
Marta Borowiec-Salwa has worked at Divante for almost five years. Her career path didn’t seem to be pointing anywhere near the IT world, but that was before she became a mom. Before that, she was working with an NGO doing coaching and project management. During her maternity leave (although she wouldn’t call it a “leave”), she had some time to think about her priorities and decided she needed a change.
“I didn’t want to work for a corporation but at a place where people are involved and know what they create for the client. That’s how I found Divante.” – Marta Borowiec-Salwa, Head of Custom Solutions
The pursuit of work-life balance concerns both men and women, but there are aspects that make it more challenging for women. For example, women are still considered the primary caregivers in families.
“Being a parent and the head of a team is a challenge, especially since the pandemic. But I’ve never felt that motherhood was limiting me or that, as a mother, I can’t do this or that, I can’t have a demanding, responsible job. Moreover, motherhood was a moment of great reflection for me. Such a freeze frame is useful for your development.” – Marta Borowiec-Salwa
Sabrina Janssen, our Head of Sales DACH, wasn’t thinking about a career in IT from the very beginning as well. After studying political science, international economics, and business at the Universities of Bremen and Budapest, she started working in sales. But she wasn’t planning to work in sales forever. She went on a sabbatical to travel, recharge, and think of what to do next. This was when Divante recruited her. At that time, she was the only employee working on the German market.
“I’m responsible for sales in the DACH region, which is Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and acquiring new partners. It’s great to have an opportunity to build something from scratch. When I joined, we didn’t have any set procedures. The most interesting part of my daily work is that it’s different every day. The goal may be the same, but you’re working with a big team, so, many roles are involved in a project like managers and architects. It’s fun to bring everyone together and organize people and processes. It’s demanding and something I had to learn, sure! But lots of fun, too.” – Sabrina Janssen, Head of Sales DACH
Gosia Myszka joined Divante quite recently as a Head of HR.
“My whole career, which started 20 years ago, is focused on HR and IT. At first, I was doing mostly administrative tasks. Then, I started to do recruitment, took some courses, and implemented the HR Business Partner role. For 10 years I’ve been the Head of HR, but I got tired of the culture in the company I was hired at previously. I was searching for a new role in a Polish company, preferably in Wrocław, and then came Divante.” – Gosia Myszka, Head of HR
Let’s talk about women in IT
Diversity in IT is crucial. It allows companies to notice all of us, not just half of the population, and because of that, to create better, safer, and more useful products. As we can read in one of McKinsey’s reports, diverse companies perform better.
“Our latest analysis reaffirms the strong business case for both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership – and shows that this business case continues to strengthen. The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.” – McKinsey
Gosia, Sabrina, and Marta were generally optimistic when it comes to the future of women in IT. They had the chance to observe the progress throughout the course of their careers, and we must admit, it’s getting better. Nevertheless, they’re aware that we have a long way ahead of us. They shared their experiences about what it’s like to be a woman in a “man’s world.”
“I was a manager of an all-male team, and I didn’t feel that I was being tested or that they treated me differently because I’m a woman. Of course, this depends on the team and the people. For sure, there is a different style of communication when you’re sitting with only men. They also communicate differently with each other than they would in a women-driven team. There’s a long way ahead of us to see a big change, but at Divante, there are women with important management roles and very technical roles also. Divante is a company that is open-minded in that way.” – Sabrina
“I was lucky not to face barriers or blockers. I always had great mentors and true leaders who had an awareness of the importance of women in the company and in managerial positions. It’s individual. If someone has a problem with women in IT, it’s their problem. I know that in other organizations, respect can be an issue.” – Gosia
The first step in closing the gender gap in IT is to be aware of all of the barriers that women face. Then, we can try to work on removing them.
“The stereotypes are still strong. When I came to Divante, I was the only woman over 30 and with two children. But that challenge was only in my mind.
I know, however, women often don’t like the way they are managed. They prefer a different style of communication. For me, honesty in communication is very important, and this is how I build relationships. No politics. Just an open conversation. I’m proud to be able to attract people who think in a similar way. I’m proud of my team and their success. They are my greatest strength. I believe the most important thing is to find a place where you can develop your talent. I don’t assume that I can do everything myself. I choose people who know better and can do something better than I do. I learn from them, and they inspire me and motivate me to grow.” – Marta
Stereotypes vs. the real life
There are many different barriers preventing women from entering IT or climbing the corporate ladder. Those barriers are stereotypes, inadequate education, being primary caregivers, and so on. Some of those barriers only exist in our own minds. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask for more when we think we deserve it. It’s also important to encourage and support each other.
“You don’t get anything, like promotions, more responsibility, etc., if you don’t ask for it. It’s something women need to do more of. You have to be proactive instead of waiting for an invitation or permission. It’s not always easy because self-confidence is hard to build. Women need to have more courage to apply for senior positions. Be confident about what your strengths and expertise are. If you have a passion and are persistent, you will overcome the difficulties. IT is a great industry for women, so why not do it? Be brave, don’t give up, and know what you are able to do. That’s easier said than done, but it’s possible!” – Sabrina
“First of all, women shouldn’t be afraid that they may not know something. Now, everything is developing so fast that it is impossible to know everything.
It’s not about being the best, and it’s not only about technical skills. It’s about being open. If communication and being ready to leave your comfort zone is your strength, then IT is a place for you.” – Marta
In order to inspire and give more courage to women considering a career in tech, we need a strong representation of women leaders in the industry, just like at Divante. This mission depends on the companies cooperating with schools and universities and being socially responsible.
“We need to show people what IT has to offer. Visit schools and universities and share what jobs are the jobs of the future and what you can achieve in that industry. Share the benefits. The job market changes all the time. Some of the jobs disappear, and some of them emerge. The role of companies is to be visible on social media and in schools and to educate and attract. Let them know that we have diversity, and we are open and flexible to implement those very important, not only to women, wellbeing programs. It’s possible to have success in both spheres of family and work. Women sacrifice a lot for their careers, but we need to show that it’s possible to be a leader and a great mom at the same time. The idea of diversity in our employer branding is strong, not only for women but for all.” – Gosia
All the female faces
To encourage more women to consider a career in IT, we need to show them that it’s possible. And there are successful women in IT.
“I think that when it comes to attracting new employees, we need to see that there are women that are active in the community to support you. I think there is something wrong with the photos from companies who attend tech-related conferences on LinkedIn, of course, before the pandemic. You see ten men attending the conference. This is not how it should be. Women should be more visible in our public communication or marketing. There should be more female faces. So the young professionals, women who are considering applying, don’t think, “Ah, it’s just for men, and I have no chance.” At Divante, we have a lot of women and people see that.” – Sabrina
“When I was looking for a day camp with IT classes or robotics for my daughter, I came across one promoted by a poster with just boys on it, no girls. It was not surprising that 90% of the participants were boys. After that experience, my daughter was not willing to go there again because “it’s only for boys.” I try to get my kids interested in IT because IT is so important. It’s everywhere! It used to be a separate industry, but now everyone deals with it. IT is in every element of our lives, in medicine, shopping, banking, and education.” – Marta
That makes it even more important to encourage kids, not only girls, to learn the technologies of the future that will provide them with good, satisfying jobs.
We asked our interviewees what are the main challenges for women in the IT industry, especially in an eCommerce company?
“Working with clients because all clients are different. You need to react fast because there’s time pressure. You need to learn new technologies and develop your knowledge and skills constantly. Nothing is constant. There are people who are good employees but who don’t necessarily want to climb that ladder. Not everyone wants to be a star, although I see there are fewer and fewer people with that approach. They want to grow and the employer’s role is to meet their expectations.” – Gosia
“IT is very dynamic. Before the pandemic, I had to travel and learn a lot. In general, IT is good for women. That, of course, depends on the company. But what I’ve learned during the years is that you’re responsible for your work-life balance when you’re in a managerial position. You have a lot of pressure, so you need to learn how to take care of yourself.” – Sabrina
Here at Divante, we are quite optimistic when it comes to the future of women in the IT industry. With such amazing women leaders like Marta, Sabrina, and Gosia, this will come as no surprise.
“I think we’re on a good path. I’ve seen progress with women in tech and a lot of great initiatives to promote this topic. Change in that sphere is an important step.” – Sabrina
“I believe that women and diversity are very much needed in every industry. This allows us to be the best in management and our approach to customers. A diverse form of communication is needed by customers and the company itself.” – Marta
“It’s our shared responsibility to create the future, and women are essential in creating new solutions for all.” – Gosia
Published April 13, 2021