On The Content & Media Matters Podcast we spoke to Alaina Hall, the Vice President of Global Account Management at JW Player, about her experiences as a senior woman in the technology industry. Alaina’s career started at Z Media before progressing into media, where she has spent the past five years working her way up from a Senior Account Manager up to the Vice President of Global Account Management. She shared her experiences of progressing in the industry as a woman, and gave us advice about improving diversity in the sector.
How have you experienced your career as a woman in technology?
Over the years, it’s definitely gotten better. I was the first woman in our UK office, which isn’t a judgement, just a reflection of the time and the place. We were a very small presence here, so when I came over and became a leader, one of my main priorities was hiring other women to join my team. I focussed on helping the other sales leaders find the right talent that was also different. There are less women in leadership in tech, and that’s been an underlying thing throughout my career. I’ve tried not to let it prevent me from moving forward or wanting to do more, or take on new projects, etc. It’s always been an underlying fact that I’ve had to navigate.
Why are there so few women in C level positions?
It’s a chain of events that starts when you have less women in individual contributor positions. Your funnel gets smaller as people move up in their careers to become leaders. I also think there is sometimes a gap in women continuing along that leadership track when they have children and take that leave. It creates a gap when they come back into it, because they take so much time off. Maternity and paternity leaves can also be a factor in helping that person progress into leadership positions. The buzzword ‘imposter syndrome’ has some truth behind it, because sometimes women don’t think that they can get to that level in their career. It’s our job to encourage people who want to go down that path.
Why should organisations address that imbalance and get women into leadership?
If you do have more different types of leaders, people from different backgrounds can look up to someone like them. They see that this company does support different types of leadership, so they will aspire to be in that position because they know that it is a possibility at that company. When people are interviewing, they look to see what kind of people the company has in leadership positions, and that encourages them to join a company.
Diversity, equity and inclusion is all about creating a safe space for these types of conversations. If companies create a space to have difficult conversations about why they don’t have women in leadership, that at least shows that they’re open to learning. We’re all just trying to do our best. We’re all leaning on each other to understand how we can do better.
How can companies get more women into leadership?
It all comes down to changing the culture of a company. You have to go through a process of educating people on why this is important, why you’re talking about it and how it is going to affect your company’s goals. Typically that’s because D&I helps companies retain and attract new employees. Start with small programmes. Bring those values into a review cycle. It’s not just on stats of how you’re doing against your targets, numbers and KPIs within your job. Are you also following company values and principles that are inclusive? Have more open conversations and learning labs so that people can understand what it means to be inclusive, what microaggressions look like in the workplace etc. Small things add up over time to change the way that the company culture evolves.
Tying it back to the business is really helpful because programmes like DE&I get scrutinised from a budgeting and time perspective. Everyone knows it’s the right thing to do, but how do you justify spending your resources on it? If the company takes it on, they need to be able to tie it back to that return on investment. Understanding how D&I is going to make the company more profitable will help you justify that spending.
Do you have any advice for somebody who is a minority in the workplace?
It sounds generic, but don’t give up on it. There’s always going to be setbacks or people who discourage you as someone in a minority. You might really like the product or the company that you’re working with, but there’s some other stuff that is prohibiting you from progressing. Keep pivoting and figuring out ways around those obstacles. Ask for help. There’s probably someone at the company who has been through something similar, who would be open to sharing advice on how they tackled that problem. Keep going and pursuing whatever next step or ambition you have.
To hear more about diversity in the industry, tune into The Content & Media Matters Podcast here.
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