"Pressing for progress – in my career and our workplace – this International Women’s Day"
Below is an article originally written by Katie Brown, Executive, General Manager for the Midwest Great Lakes territory at PowerToFly Partner Avanade, and published on March 3, 2020. Go to Avanade's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Pressing for progress is the perfect theme for International Women's Day because it has so many different meanings. To be a woman and a leader in the tech industry is something that required me to press for progress in my career, but also for many before me to press for progress in the industry. To get to where I am, I had to press. But for women to continue to rise, we all have to press, and we have to create avenues within our system for women to be successful.
My first job out of college was with a consulting company called Software Architects. Even though it had 500 employees in 10 offices across North America, it had a tight-knit family culture. It felt like everyone knew everyone, and we did great work on fun projects. I loved it so much I thought I would retire at the company. But when Software Architects got bought by another, larger consulting firm, that culture evaporated almost immediately, so I went looking to replace what I had experienced before.
A former colleague recommended Avanade to me, and I wasn't sure it would be the right fit because it was another bigger company. But the more I asked around and interviewed, I realized Avanade had that same tight-knit, collaborative feel. When I joined 13 years ago, just a few years out of college, I felt at home.
That open, friendly culture is important to me for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is that it's such a difference-maker for women. I think many women are very caring and personal by nature – we're more likely to talk to people about their personal lives and get to know them on a deeper level. But what I've found at Avanade is everyone – men and women alike – shares that. Other male-dominated tech companies might have a colder culture that keep women from being themselves in the workplace, inhibiting them from doing their best work. At Avanade, I know all about my colleagues' families, hobbies and lives because people feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work.
That same openness has allowed me to feel safe to voice discomfort or concern. I've been here over a decade, and I'm proud to say I can count on one hand the times someone said something that made me second-guess their meaning. But when I have felt uncomfortable as a woman in the workplace, Avanade's culture has empowered me to approach that person directly with my concerns. And we also have structures in place that if a person didn't want to handle it directly, they could report concerns (anonymously or not), or lean on support systems. So many of the barriers women face professionally can be dissolved by a supportive and inclusive culture – something I've seen play out at Avanade again and again.
It blows my mind that I'm 13 years into a career at Avanade and now the territory executive for the Great Lakes. That beginning feels like just yesterday. I had the privilege of being the executive sponsor for the Midwest new hires last July, many of whom were freshly out of college. I told them that when I started, I didn't think of myself as a potential future leader within our business, but that's what each of them is. If they want that, they can make it happen with the support that exists here at Avanade.
And just because Avanade does a good job does not mean there isn't progress to be made. I'm encouraged by the fact that we now differentiate female diversity percentages between internal roles and external, client-facing ones. We are making conscious decisions to recruit and hire diverse talent. I also think about maternity and paternity leave; Avanade doubled those in the U.S. in recent years to create that supportive culture for parents, which also makes us more competitive when recruiting mothers. Equal pay, equal opportunity for hiring, and progressive family leave all help us press forward, understanding that the work is never done and we are so much better for undertaking it.