A tech executive, a board member, an author, a guest lecturer, a mother and a growth catalyst - Jennifer wears so many hats, she could give a hatstand a run for its money.
No surprise then, that in our podcast episode with her, we covered a bunch of topics, including her engineering background, how she got into sales, her efforts to encourage girls to stay in STEM and more.
However, a good chunk of the conversation was about diversity and how companies can be more inclusive.
As a woman in both STEM and sales, Jennifer is familiar with the roadblocks women and non-binary folks face in those fields. But she’s also extremely vocal about the help she received throughout her career. Those pivotal moments when someone tapped her on the shoulder and told her to go for it. When someone else believed in her and said “If not you, then who?”
Jennifer had some wise words, both for women and non-binary folks who wanted to achieve their fullest potential, and for companies that wanted to have a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Here are some of them.
“Own your career”
We love how much power is packed into these three little words. When Jennifer says “own your career”, she’s underscoring the importance of saying “yes” to opportunities and making decisions that are aligned to one's career goals.
Of course, one can always tap into the wisdom of mentors and allies, but the decision needs to be made by the individual.
“Don’t try to check every box”
It’s called the confidence gap.
A few years ago, an internal study at Hewlett Packard found that women only apply for a position when they feel they are 100% qualified, while men are confident they can do it when they are only 60% qualified.
This is inherently self-sabotaging behavior, and Jennifer’s advice to women is simple - step up and say yes when opportunities arrive, even if you don’t meet every single requirement. Have the confidence that you will pick up the missing few skills along the way.
“Always be building bridges”
While Jennifer was specifically addressing women here, we’re pretty sure this is great advice no matter who you are. By building bridges and allies in all teams, professionals build empathy and appreciation for each other. Not only that, it also changes how others see you as an individual, as well as a representation of your department. This in turn, will help you grow as a professional and a human being.
“It really needs to start at the top”
Any company that wants to build diversity needs to first look at its board and the C-suite. If there is no diversity at those levels, it is, as Jennifer puts it, “extremely telling”. In such cases, leaders in those companies need to enable programs to ensure people of different genders, races, backgrounds, sexual orientations and more reach leadership positions.
“Proactively find diverse candidates”
Another piece of advice from Jennifer to both leaders and recruiters is to proactively find diverse candidates for leadership roles. This can be both internal and external. Internally, company leadership should be looking actively for promising, diverse talent and encouraging them to apply for open positions.
Meanwhile externally, leaders and recruiters should spread as wide a net as possible. Sometimes, that means reaching out to candidates personally. Sometimes, it even means changing the language of job posts. Maybe making it explicit that diverse folks are welcome.
NGL, it was pretty amazing swapping stories with someone who has spent so much time in the trenches. Jennifer was an amazing guest, and we can’t wait to catch up again with her soon!