Women in Leadership. This has been a buzz worthy topic for the last several years, one I’ve personally been asked to talk about before and one I’m sure will be asked to talk about again. The truth is, I’ve never seen my gender as a handicap to my success. I’m not a victim regardless of how the data is skewed. I’ve never been knowingly passed over for promotions or opportunities due to the fact I am a woman. This doesn’t mean the last 20 years of my career has been a walk in the park, being in a field where men outnumber women 4 to 1, and it surely doesn’t mean my experience is the norm.
When I turned 30, I started below ground level compared to my peers. I started my career in tech by looking in the paper to see which job paid the most, computer programming just happened to be it! I had recently earned an associates degree in general studies by taking night classes for a few years at Iowa Western Community College and decided to enroll in the computer programming program. During my last semester I took an internship at a local business who was the largest third party processor of credit cards. I spent the next 15 years there in various positions, with the last one being VP of Production Operations before leaving to try my hand in a different industry based in Silicon Valley for the next 4 years. One year ago, I saw a story about the $70K CEO, and decided it was time for me to work for value and purpose over money.
It wasn’t until preparing to write my story that I realized, until coming to Gravity, I have had very few female peers. It’s never been a problem, but it definitely is interesting. Working at Gravity is a new experience in so many ways for me. The leadership team is a shocking majority of women, all of which are brilliant and extremely competent. Decisions are made quickly by the people doing the actual work, not through a series of hierarchical approval processes. This allows work to be done quickly and goals accomplished faster giving employees a sense of pride and ownership. I don’t believe this is a product of having more women in leadership positions but because of the overall leadership philosophies employed at Gravity. Everyone is their own CEO. You are held accountable for what you say you are going to do.
So, the question still remains. Why does everyone else have fewer women in tech roles and leadership? One reason could be that 18% of women are graduating with technical degrees per year. I think some girls are turned off by tech because they are told early on that you need to be great in math and science. I don’t agree with that and believe it’s more about liking to solve problems. When it comes to leadership positions, I believe many women get in their own way.
This is one of the most important things I’ve learned in the last 20 years. I truly believe I’ve done more damage to my own career than anyone else has ever done to me.
One example of that is a few years ago a recruiter reached out to me about a very senior leadership position at a Fortune 500 company. I progressed through the interview process quickly and the last interview was scheduled with the CEO. I was very interested in the role, however there were a couple things in the job description I had no experience in. Here is where the mistake comes. I called the recruiter and told them to take me out of the running. The recruiter was shocked and tried to talk me out of it. They said the firm didn’t care that I didn’t have the specific experience they were looking for and they would mold the job around me. Still, I couldn’t go on knowing I was not 100% qualified. I would be an imposter. I learned a lot from this experience, and let’s just say, I won’t be making that mistake again. There are enough levers in the process to kick you out of the running, don’t help it along! Sometimes, the biggest obstacles for women are moving out of your own way to success, knowing your worth, and spinning the self-bias society has ingrained in you since you were young as a positive and not a flaw.
-Tammi Kroll CIO, COO & CTO of Gravity Payments