In the days leading up to March 8th, widely celebrated as International Women’s Day, we met with some of Compass Plus’ female top managers to get their opinions and advice on how to grow a successful career in tech and overcome the challenges women may be faced with on their professional journey.
- Olga Demina, Senior Executive Vice President
- Maria Nottingham, Executive Vice President
- Bethan Cowper, Associate Vice President, Market Development & Business Support
- Erika Sabaliauskaite, Associate Vice President, HR & Finance
- Alexandra Kochergina, Head of Partner Programs Division
What does International Women’s Day mean to you personally?
OD: Our lives are very fast-paced and demanding. This is probably a good time to stop and reflect on who you are as a person, as a woman, rather than as a professional.
BC: Honestly, not that much. I wasn’t brought up in a culture that celebrates International Women’s Day and was very much unaware of it until I started working at Compass Plus.
AK: To me it is just the 8th day of March. Men having to buy flowers and presents on this specific day only makes me feel that they are not always sincere.
What are some of the biggest challenges that women who want to enter the world of technology face today?
OD: It is still very much a man’s world. Therefore, women are facing higher demands, whatever position they are in. A woman has to demonstrate more skills and qualifications to become equal to her male counterparts.
MN: For a lot of women, the challenge lies in their mindset. It seems that we are often lacking confidence and are scared of industries where it may be harder for us to succeed, where we are not as welcome. A lot of us are afraid of failure, we can be harder on ourselves than any man if we fail. I am part of a female minority in this industry and if I fail, I feel like I have failed all the women I represent too - and I am sure I am not the only one that feels this way.
BC: I’m sure many women face numerous issues in male-dominated environments. I am lucky that I have faced very few working for a firm that hires and promotes based on merit rather than gender. The few instances where I have felt uncomfortable have always been a combination of age and sex, whereby joining the industry as a young woman at a junior management level meant I was, on occasion, assumed to be a secretary or an assistant by external third parties. I would like to think that women don’t face as many challenges today as they did just 10 years ago, however, with company cultures being so different even at a local level, unfortunately it is inevitable that there are those that aren’t as lucky as myself.
ES: I think one on the biggest factors preventing women from entering the technology sector is the perception that it is very male-dominated. A lack of female role models in the industry is reinforcing the impression that a career in technology is not for them. However, the business world is changing; many companies are placing more focus on diversity and inclusion and recognising that having a more diverse workplace helps not only grow the talent pool of different skills and experiences, but also foster creativity and innovation that the tech industry relies on.
AK: Our industry is definitely male-dominated and, unfortunately, a lot of men believe we are often less qualified and less experienced. I have personally witnessed that men in tech often lack trust in their female colleagues. On several occasions, I have received side eyes from men in meetings when trying to express my opinion on the subject at hand.
As a strong female leader in a male-dominated industry, can you talk about what Compass Plus has done to encourage diversity and female leadership?
OD: I could provide a list of initiatives that Compass Plus has implemented over the years, but I believe it is just as important to encourage by personal example, which is what I try to do in my daily professional and personal life.
MN: Compass Plus was co-founded by a female, who is still very much involved in running the company 30 years later. In a way, we are all family here, and that is our unique competitive advantage. The spirit of diversity and equality is inherent to everyone who works here. We don’t just tick the diversity and inclusion boxes on paper, we have established a company mindset that runs from the top down across all levels.
BC: In my 10+ years at Compass Plus I have never felt like a ‘woman in technology’ – I have always felt like a person in technology. I believe it is this unequivocal feeling of equality that puts women in a position to perform their best, and why we have so many women in high level management positions.
AK: At Compass Plus we have a lot of women in managerial positions. They are very inspiring to me, because I can see that having a brilliant career and being a great mother, daughter and sister at the same time is not impossible.
How do you spread diversity to the rest of the industry?
OD: We believe that success can only be achieved in a balanced environment. And I don’t just mean gender balance in the workplace – it is important to balance skills with personal attributes, professionalism with fun. This is the only way we can progress as a company and grow talents, and our results prove this.
MN: The way our culture is – very balanced, as Olga said – creates an atmosphere of equal opportunities for all employees. It has helped female colleagues gain their confidence and progress to occupy almost 50% of managerial positions across the company.
BC: The simple answer is that companies should never discriminate and always hire the best person for the job. If there was an easy way to spread this mentality, I would have written a book on it and would be answering this from a beach in Cuba ;)
AK: At our Research & Development Centre in Magnitogorsk, we have created a team of young women - 16 ladies we selected through a series of skill-based tests to work on various tasks in a supervised environment. The goal was to evaluate their skills, but also learn about their personalities to successfully integrate them in the company. I think it is a great way to motivate women to enter the industry and encourage them to show their best attributes.
What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry?
OD: Society often tells us that certain careers are not suitable for women. I believe that if you have a predisposition to your chosen job, you should just keep going and not listen to people who are trying to push you out of your way. Only rely on those who offer genuine support and advice and want to see you succeed.
MN: Believe in yourself, and you can achieve anything! Also, beware of people who try to bring you down, including other females. Sadly, women don’t always offer a helping hand to each other, but will be harsher on each other than any man. I believe it is counter-productive and we should focus on sharing knowledge and experiences instead. The road to success is tricky, so it is important to keep believing in yourself no matter what, surround yourself with those who support you and use your unique personal attributes combined with professional skills to achieve the best results in anything you do.
BC: The same advice I would give anyone starting a new career regardless of gender. Never work anywhere you feel unfairly treated or undervalued in comparison to your colleagues. The tech industry is huge and there are plenty of companies that represent equality for all, so don’t suffer in silence.
ES: Take time to discover the area in the tech industry you are passionate about and work towards becoming an expert in it. Use employer review websites to do your research before applying for jobs to make sure you chose the right company in terms of culture, values, and career opportunities. When you are doing something you truly believe in and work for a company that promotes a supportive and inclusive culture, no challenge is too big.
AK: I think it is important to create the right mindset where you don’t differentiate yourself from your male counterparts. Simply focus on the task at hand, do your best and never let anyone make you doubt yourself.