During this time of year as we take a moment to share gratitude, I am reminded of some recent events which not only inspired me, but made me thankful and proud of the relationships I have built with women in business. As a woman in technology with a daughter coming of age in today’s world of challenge and opportunity, this is a subject that is close to my heart. This fall we celebrated “International Day of the Girl” whose mission is “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” I recently had the privilege of witnessing this same commitment from three powerful women in technology at the Women in Business breakfast at Hitachi NEXT 2018.
Each of these speakers is inspiring. Annette Moore, Chief Information Officer and Director of Information Resources at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, is responsible for policies and standards that govern the full IT life cycle at the center. Cheryl Neal, Vice President of Data and Networking Solutions at Tech Data, was recognized as one of the “100 People You Don’t Know but Should” in IT by CRN Magazine. And Lori Varlas, Chief Financial Officer at Hitachi Vantara, is a recognized leader in finance and operations across multiple industries and was chosen as one of the Bay Area’s "Most Influential Women in Business" by the San Francisco Business Times.
These three women work in very different fields, but the message of each evoked a similar theme – the importance of mentoring girls and young women in technology. Each speaker encouraged their fellow businesswomen to both seek out mentors and to volunteer to be mentors. Women who have faced barriers in business and learned how to overcome them can help other women prepare for their careers in a way that is different than classroom preparation. A good mentor can offer hands-on training for how to succeed. And when times get tough, the mentor is there with advice and as real, flesh-and-blood proof that your dreams are achievable.
Everyone benefits from the mentoring of girls and women. A growing body of evidence shows that when more women sit at the decision-making tables, better decisions are made. Research by the McKinsey Global Institute found that about $2.1 trillion could be added to the GDP of the United States by 2025 if every state matched the state with the fastest progress toward gender parity – a 10% increase over business as usual.
If you’re a woman already in a position of influence, consider not only actively supporting the careers of other women, but extending your reach to mentor those on their way to adulthood. Many organizations exist to support this goal, including one my daughter has connected with: Girl Up, a campaign created by the United Nations Foundation in 2010. Its many workshops, meetups, programs and investments train girls to be leaders and to drive social change wherever they are.
I am thankful to be surrounded by the women at Hitachi, who are committed to bringing social innovation solutions to the world to improve the quality of life. Some of these women recently gathered at a Global Women’s Summit to gain a deeper understanding of the impact and importance of their leadership.
If you’re a woman interested in a furthering your technology or business career, don’t be timid about asking someone ahead of you to be your mentor. The support for women in the fields of business and technology is out there – just waiting for you to tap into it.