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Finding Equity and Celebrating Strengths: A Conversation with Women Leaders at Corvus

At the office, men walk through the door with a head start. The dress codes, 9-to-5 schedules, and golf game negotiations that still define some parts of business were set in place before women entered the professional workforce en masse. To succeed, women need to meet (or exceed) the status quo, while also juggling childcare, gender biases, and outdated workplace norms and expectations. 

The gap begins early at the first ladder rung. For every 100 men promoted from entry-level positions to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted. The barrier is even more glaring for women of color, at 82. For those of us who’ve had the pleasure of working with any of the women leaders on our team at Corvus, we know the following is obvious: Women are equally as ambitious as men. They just need an equal playing field.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we spoke to women at Corvus to hear the challenges of working in male-dominated industries, unique strengths they bring to the table, and how organizations can step up to support all of their employees.

The Women of Corvus

 

Kaitlyn Young, Vice President, Business Operations

 

KaitlynYoung

What do you think companies should be doing to help women achieve equity in the workplace?

I honestly didn’t really think much about women’s issues in the workplace early in my career. There were certainly more men in leadership positions than women, but it somehow didn’t bother me that much. That all changed for me when I got pregnant with my first child. The toll being pregnant, having a baby and returning to the workforce takes on you is large and often where the gap starts to really emerge. 

The more that companies support women — and really all parents — in navigating the complexities of young children and demanding careers the better we will all be. Tactically, I think that means 1) generous parental leave policies 2) flexible schedules 3) a focus on providing mentors for more junior women. It also means creating policies and cultures that encourage men to be active participants at home and take paternity leave. 

What challenges have you encountered working in a male-dominated industry? 

As I’ve gotten more senior, it’s become increasingly common that I’m the only or one of the only women in the room. This can become difficult as it means I don’t have more senior women to learn from in my day-to-day. I obviously learn a lot from male colleagues, but sometimes having a woman to learn from directly would be nice. I think about this as I work with more junior women. I really try to make time for coaching and mentorship as I know how important it can be. 

What strengths do you think you bring to the table due to your lived experiences as a woman?

I’ve often found that I can ask questions or raise issues that many of my male colleagues wouldn’t be able to do because of how I ask or frame them. I think as women we are often seen as “nice” and “non-threatening” which can mean you can broach more thorny topics in a way that doesn’t immediately put people on edge.

Fayon Atkinson, Senior Risk + Response Manager

FayonAtkinsonWhat is something you’ve accomplished in your career that you’re really proud of?

The career paths that I have dreamt of since I was a child, I am usually in the underrepresented groups, from my classes in college to being on some calls with other organizations IT/Security team. With that, I never gave up pushing to grow professionally. I would say that my greatest accomplishment is striving in spaces where immigrant black women are not often represented. 

What challenges have you encountered working in a male-dominated industry? 

As a triple minority in a male dominated industry, it is often challenging to be heard and taken seriously at times. My credibility is more likely to be challenged because of my gender in the space. 

What strengths do you think you bring to the table due to your lived experiences as a woman?

Perseverance. By nature, women have always stayed the course most of their life to meet day to day expectations. I am not a quitter and will always follow through on my task which I think is one of my greatest strengths.

Kori Johanson, General Counsel

KoriJohansonWhat do you think companies should be doing to help women achieve equity in the workplace?

They need to evaluate any direct or indirect biases that might be contributing to pay disparities in their workplaces and then look at taking actions to remove those biases and increase diversity in the candidate pool. Companies should ensure that pay equity is part of their culture by including it in conversations, compensation planning and workplace training at all levels. Compensation bands, when used properly, can also be an effective tool to help ensure pay equity and standardization. New pay transparency laws will also help candidates understand their value so they can be their own best advocates when negotiating a new role.

What challenges have you encountered working in a male-dominated industry? 

Finding an executive mentor can be particularly challenging for a woman in a male-dominated industry. There are often less women executives or senior leaders in such industries and it may be more difficult in some companies to find willing male executives to take on affirmative mentoring roles. 

Even well intentioned male colleagues may not naturally think to invite their female colleagues to lunches, dinners, drinks after work, golf and sporting events and the like. This type of oversight can limit the ability to build trust, rapport and genuine friendships that are important to all successful employment relationships. 

Angela Whiteford, Chief Marketing Officer

AngelaWhiteford (1)

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

Relationship first, task second.  When you go into a meeting your priority should be about how do you build a strong relationship with the person vs. the task at hand.  Most important thing is supporting each other's needs.  People should feel you have their back.   I try to end most meetings with “How can I help you?”

What challenges have you encountered working in a male-dominated industry? 

Being mistaken for not being technical enough and not included in tech strategy discussions.   With a marketing title, some people assume that you don’t understand technology and you just write press releases. Having been trained as an Electrical engineer - I really enjoy digging deep into products and technology and launching products to market.  The problem solving skills have also helped me to pick up concepts and process information quickly which has been critical for my leadership roles in product management and marketing.

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