By Jennifer Yohe, EVP – Business Affairs, MediaKind
In the early part of my career as a lead negotiator of technology deals in an operator environment, I was almost inevitably the only woman in the room. Often when I would go to meetings, people would say, “oh, I’ll have coffee,” and I’d have to point out the coffee was on the table behind them! If you think about where the world was then and how far we’ve come in that time, there’s undoubtedly more acknowledgment of gender inequality now. There’s a greater acceptance of women in senior positions in the workplace too.
But there is still a long way to go, and there are still many ideas and perceptions that we must rewire. The engineering and technology worlds have typically been male-dominated. That should come as no surprise to anyone. As someone who has been that unique person in the room, I can attest that it takes time to be fully accepted.
It’s an issue of comfort – and for those of us that are in it that zone, we must be prepared to break it. Too often, unconscious biases are impacting split-second first impressions. I generalize, but if 95% of the workforce in this industry is male, it’s hard to shift perceptions away from the status quo and the idea of a female coming in and doing that job to an equal or better standard.
Unlike at the start of my career, what we have now are companies like ours that focus on addressing these imbalances. We certainly don’t bring women to MediaKind because of their gender. It’s about identifying and recognizing their competence, qualifications, and intelligence – and they happen to be female too.
It’s an educational process. And look, we all need to continue to challenge the way we recruit and identify candidates. Gender is one part of equality, but so is race, sexual orientation, physical disability, culture, and even age. We need all the insights and skills of the people who need and want the things our technology enables them to do.
We must recognize two issues in promoting and recruiting women within the technology industries. The first is where do you find them? That may seem unfair, but many companies are addressing their gender imbalance, which is driving competition for the best talent.
The next point is around widening the talent pool, which starts with attracting the younger generation towards achieving success in technology industries. Again, this comes back to education and showcasing the various careers in technology that extend beyond engineering. You could be on the business side like I am. You could enter the finance and accounting side like Amy Marmolejo. You could be in a legal department, like Renuka Drummond. Or you could look to drive marketing and communications, like Lisa Aussieker.
But sparking and maintaining that interest is not easy. Young women need to be made more aware of the opportunities open to them from a much earlier age. FIRST Robotics and STEM programs are fundamental to achieving that, as are other ventures within maths, science, and programming. If we are not quick enough to introduce these opportunities to young women, we will continue to limit their horizons and lose their talents.
Last year I met with Dave Medrano, Chief People Officer, the day before I formally joined MediaKind, and he explained his plans to drive change in gender equality. We have some great internal and external initiatives lined up, and I look forward to sharing these with you later on in the year. It’s not a case of getting the women within MediaKind more interested in the company or our work’s quality. It’s about making them more visible and celebrating their considerable successes. How do we get them in front of the leadership teams? How do we get them to become mentors for others within MediaKind?
Having been a member of Women in Cable and Telecommunications (WICT) and a board member of the local Philadelphia WICT Chapter, it’s an industry challenge that I’m not only keenly aware of and passionate about but one that I’m determined that we succeed in tackling. There’s a lot of change in this area within the industry, and it’s great to see. Is it happening fast enough? It’s undoubtedly moving better than it did ten years ago. But there is no time for complacency, and we still have a long way to go. The ultimate goal is straightforward – it’s to achieve gender parity in the workplace.
At MediaKind, we embrace a truly inclusive culture, where everyone feels a real sense of belonging – regardless of gender. As the recent International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge campaign highlighted, a world challenged is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our thoughts and actions – 365 days a year. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. And together, we can all help to create an inclusive world.