Countly is made up of an incredibly diverse, multicultural team from all over the world. We celebrate our differences as much as possible, understanding that success is much more than coexistence: success for us is collaborating for innovation. It might sound that this is the shared making-of story for many start-ups but we have an ace up our sleeves: our Sales Development, Marketing, HR, Customer Success, and Product Management teams are all led by women. We are not trying to say that this is the way to success, but we can assure you that it is our way and it has been working like a charm.
These women leaders are our inspiration. So for this year’s International Women’s Day, we wanted to share some of their thoughts and beliefs. This is our way of putting out there that we all have something special to bring to the table, and that being a woman at work goes far beyond stereotypes and gender roles: it is about people leading people towards success.
Oxford defines leadership as “the ability to be a leader or the qualities a good leader should have”. Nothing in that explanation denotes anything about the gender of such a leader. Over and over, we have heard and talked about gender equality in the workplace and equal employment opportunities for all genders. Even though we should all be judged by those qualities that make us good leaders, the share of women in leading positions is not as equal as we wish. The disparity is even more shocking when talking about women leading in tech companies. Of course, statistics are not homogeneous between different regions and there has been a lot of positive change in the recent past, showing that leaders have learned to embrace gender diversity and to find value and build strength from it.
We must celebrate general advancement towards an almost equal distribution between men and women in the workforce in some countries, but unfortunately this is not true for all industries, and the tech ICT (Information and Communications Technology) industry is still lagging behind. For instance, and again considering that statistics differ by region, source, and scope, Womentech Network notes that considering that 40% of the workforce in the world is female, only 17% of ICT employment is held by women. In the land of the Big Tech, the USA, the situation is not much better: women make up an average of 35% of tech roles in general, and only 27% of leading roles are held by women.
In spite of this reality, progress is being made and slowly but surely more and more women are studying, investing, leading, and succeeding in the tech industry. Luckily for us at Countly, that is the case of some of our own leaders.
We asked the leaders in Countly about their successes, motivations, skills, experiences, and vision. However, even though we wanted to keep a genderless perspective on those questions, we did not want to stop mentioning what the uniqueness of being a female leader in the ICT industry means. The idea is that the answer will be generally applicable to any leader, regardless of their gender but there are nuances and specs that are and must be addressed.
So with that in mind, a disclaimer: not all of our leaders have a unique background in tech. This is definitely a game changer for Countly, because it allows them to bring unique skill sets and knowledge that make us stronger as a team.
Also, aligned with that multicultural ethos we mentioned before, our leaders are living proof of it: they come from Canada, Czechia, India, Philippines, Romania, and Turkey.
For many of our leaders, the learning curve for embracing the tech side of life might have been more or less steep, but they all commented it was a big reason for them to feel proud of the knowledge they acquired and the goals their teams achieved afterwards. Plus, the learning process enabled them to go on to achieve their own personal goals: leading new projects, developing new teams, implementing new and disruptive technologies, and receiving stellar feedback from internal and external clients have only highlighted their passion for tech, for communication, and for leading people.
“Just like in any other area in life, you need both opposites to create balance. I was the 2nd woman to join Countly years ago, and seeing now so many female coworkers makes it feel like we are more complete as a company.” Barbora, CS Lead at Countly.
In a start-up environment, motivation is the key for getting things done! We are lucky to have leaders that love their jobs, which obviously moves them to always shoot for the best. Interestingly, some of them noted that their sense of ownership for the company and the product is translated into saying “No” sometimes more than “Yes”.
“When keeping a roadmap, curiosity and will to learn are must-haves, but when you’re being pulled from all directions by collaborators, openness to feedback is key, because there will always be criticism.” Duygu, PM Lead at Countly.
When being able to challenge the status quo, their ability to put a foot down helps them maintain focus on the bigger picture, while still being able to listen to everyone, and to make everybody feel listened to.
Scientific studies on the differences between female and male brains go a long way back, and even though there are some conclusive facts, there are always new studies that spark highly contentious debates. Among those actual facts is that female brains are wired differently and have an edge over their male peers when it comes to multitasking and organization skills. Aside from this practical advantage, our female leaders mentioned that empathy, relentlessness, and trustworthiness are traits that have personally given them a great advantage at work. These may not be as much gender-derived capacities as they could be personality traits related to their upbringing in gender-specific societal norms. However, they have benefited them when having to be more polite in certain work situations, be approachable by their coworkers, and be flexible and creative when solving complex problems
“We like to play scenarios in our heads: this is where the ‘overthinking’ comes in handy, because you get to see all the possible outcomes from situations.” Adrienne, HR Lead at Countly.
The unique perspective female leaders have is complemented by the current progress towards gender equality — or even, gender neutrality — in the ICT industry. For example, our leaders commented that questions regarding family planning while interviewing are less and less frequent; that period leaves are no longer taboo and that companies increasingly offer them (Countly being one of them); and that in general, the access of younger people to key leading positions are bringing about a more open and flexible perspective over equal rights and gender norms.
“Women I’ve known professionally don’t actively think about the fact they are women: they just work. At the end of the day, that’s what equality is.” Rishika, Marketing Lead at Countly.
At the same time, a couple of our leaders pointed out that changes have occurred both ways and that male leadership is changing, too. They have perceived that male leaders are not only more receptive and open to female leadership, but also that these leaders are increasingly shedding their stereotypes and being more sensitive and approachable. Again, this assumption may be based on both gender stereotypes and cultural norms, but it is true that even in the media we see males in leading positions embrace a more sensitive approach than for example, a generation ago.
Finally, we asked our leaders if they had any advice for anyone going into tech, particularly without the tech educational background, but regardless of their gender. They agreed that curiosity and being a self-starter are a necessity, because you must be resourceful enough to find the answer to the question you have — and you will have tons of questions! It might be challenging, but there are also lots of online resources and helpful people that will make a difference for sure.
“Tech is such a broad spectrum, so you need to choose the line of product that you’d like to get into and then do your research and training. Where there’s a will, there will always be a way.” Ruxandra, Sales Development Lead at Countly.
Join Slack and LinkedIn channels that are relevant to you and always keep your eyes open for what is being said out there: innovative tools, disruptive ideas, inspiring speakers, and more can be found when you know where to look for.
And at the end of the day, tech may seem scary for some, but just go for it and face the fear. You will always find leaders that will guide you along the way.
As we said, changes in the people that lead us have brought about progress and a more gender-balanced working environment. For us at Countly, having a strong and diverse team with women as leaders is part of a vision that makes us all proud, regardless of our position.
“I’m incredibly proud of the diverse team we have built. Our remote working setup allowed us to have team members with multiple backgrounds and nationalities. This, combined with a gender-equal leadership team, means that our company values, our direction, and our future are driven by equality, which is a superpower we have as a startup.” CEO of Countly, Onur Alp Soner.