I recently was inspired by an article in USA Today written about Google and how the company attracted more women to this year's I/O conference compared to previous years. This change was led by one woman in their organization by the name of Natalie Vaillalobos. She was the Community Manager at the time, but had a strong passion for bringing together women in tech, so she decided to make it much more than a passion; she made it her full-time job.
USA Today explains that "After I/O, Villalobos talked her way into a new position as the company's women in technology advocate, charged year round at Google with raising the visibility of women and at I/O with making sure women are better represented in the audience and on stage."
In my past few years working at Marketo I have become more passionate about women's initiatives. This could be partly because I have been surrounded by so many talented women on a daily basis, partly because of the incredible line-up of keynote speakers we've had at our recent annual conferences, The Marketing Nation Summit, and partly because I've been lucky. Throughout my life I have been blessed with a lot of great mentors; professionally, while playing sports, and my biggest advocate and encouragement has come from my dad (who sent me the Google article by the way). With this positive reinforcement I have learned so many qualities that have made me a better employee and a better person, so I think it's important to give back and help others who haven't had these chances...yet.
A common misconception about being passionate around women's initiatives is that it comes from a negative place. If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch Emma Watson's HeforShe speech at the United Nations where she exquisitely explains this point: "...the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women's rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating." I strive to make a difference for my coworkers, future coworkers, and our customers. I want to help create an environment where women can learn how to be better at their jobs, and most importantly, feel welcome, confident, innovative, inspired, and supported. I don't view the lack of women showing up at major tech conferences as a problem, I view it as an opportunity.
One effort I've made towards helping women at Marketo is an internal program called Momentum that I pioneered with a group of my marketing colleagues last year. The group strives to increase the awareness of challenges that women face in the workplace, and to help enable and empower all individuals -- men and women-- to improve relationships and pursue their personal and professional goals. (Falls right in line with what my mentors have given me!)
So, how can we create more opportunity across our organizations and within our conferences for women? I think it starts with the Natalie Villalobos' of the world who are passionate about driving change. But don't take it from me...I asked some of Marketo's top female leaders to give you their tips for success, and this is what they came up with:
- When you spot good talent, offer these individuals opportunities or ask them to help on a special project. It is important to give back and help when you can. - Heidi Bullock, VP Demand Generation
- Sponsor company-wide events on an annual basis to promote female networking and mentorship. - Helen Yu, Group Vice President
- Include male leaders into the initiatives, ask for their support and how they personally perceive the benefits of promoting women into conferences. You will be surprised by the answers. Some of them may relate to their daughters or wife and how they want them to be offered equal opportunities - Helene DO, VP Customer Success APAC
- Help connect women in your organization with people inside and outside the organization (men and women) who would be good connections for them. - Amy Guarino, VP, Marketo KK
These ideas are a great starting point for driving more women to events and into the right jobs. So, whether you take a page out of Google's book and provide childcare and mother's rooms at your next conference, or you create a slack community for women to network before the conference so when they arrive they already feel connected, the next step for women is ready and waiting for you!
Now, I want to ask YOU; the talented customers in our Community and ask that anyone with a passion around women in business (men and women) to contribute their thought leadership here. What can we do to support, encourage and develop female leadership and equality in the workplace? This blog is the first of a series of Women in Business blogs and I hope to see your ideas and posts soon!
Want to contribute? Click here to start write your first blog today!
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