Women's Equality Day interview with Tiffany O'Brien Nels

Since 1920, August 26th has been Women’s Equality Day. Originally created to commemorate women’s suffrage, it’s a reminder of the continued fight for equal rights, “public or private, legal or institutional.” While we’ve come a long way since then, there’s still a significant gender gap in most boardrooms, despite the often-sited research from Catalyst, which found that companies with more women in top management outperform those who without.

I had the privilege to interview  Tiffany O’Brien Nels, Lifesize’s Chief Marketing Officer of Lifesize.

Faten Abdallah (FA): Have equality of women in the workplace improved, in comparison to 20 years ago? Explain.  Will women still have to fight for gender equality in the workplace in the future?
Tiffany O'Brien Nels (TON):Yes, equality for women has improved. There are more women in the workforce in general, and more women in the executive suite specifically.  We’ve seen the advent of mothers’ rooms, work-from-home and flex time policies, and affordable video conferencing services that accommodate women as full, functioning and critical aspects of the workforce.
That said, for the foreseeable future, people – not just women – need to continue to fight for gender equality in the workplace. While the income gap has shrunk, it’s still an issue. Moreover, inequality originally stemmed from the now outdated roles at home, where men were the breadwinners.  This is no longer true – in fact many families rely on dual incomes – and the inequality hurts families, children and partners, not just women.

FA: What are some issues women face today?
TON: Equality isn’t cut and dry, because women are not the same as men. Men rarely consider when they’re having a child in relation to their career trajectory, and I have yet to meet a woman who hasn’t. 
The differences need to be accepted as differences, not as detriments. In this vein, women are judged across a broader spectrum than men, and the lens through which women are evaluated is more critical. For example, women are still the default caregiver to children and aging family members, and we are often criticized or subtly penalized for taking on the responsibility of caring for our families.
Companies are recognizing that women are high producers, and bring unique assets to the table, and the smart employers are creating environments where they can succeed and contribute without having to sacrifice.

FA: Why is there low amount of females in tech employment?
TON: We think of “tech jobs” as only engineers and builders, when we need to consider the whole spectrum of mission critical roles associated with tech, such as sales, marketing, customer support and business administration.  In my experience, there are many powerful women in tech, they’re just not always in the technical roles.

FA: How can more women work in the tech employment?  
TON: Go after it. There are a whole host of valuable roles within tech companies that go well beyond engineering. Think of it as a more all-encompassing ecosystem, across which women are making significant contributions.

FA: Anything else you would like to add?
TON: One thing that empowers women within businesses is to have a strong sense of self, your skill-set and aptitudes. Resist the tendency to mold yourself into a construct of a typical work environment. Instead, focus on being a strong contributor, so the mold changes to fit you and your passions and ambitions. As more women engage in the workplace with value and insights, the environment will increasingly shift to accommodate women, mothers and wives. When you make yourself valuable to your organization, you become an asset they want to retain, and opportunities will reveal themselves.

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