For the 8th year in a row, EMC was the lead sponsor of the Simmons Leadership Conference for professional women, which some consider the top event of its kind in the U.S. More than 500 women from EMC were there, where I was asked to address the conference theme of “dare to compete” by drawing lessons from my own career experience. Here, I’ll share a little of what I said there this morning.
Daring to compete and lead requires not only grit, determination and excellence, it requires the ability to bring others along with you. Success usually requires a team that is inspired, has a clear vision of where you are going and that works together to get it done. As my mentor likes to say: Leaders are not appointed from above. They are chosen from below. In other words, people choose who they want to follow.
Another thing I’ve learned is to stretch yourself and be open to trying new things, because this is when you grow as a person, as a professional and as a leader. In my career, I’ve been fortunate to have a range of experiences in various roles that allowed me to learn from other people’s point of view. Over the years, I’ve worked in sales and marketing and M&A, as a leader of global sales, head of marketing and business development, in finance, as CFO, as chief operating officer, a general manager, and now CEO of an 18 billion dollar business. That wide range of experience has allowed me to learn different things along the way. And even see the same things from different angles, which enables me to think about challenges and opportunities in new and different ways.
A fuller range of professional experiences will round out your perspective and help you appreciate where others are coming from, their unique challenges and personal motivations. You won’t regret the experience. And the experience will help you to grow and be the positive change agents that our world needs you to be. So my advice is that if you can bring others with you and embrace new opportunities, your future will be bright.
Keep in mind that great places to work respect, include, and encourage different points of view. They encourage people to speak up and be heard and contribute their ideas. They foster a workplace culture that allows you to do your best, give your best, and be your best self.
We believe that so strongly that just this week, EMC withdrew from participating in a tech conference to be held in Indiana in direct response to that state’s recently enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which runs counter to our principles and business practices of non-discrimination and full inclusion. We live in a diverse world in which discrimination of any type, including discrimination based upon sexual orientation, should not be tolerated and cannot be supported.
In today’s talent driven economy, top talent can choose where they work. So state and regional economies and winning companies must attract and retain great talent in order to do all the great things they aspire to achieve. Among other important things, this requires a culture of innovation that thrives on inclusion and diversity.
As a “people company” that happens to be in the technology business, EMC believes deeply that openness to a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints is key to the process of innovation, which every organization needs in order to compete and stay relevant in our rapidly changing world.
The author Walter Isaacson is best known for his biographies of inventors like Einstein, Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin. In his latest book, “The Innovators” he writes about some of the amazing women innovators who shaped some of the most profound technology developments over the last century, from the early computers to much more, but whose contributions have all but been forgotten.
Today, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but there are many fewer in STEM fields – in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. To paint an even bleaker picture, the number of women in these fields has fallen over the last several decades. For example, in 1985, 37 percent of computer science undergraduate degrees were earned by women, but that percentage has fallen by two-thirds over the past generation, to just 12 percent today.
Addressing this challenge is going to take new approaches and a partnership across business, government, academic and volunteer organizations. But the tide may be turning, as STEM education for women and girls has become a strong focus, and many organizations have taken on the challenge of increasing the representation of women in STEM fields by making significant investments to change the future.
One such example that we work with is an organization called “Girls Who Code” – whose programs work to inspire, educate and equip girls with computing skills to pursue 21st century career opportunities. The goal is to expose girls to computer science and strong role models at a young age, so that they will aspire to work in technology and engineering fields and this, in turn, will one day help tech fields reach gender parity. We have many such examples of public-private partnerships designed to move the needle and make a difference as we work to get more women around the globe to pursue careers in technology fields.
The Simmons Leadership Conference goes well beyond technology and covers all fields. We are proud to be its lead sponsor and are pleased that so many of our employees are able to participate.