Highlights Part 2: Red Chair PGH Nov. 2017; Panel Q&A

This is the second part of the highlights of the Red Chair Pittsburgh event from early November.  The information here is NOT an exact transcript.  This is a paraphrased version of what the panelists had to say during the Q&A.


Background of Panelists:

Julie Straub – Global IT Director, PPG

Antoinette(“Toni”) Murphy – Comcast Regional VP

Michele R. McGough – Founder and CEO, Solutions4netoworks, Pittsburgh, PA

Priscilla J. Beal – Digital Innovation, Bayer US LLC.

Lori Crozier – VP IT, Digital Technology Delivery & eBusiness at ThermoFisher Scientific.

How they got started:

  • Julia: Was not exposed to computers in high school; started as a math major.  Male peers whom were dual math and computer majors pushed her to get involved in computers.
  • Tony Murphy: French and Econ major until she then focused on IT companies. Comcast for 9 years.  Done everything from product development to… [etc.]
  • Michelle: 1st to go to college as an Economics major and then graduated.  I was offered telecommunications job and loved the continuous learning.
  • Lori: My family didn’t even have a computer as a child;  in my youth, I worked in office for a small company.  Nothing was computerized.  They automated and asked me to get it working for them.  I am big into project management as well.
  • Priscilla: I have a masters in art history.  I spent my time working in museums.  Trying to entice viewers, I led the team who had to learn how to use technology to make the sculptures come alive.  This led me into digital marketing, and 10 years working on digital strategy.  I soon after joined Bayer and now head up the innovation team.

How to move into Leadership:

  • Priscilla: Apply passion to you being inspiring.
  • Lori: People are looking to do well and want to be a part of something meaningful and important, you are important to give them vision and to create the enthusiasm around it.
  • Julie: Develop relationships, trust, and respect with your team.  This is critical for them to follow you as a leader.

Challenges & advocates:

  • Toni: Have mentors advice and sponsors put your name behind theirs.  Here’s a general rule: 60% of my time I am doing my job, and the rest I’m telling about what I’m doing.  Ask for what you want and you will get it.  Be brave.
  • Michelle: Me and 3 other coworkers were sued for trying to conspire against boss to get him fired – we were accused but that was not the case.  I was in a bad place with personal issues and shut down.  When I began to put my company together, and we were getting ready to file for a patent, I learned he [a disgruntled, fired employee] stole the intellectual property before the patent.  Two of the women said don’t worry about it(legal fees), we had the same issue happen; it’s nice to know you’re not alone.
  • Lori: Think about what you want, network early in your career, don’t wait to use your network – keep it active and live.  Use those who will be a good guide for you and get lifelong advocates.
  • Priscilla: Take into consideration what qualities they have that are inspiring and then think about it – is that what I want to do? are they happy? and is that something I could be happy doing? Listen to your gut.
  • Toni: from a sponsor’s perspective, are you a rockstar that I can be proud of? and what is something that I get in return here?  As you move up, you need to use the mentees to connect too.
  • Julie: It does not have to be a formal advocate.  Have courage.  Ask people further up in their career.  Be open to really ask.

Extra Tips:

  • Toni: Paint the picture for where you’re going.  Rate yourself – validate yourself!
  • Michele: Keep a notepad and keep track of what you have accomplished.  Self review.  Justify your raise.

Women blame themselves for what is wrong which can be a bad thing  because when you’re not looking at your accomplishments, you’re lowering your confidence.

How to bring out confidence:

  • Lori: CONFIDENCE GAP! (Meaning: understand that you are just as capable as the men, and that they are more confident because they have been told that because they are men that they belong here; understand that you belong just as much as them because you are just as capable.)
  • Julie: Don’t think you need to have all of the skills for the job.
  • Michelle: In a CMU study, when asked if they could do the next job, we[women] think about it and men immediately say they’ll do it.  Interview woman vs man, this comes off as a difference in confidence. (Meaning: Confidence gives an impression that you are more capable.)

How do you balance projects with your personal life:

  • Toni: I am married, and my husband is in IT.  I have 3 kids, ages 6, 4, and 2.  Be sure to have a good support system.  Leadership is a gift but learn to be okay with delegation.  Don’t think you have to prove yourself over and over again because that is you secretly degrading yourself.
  • Priscilla: I have 3 kids.  You need to love what you do; if you can’t leave your kids for it, don’t do it.  Find personal satisfaction.  See yourself as a role model.
  • Lori: Be an aspiration but be good to yourself.

Big Theme here: Be BRAVE Be CONFIDENT

  • Women are just as capable as men, but overall women approach the computing field more timid due to a lack of confidence.
  • These women are successful because they are not only brilliant, but CONFIDENT.
  • They are all very open, honest, and respectful leaders who prove that you can find a good balance in your life. 
    • Women do not have to do everything.
    • Women can still have a highly successful career while still having children.
    • It is important to understand that women can do anything, and that it is important to get out there and be brave.
  • The wage gap only exists because we let it exist; we have laws against it, but if you don’t ask, you won’t get the fair wage you deserve due to culture.
    • Be confident.
    • Log yourself and prove your credentials.
    • ASK: for the raise, what others get paid, etc.  ASK questions.
    • Address any discrepancies between your wage, and that of your male counterpart(s).

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