March is Women’s History Month when we celebrate the many accomplishments of women, including in the workplace. While women have made considerable strides in reaching equity with male colleagues, there’s still much more ground to cover. This is evident in the tech sector: Women comprise 47% of the nation’s workforce but hold just 28% of the leadership positions in technology — a statistic that predates the pandemic.
As a women-led organization, BLASTmedia has always recognized the incredible value women leaders bring to a company and the public relations industry at large. We asked our CEO, Mendy Werne, to share more about her experience as a woman leader and her advice on developing amazing women leaders in technology and beyond.
Why do you think it’s important for more women to hold leadership positions within the tech industry?
I would say it’s important for women to hold leadership positions in all industries, not just tech. Women typically foster a more collaborative working environment, which leads to teamwork and better communication throughout organizations.
Women leaders cultivate meaningful conversations and relationships in the workplace, which leads to higher productivity and retention. I don’t take it for granted that our people have choices when it comes to where they work, so I want to make sure we’re providing a safe, collaborative, fun and supportive environment for all of our employees. That kind of workplace comes from building healthy relationships and understanding what drives your people. After all, people, not products, grow businesses, and I believe women truly recognize this.
In your experience, does being a woman in your profession and field come with additional challenges you must overcome? Do you struggle with negative self-talk?
Overall, I think women are a bit more empathetic than men. This is a great trait for leaders, but can also cause challenges. Too much empathy can lead to poor decision-making or paralyze you when you need to make an important decision. People underestimate how empathy can drain you emotionally, especially if you use it all the time and don’t take enough time to recharge. Empathy is certainly an important part of leadership, but in my job, I have to remind myself to step back and look at things objectively before I act.
As for negative self-talk, I learned a long time ago that a leader makes MANY decisions a day and you’re not going to get every one of them right. Once I really felt comfortable with that concept, I was able to give myself grace and avoid a lot of negative self-talk.
What’s the best leadership advice you ever received?
It’s hard to choose just one thing to share – I’ve had a lot of great people in my life to learn from and who inspire me. The advice that sticks with me the most is, “Make a decision, see how it works out, and if it’s not working, adjust.” If you wait until you think you have it perfectly figured out, you’ll never make a decision. Leaders have to be willing to try something new or outside their comfort zone. Sometimes it becomes necessary to change course — even if the new path is unfamiliar or uncomfortable.
In an industry where men rarely encounter resistance to making their voices heard, how do you speak to be heard? What advice would you give to other women?
Most importantly, bean active listener. I think far too many people speak just to hear themselves speak. Part of leading requires listening to others — really hearing them and trying to see ALL sides of an issue. By taking time to understand the entire situation, you become more informed and feel more confident speaking up.
And when you do speak up, always speak with confidence — take your seat at the table. Too many women sit in the back of the room. You’ve earned it, sit at the table!