InterviewsWomen in Technology

True Innovation is Really Enhanced by Diversity and Inclusion

Alice Grasset, the Head of Marketing for the Middle East and Africa at Salesforce, speaks about her journey into the tech industry as a career choice

Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
As the Head of Marketing for the Middle East and Africa at Salesforce, I have been leading all aspects of field marketing regionally, including Demand Generation, Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, Events, Executive Engagement, and Account-based Marketing.

My team plays a critical role in the hyper-growth of Salesforce in those markets. A typical day in my life used to involve amazing travels and lots of interesting meetings with our customers, partners, and vendors across the Middle East and Africa, now it’s a lot more grounded but we are able to achieve great marketing activities while being fully digital!

Did you always know that working in technology was what you wanted to do? How did you decide on it?
I have a Master’s degree in International Business and Strategy from a French Business School. Frankly, I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do back then. While I was always drawn to new computer techs, it didn’t feel like a typical career path for a young woman like me to pursue. I ended up applying for an internship at Salesforce and never left. Looking back, it was probably one of the best decisions of my life!

What first got you interested in tech?
Our first family computer back in… maybe 2000? For me it was an infinite universe of learning, connecting with people, playing video games, editing photos, writing blogs. Later on, I was fascinated by startups disrupting the entire established market, I loved all the innovation that was possible in the tech world!

Do you have a role model?
Many women in my family had a formidable influence on me. Both my grandmothers were school teachers and influenced generations of kids to cherish education, embrace progress, and dream beyond their upbringing. My mother also had quite an incredible career, studying engineering and becoming a top exec in the transportation industry that was and still is very much male-dominated, while raising 4 kids. I thank them every day for fostering a family environment where women and men are treated equally.

Would our world be different if more women were working in STEM?
Of course! True innovation is really enhanced by diversity and inclusion. Can you imagine innovation and transformation when everyone working on it looks and thinks the same?

But also – women don’t necessarily need a STEM diploma to be successful in the tech industry, there are so many career paths across Sales, Service, Marketing, Finance, Legal, Comms, etc that can be a great way to improve female representation in the industry.

What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Walking in (or more recently – logging in) many meetings with a vast majority of males, especially at the management/executive level, is a daily reminder that the road to gender equality is still long and will take a global effort.

It is disconcerting to think that so many decisions (both from businesses and governments) are often taken by groups that do not represent our society. With some effort, the business can be the greatest platform for positive change, and together, we can create a more inclusive society than we had before, where everyone feels represented, heard, and valued.

What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?
At my scale, being empowered and encouraged to build a diverse team and to support the growth of some fantastic women is the most rewarding aspect of my role. Salesforce in particular provides the right environment to be inclusive, and Equality is a core value that drives a lot of decisions. There is still a lot to achieve but I am proud to play a modest part in this positive change.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?
Of course, every single day. At Salesforce we have only 33.6% of women employees and it goes down to 25% at the leadership level, and we are probably one of the most advanced and committed tech companies on this topic.

The phenomenon hits each step of the employee journey, and it’s critical to address the issue at every level. Some areas of focus include: establishing inclusive hiring processes, investing in women’s training and development, supporting female employee retention, adopting inclusive business practices, and committing to equal pay.

It’s a recurring, never-ending effort, and it’s important to never think the job is done.

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?
To be bold and confident! The tech industry is taking more and more steps towards gender representation, and that goes with extra effort towards hiring women of all ages. So you should apply with confidence and trust that there is a place for you in this sector.

What do you do to unwind after work?
Work-life balance is very important, and I’m very protective of my wellbeing as well as my team’s. I’m a horse rider and I love being outdoors with horses, surrounded by nature, riding, and practicing showjumping. I also practice yoga and meditation on a daily basis. Whatever it is that makes you feel good, make sure to invest time in it!

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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