InterviewsWomen in Technology

“Having Women in the Workforce Has a Clear Business Impact”

Claire Carter, the Marketing Director at Lenovo Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, and Women in Lenovo Leadership Ambassador, speaks to Arabian Reseller about her journey into the IT 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?
I usually start my workday at around 7:00 AM, going through my list of action points and signing off necessary approvals. This head start affords me the flexibility to leave work in the middle of the day if required – whether I need to take my daughter to an appointment or simply run an errand.

All of this is made possible by the agile working policy Lenovo has long had in place, where we focus more on the output people deliver, rather than set hours they commit to sitting at a desk. Given the nature of my role, working with multiple markets and timings, I am usually online after dinner. Agile working by no means equates to working fewer hours (in fact it is quite the opposite), but it gives you the flexibility to make your day work for you.

What first got you interested in tech?
In my earlier marketing year, my experience was largely in FMCG and F&B. It puzzled me as to why digital and marketing teams were often operating in silos from one another – when they are in fact, incredibly intertwined and complementary to one another.

I began researching how different types of organizations were approaching their structures and technology intrigued me the most. Firstly, I noticed a much more cohesive approach to integrated marketing and communications. Secondly, it was clear that technology brands were starting to outgrow and outweigh FMCG and F&B in terms of popularity and impact. It was clear that technology was the future, and Lenovo was a perfect fit for me in this regard.

Do you have a role model?
I am a big fan of Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg – she has one of the biggest jobs in the world and seems to have the ‘mom juggle’ mastered. She also does a lot for gender equality and I find her very inspirational. In my early career, I was also inspired by former managers who showed me the importance of maintaining a good work-life balance. This is something I try to pass down to my team.

Would our world be different if more women were working in STEM?
Diversity and inclusion are often buzzwords we hear being thrown around, but I truly believe them. Having women or indeed any under-represented community within the workforce is not only a matter of upholding good ethics, but it also has a clear business impact.

The more diverse a workforce is, the more diverse your business approach will be, and this clearly has a positive impact in terms of how end-users see your brand. At Lenovo, diversity allows us to challenge our assumptions and think from new perspectives, which in turn creates better products, services, and experiences for end-users.

Across the Middle East, in particular, we are seeing great strides being made to increase the number of opportunities open to women in STEM – and this will only continue. It is important to remember that ‘STEM’ is extremely broad – whether you are interested in healthcare, aviation, education, technology, or any other field, there is most likely an opportunity out there that you may not have yet considered.

What obstacles did you have to overcome?
The biggest challenge is dealing with the ‘unconscious bias’ where sadly a pre-determined mindset about someone leads to double standards being applied. For example, if a woman is authoritative, she is often labeled negatively – while a man would be seen as a strong leader. The same behavior conducted by men and women is unfortunately labeled and judged differently and we must be honest in saying that this still exists today.

What is great to witness, however, is a growing allyship, where we are seeing more men actively trying to support women and even stand up for inequality. Men have a huge role to play in addressing gender inequality and I would love to see more men speaking out and standing up on this topic!

What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?
Being a woman or even a man in tech is the place to be. If you look at how the top brands in the world have evolved over the last 5-10 years, they are all now tech brands. Tech is now what drives great brands and being part of this industry exposes you to a wonderful culture and way of thinking.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?
There was a time when we did see significant under-representation of women in tech, with stereotypes and educational differences each playing a role. However, there is progress being made, including in the Middle East. In countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the number of female graduates in engineering, for example, equals and in some cases outweighs male graduates. What we need to see in technology and STEM as a whole is a continued effort to educate, lead by example, and create opportunities from which young girls and women can also benefit.

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?
This is an incredibly exciting time to be involved in the tech industry – each day, we are learning new ways in which technology is impacting not only particular sectors but also whole communities. My advice to all women and girls is to not think of it as a male industry, but rather to think of it as a leading industry to which women have a lot to contribute to. Women can be whatever they want to be and should not think of themselves as only being stereotyped into certain industries.

What do you do to unwind after work?
Of course, family time is very important to me. I make it a priority to have time to spend simply relaxing and catching up with my daughter and husband. When it comes to unwinding, my guilty pleasure is watching ‘reality’ TV. It is just that one part of the day where I don’t have to think or do and it fascinates me to see how ‘successful’ some people are, coming from not much at all. I am also an online shopaholic – a delivery driver is at my door every other day.

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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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