In honor of International Women’s Day 2023, we hosted a panel of influential women at the X2X Media Group to discuss their experiences in the media industry. We talked about the industry, role models, daily challenges, and hopes for the future of women in technology.
On the panel were:
Morgan Ahlborn - Director, Client Team Operations and Administration
Sofia Sardar - UI designer
Nuray Bedir - Electronics Production Engineer
Clare Westwood - Director, Product Management
What's the best advice you've received, and what advice would you give to younger women entering the Technology industry today that they would find useful?
Morgan: This isn’t specific to the Technology Industry, but it absolutely applies. The advice is simple, “support one another”. Very often, as women we’re made to feel like we’re supposed to be competing. That there’s only room for one, or just a few. What if we showed up for each other instead? What if we rooted for each other’s achievements, both big and small? What if we were mindful and intentional about giving others a platform. To listen to and help amplify their ideas. There’s room for all of us to succeed. Let’s give people the support, confidence, and encouragement that they need to get there. We’re stronger together across the board.
Sofia: The word 'miracle' can be another way of describing our efforts. Personally, these words play a big role in motivating me. When it seems like luck is responsible for our successes, it's important to remember that we got to where we are through the effort and choices we made.
Nuray: To be honest, I can’t remember anyone who has given me some advice. I usually take advice from books I've read or success stories and one of the significant ones among them is: If there is a voice in your head saying that you are not good enough, quiet that voice. Believe in yourself and don't lose your passion.
And my advice to young women entering the Technology industry today would be:
- Belief in Yourself
- Learn Continuously
- Build a Support Network
- Speak Up
- Embrace Failure
I was born in a country where women were not valued enough and I graduated from the electrical and electronics engineering department, a male-dominated major in the same country. So, don't let the geography you were born in and the gender you have determine your destiny. Be bold and do your best!
Overall, the technology industry is a dynamic and exciting field with a lot of opportunities for women. With the right mindset, skills, and support network, you can succeed and thrive in the industry.
Clare: The tech industry can be tough, especially for women. I have often been, and sometimes still am, the only woman in the room. Therefore, women supporting women is essential in the business world (not just Tech). In this company, there are some absolutely incredible women, many of whom are far smarter than me, but surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you help to raise the bar for everybody, you learn from them, and I am genuinely happy to do so.
In your role, how do you think you can help to support a more inclusive workplace for women, ensuring that all women have equal representation and opportunities?
Morgan: I strive to do whatever I can to ensure that unconscious bias doesn't sneak in during day-to-day interactions, when giving people opportunities, and when considering promotions. I hope to lead by example - not just within my department, but at the company. I’ll speak up when something feels out of whack. It’s important that we’re held accountable for our values and the promises that we make - both as a company and as individuals.
Sofia: I actively communicate with everyone in my environment about women's rights and demonstrate through my example how women can live and what heights they can achieve. When I witness injustice, I don't stay silent and instead speak up, which inspires confidence in others.
I strongly recommend that everyone consider seeking psychological counselling, as the system we were born into can be challenging to perceive critically. We all need help and support.
To better understand the essence of the problem and develop critical thinking skills, I suggest reading literature and articles. Joining social network groups and following news updates can also provide opportunities to help those in need.
Personally, I am currently struggling with the issue of misogyny among women themselves. I read literature, listen to diverse opinions, and promote a healthy model for perceiving women to other women.
Nuray: As a woman in an electronics engineering role, there are several ways I can help to support a more inclusive workplace for women, but the most important ones are:
Raising Awareness: Raising awareness about the challenges women face in the industry is crucial to creating a more inclusive workplace. I can speak out about gender disparities, biases, and stereotypes that exist in the industry, and advocate for change. I can also participate with women in engineering events and initiatives to encourage women to pursue careers in the field.
Being a Role Model: Being a role model for other women in the industry is a powerful way to inspire and motivate them. I can lead by example, demonstrating excellence in my work, advocating for equality, and supporting other women in the field. By being a visible and vocal advocate for women in engineering, I can help to create a more inclusive workplace for all women.
Clare: I think in my role, offering mentorship and guidance to my female colleagues is something that I love doing. I acted as a mentor for a female colleague who was desperate for a product role but did not know whether they had the correct experience or where to start. We worked together and created a career development plan for her, where I provided feedback, recommendations for reading materials and tasks to develop core skills. I am proud to note that my ex-colleague is now in a Product Management role and thriving.
How can we all encourage women into more Leadership roles in the Technology industry to create a changing impact for a more diverse and inclusive workforce environment?
Morgan: Imposter syndrome is real. As a society, men are encouraged to have confidence that they can succeed at anything. Women tend to feel like they’re fighting an uphill battle right out of the gate. We need to encourage confidence in these women and prove to them that their voices are valuable and important. We should figure out what they need and invest in development opportunities for them. We should give them our time, and a platform.
Sofia: Every woman is unique, with different temperaments and ambitions. Some women are more willing to accept challenges and pursue certain positions, while others may require additional support even if they possess the same capabilities. Therefore, I propose holding individual meetings exclusively with women to analyze not only the technical aspects of their work but also address mental issues that may be hindering their progress. By doing so, I aim to encourage women to feel equal to their male counterparts in the same position.
Nuray: Women are much more likely than men to consider gender bias an obstacle to promotion. This means that they believe if they want a Leadership role, that is not going to happen easily because there are not enough examples of this. We need to acknowledge the unconscious bias and craft plans to combat them.
Here are some actionable steps that we can take to encourage and support women to pursue leadership roles in the technology industry:
- Providing Mentorship and Sponsorship
- Addressing Bias
- Offering Professional Development Opportunities
- Creating a Supportive Workplace Culture
- Celebrating Women's Achievements
- Increasing Visibility of Women Leaders
Encouraging more women to take on leadership roles in the technology industry requires a concerted effort from individuals, organizations, and the industry itself. By taking these steps, we can help create a more diverse and inclusive workforce environment that benefits everyone.
Clare: I think that building a more inclusive culture is a key aspect of this, ensuring that there are policies for diversity and inclusion, that have a key focus on equality. I am proud to work for a company that supports not just women, but equal opportunities in general. There is an X2X-wonder-women work channel group and an EDI team that supports LGBTQ+, Cultural Awareness, Generational Diversity and Mental Health Awareness (amongst others). An important factor is also that women understand their own worth and value to an organization but find new creative ways to grow and build up a great support network.
What are some of your personal experiences that have motivated you to think about women's empowerment and equality?
Morgan: As a female in film school in college, I was in the minority. I could count the other women in my classes on my fingers. Before coming to PIX, I worked in the Feature Film Production world. As anyone from that background can tell you, the industry tends to be a boy’s club. The number of times I've been talked over talked down to, and my opinion and expertise have been overlooked, or not even considered, in favor of my male counterpart is staggering, though in no way is this unique to me. With time and experience comes more clarity. While I understand now that this absolutely doesn't need to be how these industries work (nor is this always the case), while I was in it, it felt like that was sometimes the only way. I hope my experiences will help me lead others into a better future.
Sofia: We need to focus on educating the next generation. Instead of teaching girls to be restrained in everything they do, we should teach boys that a woman's existence does not grant them any rights over her. By doing so, we can help foster a safer and more equitable society for everyone.
Nuray: Women have a historical defeat. With the transition from the matriarchal period to the patriarchal period, the position of women in society has undergone a great change. The fact that a man is physically stronger than a woman has become a precursor to a woman's fertility. But nowadays, being physically strong doesn't matter much anymore because now the power is hidden in the information and knowledge. However, in societies where there is no or limited education, accessing information is also limited, and the fact that men are physically stronger than women in society is a big problem for women to access education and information.
And in societies where there is no education, unfortunately, women feel obligated to live dependent on men. Without their economic freedom, they are forced to live as if their only duty in this life is to be a mother, and as if they can't get a job other than being a housewife. I think that the education of women is very important in the change of this order because if you educate a woman, you educate a generation.
Clare: I was fortunate enough to have a strong female mentor in my last role, and I learnt a lot from her. She taught me that you do not have to be the loudest person in the room in order to make yourself heard; it is far more important to make valuable contributions by looking at what is missing from the conversation. I have always assumed that I am far too sensitive to be in a senior management role, but with age and experience, I understand now that that was my ‘imposter’ talking, and I have a great amount of value to give. Again, it’s all about knowing your own self-worth and supporting people where you can.
How can we at X2X embrace an even safer and more welcoming environment for all teams, regardless of gender or background?
Morgan: We should continue to provide resources and education to our teams about the importance of equity in our workplaces and our world. We should ensure that the communication lines are open and that everyone feels comfortable speaking up and calling attention to areas that need improvement and work, and that any potential issues are able to be addressed quickly and effectively.
Sofia: working at X2X, I don't feel discriminated against women at all, because I have a lot of challenges in my work, and it is completely within my power to create change for the better.
Nuray: I started working for X2X in October. So, it’s been only 4 months and I’ve felt and am still feeling welcomed, and safe. I can only underline some points that every company should apply to embrace an even safer and more welcoming environment for all teams, regardless of gender or background.
- Creating a culture of respect and inclusivity
- Providing training and resources
- Fostering diversity at all levels
- Providing flexible working arrangements
- Addressing harassment and discrimination
By implementing these suggestions, every company can create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all team members, which can lead to improved employee engagement, productivity, and overall success for the organization.
Clare: I feel that X2X does a very good job at this already, but there is always room for improvement. Educating our people is a great place to start with this, ensuring that we treat people as individuals and recognise that we all have different lives and circumstances. Educating employees on unconscious bias is an initiative that I would recommend.
#Embrace equality is the theme for IWD 2023, how do you personally hope this is interpreted?
Morgan: To enthusiastically embrace equity, it must be woven into the fabric of who we are as people and who we are as a company. Not just for this month, but for a lifetime. It’s constant work. Equity is about giving people what they need to be successful. All people are different, so what an individual needs are going to vary. We need to consciously work at listening to people, raising them up, giving them opportunities, and believing in their potential and success.
Sofia: I believe that "Embrace Equality" is a powerful call to action, urging individuals and communities around the world to fully embrace the principles of gender equality and work towards creating a more inclusive society for us all.
Nuray: ‘Embrace equality’ shouldn’t be some words we throw on some panel, an interview, or a special day for women. Actions always matter and these actions are the mirrors of our thoughts. Deep down, if you don’t believe that men and women are equal, and I am not talking about physical equality, then it doesn’t matter what you say, write or do, It is the mindset we must change.
We must ask ourselves. Why do we have to fight for gender equality? Whom are we fighting against? Who argues that women are not equal to men. These questions will determine the root of the problem and it will never be resolved if someone thinks that men and women are not equal in status. Changing this thought requires firstly the education of the children and young people after the education of the mother who will raise the next generation.
Promoting Gender Equality, challenging stereotypes, addressing intersectionality, supporting women's rights, eliminating gender-based violence, etc. These are only some ways in which this theme could be interpreted. Overall, interpreting "Embrace Equality" means recognizing that gender inequality is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires a holistic and intersectional approach. It should involve taking action to challenge gender stereotypes, promote diversity and inclusion, and create a more equitable and just society for everyone.
Clare: To me, embracing equality and diversity at work helps to foster an inclusive culture. When people feel that their work environment is inclusive, they are happier and more productive. I hope that the ‘embracing equality’ theme makes people think about what they can do to contribute and make a difference, even the little things help, like recognising people's achievements and understanding that people are like icebergs, you only see a small proportion of what is going on in their lives.
What is the most inspiring news you have heard recently about the celebration of a women's achievement?
Morgan: I’m endlessly inspired by the extreme bravery of the women and people of Iran. What they’re experiencing in their country is unfathomable. It’s a massive women’s and human rights movement and deserves all our attention.
Sofia: I am Ukrainian, and I am aware of the current changes happening in the Ukrainian army where more and more women are joining not only as doctors but also on the front lines. I also heard about the protests that took place in Iran regarding the support for women’s rights, and I believe that such initiatives are necessary, and we should support them.
Nuray: One recent inspiring worldwide news story was about Kamala Harris, who was inaugurated as the first female Vice President of the United States on January 20, 2021. Harris is the first woman, the first Black woman, and the first South Asian woman to hold the position. Her inauguration was a significant moment in history and represents a major milestone for women's representation and leadership in politics. Her achievement has inspired many women around the world and serves as a reminder of the importance of breaking down barriers and promoting gender equality. However, Malala Yousafzai and her achievements to support women's education will always be my number one inspiring story.
Clare: When Jacinda Ardern chose to step down as the New Zealand Prime Minister, it was inspirational to me to see all the positive press surrounding her. She was a fantastic leader, and the world’s youngest female head of government at age 37 and did so much good during her time in power.
I would encourage everybody that reads this to think about some of the women in their lives and how they have inspired and encouraged them along the way, with special thanks to my mom, who is the strongest person I know.
We would like to thank all those that took part in creating this panel discussion, helping us to honor International Women’s Day.