Claire Carter Lenovo’s Marketing Director for the Middle East and Africa (MEA), shares her views on the business benefits of having more women in the tech industry and why the China-based multinational sees this as a priority.
1. When you started at Lenovo two years ago, you had spent nearly two decades in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, working for brands like KFC and Flora. From a gender balance perspective, what first struck you about the differences between working for a consumer technology company and an FMCG company?
CC: Tech is undoubtedly more of a male-dominated field, particularly in the Middle East region, which was very different to what I was used to in FMCG. But I moved to this industry because I wanted to be part of the digital revolution, as technology becomes more and more embedded into our everyday lives. It wasn’t an easy switch to make, but I was drawn to Lenovo particularly because of their focus on supporting women in their leadership journeys.
2. Only 25% of people working in the tech industry are female. What do you think is the reason for this?
CC: Certain fields have a gender-skewed legacy; for example, historically technology has been seen as a ‘male’ industry, just as areas like teaching have been regarded as ‘female’. It’s precisely this legacy that the Women in Lenovo Leadership (WILL) network is redressing by focusing on hiring, retaining, mentoring and promoting women. Thirty percent of Lenovo’s workforce is female, which is above the industry average.
3. Why do you think gender balance is crucial for companies, and specifically tech organisations?
CC: There have been many studies showing that gender-balanced teams perform far better than those that are dominated by just men or just women. Diversity in all forms – whether we’re talking about gender, or ethnicity, or age – is always beneficial for companies. Quite simply, diversity of approach delivers better results. For example, women generally go about their daily tasks differently to men, and deal with people differently.
This gender balance is crucial for the tech industry in particular, bearing in mind that 60 to 80 percent of consumer buying decisions are made by women. It’s important that we focus on the human aspect of our devices, i.e. what they can do to enhance your life, rather than just the technical specifications. Lenovo ensures that women are a part of our product focus panels right from the design phase.
4. What do you really love about your job and working at Lenovo?
CC: Leading a marketing team is not my only job; I am also a mom, and Lenovo helps me to be present and productive in both roles. I’m not judged on the number of hours I spend at my desk but rather evaluated on my outputs. I love our agile culture, which is leaps ahead of other companies. I have flexibility so I can pick the kids up from school in the middle of the day if I need to, and a team I can count on to keep things running smoothly while I’m out of the office. Lenovo empowers its people and, in this way, gets the best out of everyone.
5. What has been your personal experience with the Women in Lenovo Leadership’ (WILL) network?
CC: Lenovo established WILL back in 2007 as a global platform for local initiatives to support women in our company to succeed. To be honest, I didn’t realise how important it was for me personally to be part of a programme like this one until I started to become actively involved in WILL. You don’t know what a meaningful role you can play in paying it forward to other women until you get the opportunity to do so.
6. Are there any women working in the tech space who you admire and why?
CC: I’m a great fan of Sheryl Sandberg, the CEO of Facebook. In her TED talk, “Why we have too few women leaders”, she focuses on the gender battle of confidence versus competence.
Men are just better at selling themselves, while women inherently lack confidence, even though they possess the skills needed to do a job effectively. This notion really resonates with me, and it’s something I tackle through my work with WILL and also as a facilitator for Google’s I Am Remarkable initiative, which focuses on women empowerment.
7. What three tips would you offer another woman who wants to work in the tech industry?
CC: Firstly, make sure you have a team you can count on and trust. Secondly, find a reverse mentor, i.e. someone younger than you who knows more about the ever-changing world of tech and can help you navigate through areas you need to build know-how on. Finally, be brave! Sit proudly at that boardroom table and don’t be shy to say your piece.
8. Why would you encourage women to consider roles in the tech space?
CC: Why would you want to work anywhere else?! Tech isn’t just a small department in your company, it’s how we all run our lives, both personally and professionally. It’s exciting to be a part of an industry that simplifies people’s lives and empowers them with tools, especially when working for a respected and innovative leader in the tech space like Lenovo. – GeekWire.co.za