People & Culture

Mentor, coach, sponsor: How women get into leading positions in the IT industry

You can't climb alone - why men have to open doors

Woman standing in front of two men.

In most industries, gender parity among employees is still far from equality. The Fortune Global 500 list, published in December 2022, shows that only 24 of the world's 500 largest brands (just 4.8%) are led by female CEOs. International Women's Day once again highlights the imbalance that prevails – especially in the IT industry, which continues to live up to its reputation of being a male domain. This applies above all to the gender distribution in management positions. But what needs to change in concrete terms so that more women want or can take on leading positions in IT environments?

Under the heading "Mentor, coach, sponsor: How women get into leading positions in the IT industry", we will be hosting an interactive webinar to get to the bottom of this question. Kathrin Redlich, RVP Sales CEUR at Zscaler, will be joined by her mentor, coach and sponsor Florian Bäuml, VP EMEA South at Zscaler. Without wanting to set the two sexes up in opposition to each other, the panelists agree on one thing in advance: it is not possible for women to climb the IT career ladder in the same way as their male colleagues. With this in mind, they urge any men acting as people managers to consciously face up to their responsibility and make an effort to open doors for female talent so that this imbalance changes.

Drawing on their personal experiences, the panel will share which stereotypical role models they’ve come across on their career path to date and, above all, what support they have received. They will also debate the comparative value of the various in-house support schemes. What difference does having a mentor, coach or sponsor actually make when it comes to women becoming more involved in leading positions? And why does networking among women rarely help to achieve the desired breakthrough? Here, the speaker panel will try to better define the different types of support available and ultimately put forward the thesis that the most targeted way for women to get ahead is with the help of a sponsor. This role typically not only guides through advice, but also takes a much more active role in accompanying, challenging and validating women on their way to leadership positions.

The fact that validation plays an important role is again due to traditional role models – in that men are usually much more confident from the outset in their right to climb the career ladder at speed, while women are less daring. Male colleagues continue to approach their progress much more actively and with more belief in their abilities than the majority of women i.e. when it comes to responding to job advertisements. The main thesis, therefore, is that it should be the responsibility of (male) management to look closely and encourage women within theirs team to pursue their careers more actively. Since women are less likely to take the decisive steps on their own, their progression instead depends on the alliances they forge within the company.

Last but not least, the panel will address the lack of women in IT sales in particular. Since there are virtually no courses in the field of sales management – at least in Central Europe – our speakers will explore how women can become more strongly included in this competitive male world. Sales is still viewed through the cliché-laden negative image where deals are made at the bar or on the golf course. In fact, it is about much more than this and  at Zscaler in particular we see this area of business in a more structured way. To truly succeed in sales, the focus needs to be on understanding business-relevant challenges for customers and jointly developing a solution – teaming up with all those involved in the transformation process. Often, different stakeholders of a company have to be brought together, diverse interests and priorities have to be coordinated and orchestrated. Creativity plays a much greater role in such an approach than many outsiders assume. This gives women today a great opportunity to prove themselves in cloud-based IT sales alongside their male counterparts, but if they only want to.

What is missing is a strong snowball effect that is triggered by the women who have already entered the male domain – through the support of a mentor, coach or sponsor. Because female managers have a magnetic effect that encourages other women to have more confidence. And as soon as this happens, the parity ratio can also come into balance.

Want to know more about how Zscaler supports women in leadership roles? Listen to the recording of the Webinar.


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