It wasn’t that long ago when Dell’s Pamela Pelletier brought in a third-party firm to run a workshop for her sales team, a common practice that led to an unexpected problem and left the national sales director for Dell Canada feeling like she was “punched in the gut.”
A team leader sent Pelletier an email after the second full-day session, indicating how three women were expressing concerns about the individual leading the workshop, citing misogynistic comments.
“It had a lot to do with outdated gender roles,” she specified during a recent interview. “I felt like I was punched in the gut because I put my employees in that situation. But I was incredibly proud that these women had the courage to come forward and speak up.”
Dell acted swiftly, putting an end to the workshops and hosting a company-wide discussion about the incident and the lessons learned. It didn’t take long for everyone to move on, but Pelletier couldn’t help but wonder what kind of ending a similar situation would have had five years ago.
“If this happened five or 10 years ago in the tech industry, these women might not have come forward. I’m not sure if I would have come forward either,” she said.
As International Women’s History Month comes to a close, a recent survey by anonymous social network Blind suggests only a quarter of women feel represented by their upper management compared to nearly 75 per cent men in the tech industry. A lack of representation and diversity is a major contributing factor to why people leave the tech sector. More than half of survey respondents in a 2017 study said they would have been likely to stay had their company taken steps to make the company culture more fair and inclusive.
Pelletier’s journey up the corporate ladder was smooth, but once she was in the boardroom, Pellettier recalled how she used to try and act like the men in the room. They were all confident and utterly sure of themselves, but she was often the only woman in the room, and while she felt supported, the imposter syndrome quickly crept in. Pelletier didn’t feel comfortable chiming in on strategy meetings, and maintaining a brave and calculating face was exhausting.
Once she ditched the copy cat mentality and began entering boardroom meetings as herself, Pelletier said she knew she made the right decision.
“I had all this experience and I was not afraid to lean on it,” she said, referring to her more than eight years in sales.
Dell Technologies and the rest of the tech industry have been pushing to raise the awareness around the lack of diversity and inclusion in tech. Late last year, Dell announced its Moonshot Goals for the next decade, which includes a workforce that is comprised of 50 per cent women. Last year, Microsoft released its first in-depth diversity and inclusion report. It’s a 47-page document that says company-wide, women make up only 27.6 per cent of the workforce. Additionally, only 25 per cent of managerial, 20 per cent of director, and 19.3 per cent of executive roles are filled by women.
There’s room for improvement in the industry, but Pelletier is highly optimistic.
“As I look around, I see more and more women in the industry. I think the only way to continue on this trajectory is to engage younger girls early and focus on education and empowerment and to expose them to the many opportunities tech has to offer,” she said, citing her initial career trajectory as a psychologist. “I did not expect to be working in tech but I’m loving every minute of it.”