Making it clear you know your stuff encourages new starters to upskill and advance, too.
Being treated as the token woman on the team – someone who doesn't really know what she's talking about and is there for decorative purposes – is a phenomenon with which many women working in the Australian ICT industry would likely be familiar.
Fortunately, it's becoming less common than it was a decade or two back when our gender comprised a tiny minority of the high-tech workforce.
Today, women hold 29% of all roles in the sector, according to the Australian Computer Society's Digital Pulse report 2021. There are abundant opportunities for ambitious, intelligent women to pursue interesting and rewarding careers, and we're seeing more of them rising up the ranks in vendor and service provider organisations.
Pushing back against perceptions
When I started out in tech, things were somewhat different. In some pockets of the industry, I ran up against the perception that, as a woman in high-tech sales, I might have a less than fulsome understanding of our offering.
Although understandable, given the deeply entrenched, male-dominated culture for which the industry had long been known, it was galling nonetheless, and it galvanised me to get up to speed as quickly as possible. I made it my business to develop a deep knowledge of the products and services in our range and how they fitted into customers' ICT ecosystems.
Over time, I was able to develop a reputation for being someone who knew what she was talking about: a sales professional who could confidently and competently understand and discuss complex technical requirements and solutions.
Sharing knowledge generously
That experience has led to me making a conscious effort to share my knowledge with new joiners in all the organisations where I've worked.
I do so for two reasons.
Firstly, to help them gain an appreciation for the big picture – how the industry works and what drives customers and reseller partners. Having a more rounded understanding can stand them in good stead in their initial roles and when they put their hands up for promotion a year or two down the track.
Secondly, it reinforces the fact that women in ICT sales can be just as informed and capable as their male counterparts. We're not here to be frothy or decorative: rather, we can perform and excel in the role because we actually know our stuff.
Mentorship and support
I'm also a massive believer in the power of mentorship for women, in large part because I've had the good fortune to have a marvellous mentor myself, in the form of Somerville national sales manager Darren Elsby. I'm one of a large and lucky group of ICT professionals who've benefitted from the insights and expertise he's accrued over three decades in the sector.
It's not overstating the case to say that having his support has been a game-changer for me. That's why I do my best to pay it forward, supporting women in my team and my female peers alike.
I meet regularly with both groups to talk through the issues they, or I, have been experiencing. Hearing about how women I respect have handled certain scenarios helps me improve my own practice and find optimum solutions to challenging issues.
Other times, we're able to add value simply by giving one of our number a confidence boost, reminding them that, regardless of the knock they've received, they're good at their job.
Embracing equity on the ground
For me, that's what embracing equity in ICT looks like at a personal level: those of us walking the path trodden by robust, resilient women in the eighties, nineties and noughties doing our best to widen it for the generation following in our footsteps.
As we come together to celebrate International Women's Day 2023, I couldn't be prouder of the small part I've been able to play in that process.