Women in business leadership: breaking the silicon ceiling

Microsoft’s First Women in Business Leadership Dinner brought together a group of remarkable and accomplished women to discuss the opportunities and challenges for women in top jobs.

Thursday 1st November marked the first Women in Business Leadership Dinner, a part of Microsoft’s Executive Circle programme. It was attended by a group of remarkable and accomplished women, who heard from Jacky Wright, VP of Microsoft Strategic Enterprise Services, and Dr. Ruth Sealy, Deputy Director of the International Centre for Women Leaders.

Women from many industries were present, including representatives from Royal Mail, Centrica Energy and Goldman Sachs. Dr. Sealy was particularly interested to meet the woman who was responsible for bringing Wi-Fi into Starbucks in the UK, noting that the event really highlighted how “tech reaches into everything”.

Microsoft hopes that events like these will begin to amplify the message that you no longer have to have a background in IT or work for a traditional tech company for technology to be relevant in an executive role. The main aim is to reach out and engage with more talented and high-achieving women to bridge the corporate gender gap in IT.

Dr. Sealy focused on this goal during her talk and discussed ways to dispel and disprove some of the most prevailing myths still bouncing around the boardroom:

#1 Give it time, it will sort itself out: Backed by the incentives and targets initiated by the Davies report, the last 18 months have seen the same increase in the number of women at board level in the FTSE 250 and 100 that it took a decade to achieve without them

#2 I would hire a woman, but I can’t find one: Schemes such as 100 Women to Watch and investigations into recruitment practices show this is simply not credible

#3 Women lack ambition: Girls exceed boys at school. More women attend university, get better degrees and achieve postgraduate qualifications. This ambition does not disappear. Research suggests that instead, it is altered by context as women fail to find anyone to relate to at the highest levels.

The attendees subsequently engaged in wide-ranging conversations, exchanging histories, describing their involvement with technology and discussing ideas for bringing more women into IT at all levels. Dr. Sealy said the women had recognised the amazing things that they had all achieved in really quite difficult circumstances during their careers. Best of all, Dr. Sealy noted, “it was encouraging to hear that they are actively supporting and encouraging the next generation of women.”

By Matthew Stibbe
Microsoft Enterprise Team