Aug 02 2023

Women in Tech Discuss Resilience

Industry leaders gathered for CDW’s Women in Tech Leadership Forum to discuss adaptability in the face of constant change.

In recent years, the tech industry has witnessed a remarkable transformation, with a surge in the number of women occupying leadership positions. These trailblazing women have shattered the glass ceiling, defying gender stereotypes and showcasing unparalleled resilience while navigating the traditionally male-dominated tech landscape.

On July 20, industry leaders from across the country gathered for CDW’s Women in Tech Leadership Forum to discuss this shift, both in terms of what has been accomplished and what is to come. 

Presented by CDW’s Women's Opportunity Network, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and the Chicago Red Stars women's soccer team, keynote speakers included Red Stars Assistant General Manager Babett Peter and Marketing and Communications Director Rachel Parrish. These women, along with many others, shared their stories.

The topic of this year’s forum was resilience. Speakers shared their insights and strategized on how businesses can pave the way to a strong future in the technology sector.

Click the banner below to learn more about the biggest tech trends of 2023.

Defining Resilience: What Does It Mean for Women Today?

“Resilience is the ability to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity,” said Stephanie Hagopian, vice president of security at CDW. It enables individuals, teams and organizations to overcome challenges, recover from setbacks and continue to grow and succeed.

“As you adapt to change, hold true to your core values and care for other people in these moments,” she said. Kim Carlton, director of the Americas Partner Program at Intel, added that “resilience is about tapping into  your mental, emotional and behavioral skills so you can stay flexible and ultimately succeed.”

For Brenda Dennis, former Cisco employee, one of the best ways to foster resilience is to stay curious. Whether your organization is discussing generative AI, enterprise security or hybrid cloud models, "IT leaders need to repeatedly come back to this idea of being curious," she said.

"Staying agile is also about incorporating new information into your strategy. If you don't understand how to solve a problem, learn as much as possible as you can. Dedicate ten minutes a day to talk to people in your teams and ask questions," she said.

To adopt an attitude of resourcefulness, experts encouraged IT leaders to demonstrate a growth mindset so their teams can tackle problems with curiosity and humility. "As a tech leader you can't get stuck in the old way of doing things," Dennis added. It is this very inertia that will prevent companies from driving towards new advances.

“Whenever we send out communications with our teams, we mention resilience,” said Nicole Robinson, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. For Robinson, organizational resilience means raising morale, restoring energy and reactivating investment  in your company’s mission.

“How do we heal the healers? Heal ourselves? Heal the community? Especially after a major setback, resilience is key,” she said.

LEARN MORE: Why change is a must as women advance in tech.

Steps to Achieving Resilience: Advice from Experts

IT leaders at the forum, including those from companies such as HP, Cisco and APC, also viewed resilience as a key indicator of future success. It's about learning from your mistakes and keeping perspective. “Part of resilience is de-personalizing the failure,” said Adam Compton, director of strategy at Schneider Electric. “Just think, ‘This is not about me; this is about what we’re trying to accomplish.’”

In short, focus less on the stumble and more on the recovery strategy. The trick, Compton said, is to shift gears efficiently while empowering your teams.

Building a Resilient Mindset to Set Up Your Team for Success

Throughout the forum, IT leaders shared personal anecdotes on how they achieved resilience in their work and personal lives. The stories ranged from surviving cancer to playing professional sports to reassuring staff amid inflation, layoffs and company-wide change.

For the Chicago Red Stars' Peter, who is a former professional soccer player, resilience starts with a sense of inner strength and confidence. “No matter what the situation is, no matter what I'm facing, I have the power to show up. I have the mindset that’s going to help me persevere through this.”

To harness this power, experts suggested following the three R’s:

  • Resiliency: The ability to change, adapt and stay flexible
  • Resourcefulness: An inclination toward curiosity, innovation and searching for new solutions
  • Reaction: The choice to express a balanced response to complex situations
Brenda Dennis Headshot
IT leaders need to repeatedly come back to this idea of being curious.”

Brenda Dennis Former Cisco Employee

DIG DEEPER: How are IT leaders strategically replatforming?

A Future-Focused Roadmap for Continued Resiliency

As women leaders at this forum showed, it's not just about reaching the top but also lifting others as you climb. To stay competitive in the face of constant change IT leaders must train themselves to be resilient. For CDW vice president of technology enablement and strategy, Mike Kennedy, it’s about repetition and an intentional choice to form a habit of resiliency.

There’s also the psychological dimension of resilience, which involves embracing uncertainty. “If you continue to grow, if you challenge your status quo, if you do the uncomfortable — both personally and professionally — you will teach yourself to be resilient and overcome the next obstacle,” Carlton said.

PeopleImages/Getty Images

Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT