NDA’s Digital Women series is talking to leaders from across our industry to understand the particular issues faced by women. Next up is Kudzai Mubaiwa, Head of Performance at Spark Foundry.
What is the biggest opportunity for women in your sector of the digital industry today?
The industry has expanded exponentially over the past few years which has brought new opportunities in tech, data science, analytics and, most recently, with the rise of AI. We are slowly starting to see more women in senior leadership positions, but there is still work to be done. The industry can do more to nurture female talent by providing pathways and opportunities that will open doors to these leadership positions.
The biggest opportunity is making sure enough women are put forward for these leadership positions and creating the right environment for them to thrive once they’re in them.
What is the biggest challenge to you as a woman in the digital industry and how are you overcoming it?
I’d like to encourage more women to put themselves forward for all roles in tech and data, because digital, data and tech are all areas that women should be a part of and experts in. Despite progress in some areas, we still often see male-only panels and less women overall speaking at big tech industry events. Female role models are crucial and the best way to encourage more women into these roles.
What three things could employer companies do to make the digital industry better for women?
Employers need to be hyper aware of the gender and diversity makeup of their employees and senior teams. If you are in a senior leadership team, look around the room, your team or your peers – what do you see? If everyone around you is alike, then start asking yourself why and think about how you can change this. Employers should be actively working to create diverse and inviting workspaces. Representation matters in all forms, and it starts from the top.
Nurture talent early on and create pathways for women to see the possibility of being in senior leadership and C-suite roles. Throughout my career, I have often been the only female in a room and almost always the only black person.
Looking forwards, it didn’t feel like there was room for me at the top because opportunities appeared to be created for others. A structure that creates opportunities, promotes growth and showcases diversity at the senior levels opens doors to these possibilities. I urge employers not to lose sight of the talent that is coming through the door.
I have found mentorship and coaching both extremely useful in my career. I have been fortunate to have had some great experiences with coaches that helped me navigate challenging times. These have all come from other female leaders, which is great, but I would love to see more male allies supporting in the coaching and mentorship of women in the industry.
What support structures and organisations are most important and effective to you as a woman in the digital industry?
Coaching has been a really great tool for me. Having an impartial third party go through some of the challenges is certainly helpful for those times when you are plagued with imposter syndrome.
I have also found that personalised training that is based on your leadership and personality to be very effective. Not all of us are extroverts, but this doesn’t take away from our ability to lead effectively. Structures that allow women (and everyone) to be themselves and accept their authentic voice will be the most effective in the industry.
What is the biggest misconception about women and by women in the digital industry?
The notion that women must be dominant, borderline aggressive or loud to be heard in a room of male voices. That in certain situations you need to almost ‘code switch’ to be accepted. Times have changed and I am so pleased to see that our peers are educating themselves and each other to remove this stereotype.
We have seen so much celebration of women’s talents and their achievements in the last decade or so and I can’t wait to see this continue to grow.