Hosted by Rise Managing Director Carrie Wootten, the event was aimed at women in the technology sector. The theme of the event was supporting women to know when and how they should #ChooseToChallenge.
The session featured a welcome from our CEO Fernando Kufer, a keynote speech, a panel discussion on mentorship, and a practical workshop—all from the xR stage at our London HQ.
Fernando paid tribute to the women of disguise and shared that the company is increasingly welcoming women to the team, with young women undertaking apprenticeships and internships in technical roles within our teams. He also invited women to find a place in the tech industry, saying women belong and are welcome in tech.
The keynote speaker on the day was Jackie Howes, Director of Media and Infrastructure Architecture at Discovery. Jackie’s keynote shared the #ChooseToChallenge theme of 2021’s International Women’s Day.
Exploring the concept, Jackie touched on how “challenging” can negatively affect women in the workplace. But, as she pointed out: “As soon as you start talking about choosing to challenge, everything changes. Choice means freedom; it means power.”
Reflecting on her 25-year career, Jackie covered three aspects of challenge that she’s encountered: challenging oneself, challenging others, and being challenged.
Challenge yourself in the tech industry
As a black woman in tech, Jackie shared how she’s met few others like her in the industry over her career. She said those in minorities are told exactly what boxes they belong to and how others see them: “This image can have a detrimental impact on our lives, on our dreams and ambitions. To challenge what we expect of ourselves is an important way that we can fight against other people's definitions of who we are.”
Jackie shared that even though she hates public speaking, she challenged herself to give this keynote address, which allows her to challenge what kind of boxes others might put her in.
Challenge others in the tech workplace
Even though there can be a perception that women who challenge in the workplace are difficult or problematic, Jackie explained that she had made a conscious choice to challenge her senior leaders about their decisions.
She pointed out that women should get comfortable, asking why decisions are being made and why specific routes are chosen. Understanding and team unity can be strengthened when this is done respectfully. Regularly challenging others has built Jackie’s reputation for being an excellent sounding board and an independent thinker.
As a leader herself, Jackie talked about how she has fostered the same willingness to challenge her team by encouraging their confidence to challenge her own decisions. In doing so, she’s created checks and balances which push her to do the best possible job.
In closing, Jackie likened the choice to challenge to social movements of the last few years. “We've seen the power of voices choosing to challenge. The #MeToo movement and the Black Lives Matter movement have profoundly impacted people throughout the world and me. These movements had an impact because individuals decided to stand up and to challenge.”
Following Jackie’s keynote, a panel of Rise mentors and mentees, including disguise’s Chief Commercial Officer Tom Rockhill, discussed when to challenge and champion as a mentor. They also touched on how to build confidence and trust, along with the importance of mentoring, particularly for women in the tech industry. All the panellists agreed that it’s important to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and to be unafraid of being challenged because it encourages growth.
The penultimate activity was a practical session on how to present a challenge in the workplace effectively. Actor and corporate trainer Emily Plumtree gave a practical workshop giving tips about better communication when presenting a challenge to someone else, covering aspects like posture and stance to convey confidence and control. She also covered how relaxation makes you feel less nervous, along with the importance of eye contact.
disguise’s Chief People Officer, Lorna Bains, wrapped up the event and summarised the learnings from the session. She used her time to underline the necessity and responsibility of challenges. Lorna highlighted the importance of balance between being supported and challenged, echoing the panellists’ discussion about choosing when to challenge or champion, pointing out that either one in excess won’t help your career growth. She finished up by encouraging attendees to challenge themselves and challenge someone else in the weeks that followed.