How Oracle NetSuite is breaking the bias for women in tech

The tech giant is accelerating the pace of gender equality in the industry

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, DiversityQ spoke with Nicky Tozer, Senior Vice President at Oracle NetSuite, to discuss how to #BreakTheBias in tech.

How do you see gender bias manifest in the tech workplace today?

At Oracle, we feel that innovation starts with inclusion. Our technology is designed for the wide diversity of people who use it. Therefore, the more diversity we can include in our organisation, the better we are as a business and inclusive of society’s needs.

We still see  gender bias manifesting in a lot of the ways it always has done, in terms of the the sheer volume of men there might be in tech organisations and in leadership positions versus the number of women and roles they occupy.

Gender bias is improving, but tech firms must continue to drive through programmes that challenge that status-quo to see more women in organisations and leadership roles and a more diverse representation of the world.

What long-term preventative measures should companies be implementing?

Tech organisations have a role to play in helping to educate and excite young girls interested in STEM and the various roles open to them in the sector.

For example, Oracle Academy, Oracle’s global, philanthropic educational programme, is committed to advancing computing education for everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status. The programme offers a curriculum aimed at engaging young girls.

In our Redwood Shores location in the US, we opened a public school for high school students who might not be able to go to a school that provides technology-focused opportunities driven by innovation and creation.

Oracle has also focused on harnessing the power of women already in our workplaces through the launch of our Oracle Women’s Leadership initiative, helping women explore other opportunities with confidence and our investment. We have expanded the network by 81% in the last year and now have 1,700 women in various development processes, and we’re working with over 100 communities and 200 plus leaders.

Is there one initiative of which you are particularly proud?

I love our global Oracle Women’s Leadership programmes and events but always feel an added sense of pride when we do these at a local level.

Our events comprise a group of panellists in leadership roles or subject matter experts, and we recently held one about the importance of supporting other women. The feedback reminded the women who have been in tech for a while that gender bias is a very new experience for the young women entering the sector. It gives you a great sense of pride when they tell you, ‘Wow, this is some amazing insight, and I would never have thought of dealing with this particular situation in this way’.

What were your experiences of gender bias, and what organisational support would have helped?

There have been two separate but similar examples of gender bias that spring to mind. First, back at the start of my career, in meetings with a group of mainly men, I would be asked to make the tea. I would respond with ‘are you asking me because I’m a woman,’ and then suggest, ‘I’ll make the first ones; how about one of you guys goes and makes it next time.’ I choose to take these situations in my stride because, if you say, ‘how dare you,’ everyone’s embarrassed rather than educated.

And once, when I was running an event as the VP for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) [at the time], one of the partners came into the room saying he was looking for the VP of EMEA [assuming he was meeting a man].

A lot of the Oracle Women’s Leadership events include anecdotal experiences and what women could do if it happens to them. To help reduce those experiences, it’s our responsibility as women in senior roles to help to educate those people that unconsciously or subconsciously make these comments.

I’ve been a woman in a male technology world for most of my career, and for most of that, there were no women’s leadership groups to help support or guide me during my journey. I just dealt with it along the way.

How can tech firms acknowledge International Women’s Day in a respectful and non-tokenistic manner to make more impact?

They need to have a measurable programme they can reflect on with proof that it helped. We’re running several events, mostly under our Oracle Women’s Leadership Program, covering various topics.

Women executives will be sharing their experiences on career progression, customers will be joining panels to discuss hybrid working, and global thought leaders will be talking about redesigning work. Some of our male leaders will discuss their perceptions and how they value women in their teams and the organisation.

We will support these sessions through a programme that follows up, expands on or adds new topics throughout the year to reinforce the messages and continue to measure improvements that we make.

What part do female leaders play in the gender equity equation in workplaces? Should they be mentors and advocates for other women?

Only five years ago, women in senior positions could be quite competitive with each other because there wouldn’t be very many of those roles around.

Now, we see women act as allies, mentors and advocates for other women in and out of their organisations. Still, how much of this they do may depend on where they are in their careers.

Hence, women at the senior level must use their influence to lobby in support of junior women progressing through their careers. None of us knows everything, and we all need a bit of help now and again.

How can men, especially in leadership positions, be effective allies to women in the workplace?

Men absolutely have a vital role to play in developing women’s opportunities further. Men still make up most of the workforce and certainly the majority of the leadership workforce. So, this diversity journey will never be completed without their support.

It’s fascinating now how more men are willing and enthusiastic to participate in women’s leadership programmes. And I think there are two reasons for that. One is that they see the value that diversity brings to their organisation with different opinions. But also, they are thinking of the career paths of their daughters, wives, nieces.

This groundswell is now bringing men on board much more, and they, in turn, are encouraging those who are still a little sceptical as well.

Do people see a difference between allyship and advocacy when supporting the inclusion and advancement of women at work?

I’m not sure some would necessarily have thought to make the differentiation. With allyship, you’re talking about supporting groups and communities. If you’re advocating, you’re supporting or influencing decision-makers, etc. These are the important discussions taking place with the introduction of our Executive Diversity Council. It is relatively new terminology regarding diversity and gender bias but a subtle but important one.

How can employers ensure they look after women from diverse backgrounds? What intersectional approaches to anti-bias and support should they be taking?

This question is interesting because it doesn’t just apply to women. We are all multifaceted, and no two individuals have the same desires or needs, something we have to be mindful of when managing inclusion at work.

It is very easy to talk about the need to stamp out gender bias in the workplace, but we also have to remember that there may be biases within genders. We have to ask ourselves if we are meeting the needs of all women within the business or just some. Equally, we also need to care for women working in all scenarios, including working from home.

At Oracle, we have been investing in various diversity topics globally, amongst extremely diverse groups with different skill sets.

How can firms now operating on a hybrid basis ensure women, especially working mothers, don’t miss out on career progression?

It’s challenging because it would be easy to assume it’s easier, but it isn’t.

At Oracle in the US, we launched a career relaunch programme. Many companies will give women who want to return to the workplace an internship. Instead, we’re offering them a permanent role and 12 months of support as they come back to the office and make the adaptations they need to make to their lives. Hopefully, we’ll see that rolled out into the rest of Europe.

We will all need to adjust as we come back to the office. The hybrid approach has proven that we can do the job from home, and it gives us that amount of interaction that we want and need from human beings. But the ability to also balance our lives better with our families.

Finally, what does #Breakthebias mean to you?

Well, I think I’m one of them in many ways. We’ve talked about some of those assumptions that people make about us, and it happens in all walks of life. If you’re talking to a woman, perhaps think before assuming what she does or doesn’t do in an office. That goes the other way as well. Although this is Women’s History Month it’s a good time to think about it from the other side of the fence as well.

You can watch the full interview here.

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