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Women in tech + leadership = a great match


Silvia Cordiglia
08 March 2023
Career at Swisslog Healthcare
Reading Time: 5 min.
We are a medium-sized mechanical engineering company. It is well-known that the proportion of women in this sector is rather low. And you observe a similar phenomenon when you take a look at the proportion of women in leading positions across the EU: 35 % in 2021, according to Eurostat. That’s why we decided to give the women in our company a bigger voice. Naima and Giovanna are combining it both: They’re working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) jobs and they’re leading their teams. We got some insights into their everyday working lives.
Women in tech – Interviewees Giovanna Longo and Naima Mohammed

Empowering women in tech

Since 2022, our Process Engineering team is led by our colleague Giovanna Longo. Together with her three male colleagues, she’s responsible for implementing new and improved production and logistic processes. She had also been a member of the team for one and a half years before being promoted to leadership.

Our team of six for ERP, Business Intelligence & Development Center is also led by a woman – Naima Mohammed – since August 2022. Before that, she had already been part of the IT team for several years. Now she is leading IT initiatives on a global level, taking care of analytical software solutions, and being responsible for the integration of web solutions.

Naima Mohammed, Team Lead ERP, BI & Business Development Center at Swisslog Healthcare

I’m passionate about my team, and my focus is on ensuring IT delivers high-quality projects. I lead a team of 5 people; 3 of them are women. It wasn’t an intentional decision to hire women. It was a decision to provide competent, collaborative, and committed individuals with an opportunity to grow – regardless of their gender.

Naima Mohammed

In general, women are rare in IT and tech jobs, but fortunately, that doesn't apply to our company. What do you think makes Swisslog Healthcare different compared to other companies?

Naima: In general, I feel that Swisslog Healthcare is very open to new talents and that everyone with a genuine idea is given an opportunity regardless of their background. Management teams I have worked with are transparent and approachable, which makes employees feel confident to speak up.

Giovanna: I see it in a similar way. I feel like the leaders of our company are free from bias when it comes to recruiting new talent or promoting staff. Evaluating the skills and professionalism of the individual is the only thing that matters.

 

Please be honest – where do we have room for improvement?

Giovanna: From my point of view, it would be great for us as a company, or rather, as an employer, to become even more visible to women on the job market. I'm happy that, through this interview, I can maybe draw a little bit of attention to us.

Naima: If I could make a wish, it would be raising even more awareness among the employees about the advantages of a gender diverse and inclusive workforce.

 

You are not only working in STEM jobs but also in leadership positions. What challenges do women in the technology industry with team lead positions face?

Giovanna: You can read many articles about the difficulties that women in leadership roles face every day: the lack of women in senior roles who promote other women, the lack of flexibility, cultural resistance towards female leadership, the gender pay gap, etc. But the most important ones for me are the prejudices that are still deeply rooted in our society. To overcome this, we need to already start in schools because, objectively speaking, even within the STEM area there is an imbalance. Women are less likely to pursue technical degrees such as mechanical or electronic engineering. They tend more towards degrees in energy, biomedical management, etc.

Naima: I think that, unfortunately, income gaps and growth opportunities are still prevalent everywhere in the world. That continues to be a major challenge.

 

Have you been confronted with prejudices in your careers so far? And if so, how did you deal with it?

Naima: Fortunately, I have noticed that only a few people tend to be obstructive or agree more with suggestions from their male counterparts. This may be part of their unconscious bias. I try to be transparent, assertive, and let my actions speak when I deal with such incidents.

Giovanna: For me it’s a bit different. Since the beginning of my career I had to deal with people that are not very willing to collaborate with a woman. However, over the years I have learned to manage such situations. Usually, when I join a team of only men, I introduce myself, I tell my story, I seek an open dialogue before issuing orders. I ask for their point of view on the relevant topics. This way, I value their opinions and it makes their unconscious bias vanish: They don’t just see my gender but respect me as a colleague and as their team leader. Of course, this doesn’t work all the time but the success rate is quite high.

Giovanna Longo, Head of Manufacturing Engineering

Gender should not be an issue in the workplace. For me, it is important that we meet as equals in the team.

Giovanna Longo

Do you have some advice for (young) women who also want to reach positions like yours?

Giovanna: Sure! Demonstrate your abilities with humility in your daily work and never stop learning from others.

Naima: Aspire high, dream big, and do more. You never know what you are capable of until you start giving 100 %. It applies to everything in life.

 

Why is it important, from your point of view, to also have women in the STEM environment?

Naima: I think that women can bring a fresh approach and offer unique perspectives when it comes to challenges and problem solving. The more women enter the tech industry, the more we can bridge the gender gap because we have role models for young women and future generations.

Giovanna: In my opinion, it is true that men’s and women’s brains work differently. We should see this as a benefit because the differences don’t counteract each other. They complement each other and let teams thrive. A successful company must have any type of gender at leadership level because together we achieve better results.

 

Thanks for your time and insights! Your experience shows that women and STEM are a great match.

About the author

As Head of HR for Italy, Silvia Cordiglia takes care of our colleagues located on our Italian sites Cuneo and Maranello.


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