What are the challenges to being a female leader in tech, and how can starters learn from leaders to be successful in their careers? In celebration of International Women's Day, we wanted to hear from women in technology, specifically on the topics of diversity in the workplace, work-life balance, and mentoring. In this interview, we speak to Susan Gittings: leader, consultant and mother.
Can you share a little about what you do at inlumi and what philosophy drives you to deliver the best every day?
As a Consulting Director for inlumi and the Country Lead for our consulting practice in The Netherlands, my role includes everything from business development, practice management, team leadership, coaching and mentoring and finally, my client-facing, project delivery focus area. At inlumi, we are a team of specialists in digital transformation for the office of the CFO, offering advisory, technology implementation, managed operations, and education services. In short, I work in the very interesting intersection of business, finance and technology.
Innovation drives me. I believe that everything that we do can be improved upon the next time around by constantly applying what we have learnt along the way. I fear stagnation and the thought that any status quo is forever.
How have you managed to juggle a career and family life, and do you have any advice to other young women looking to do the same?
First off, I absolutely get the point of this question in the spirit of the interview and I am more than happy to share my experience and my views. But we need to reflect on why none of my male colleagues would ever have been asked this question in their careers. My hope is not that we stop asking this question, but instead that the question is asked of all working parents, regardless of gender.
But, to your question.
I often think back to when I first became a “Working Mom” and I remember just how tough it was. For me, it was not tough because of a lack of support. On the contrary, my husband and I have always had a great mutual respect for each other’s ambitions and careers, and we have always shared our childcare responsibilities.
Instead, for me, it was tough because of the inner struggle I was dealing with. I had a severe bout of “Mom guilt” - I felt guilty for wanting a career when “society” told me I should be at home raising my children. I felt guilty for loving my family AND my career. These feelings were exacerbated by being in a male-dominated industry, where the lack of female colleagues made me really question whether I was doing the right thing.
But that was some time ago. I remember having a turning point when I read two books, the first being Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and the second being Tilt: 7 Solutions to be a Guilt-Free Working Mom by Marci Fair. Those books gave me the reassurance that I was not “wrong” or “greedy” for wanting both, and they helped me realise that I could be true to myself. So, I dropped the guilt and I stopped being apologetic for pursuing my career.
Does this mean it is always easy? Absolutely not! There are often times when life is just too busy and when there is an overwhelming sense that the “juggle is real”. In these times, I call on the support network I consciously established, I remember to breathe, and I give my children extra long hugs. Eventually the busy-ness passes, and I remember why it’s all worth it - because I know that I am fulfilled by my family and by my career, and I am committed to making them co-exist.
My advice to young women is to know what you want and believe you can achieve it.