Women in Tech: “Don’t be intimidated by the male dominated environment”
A study by the National Center for Women & Information Technology found that ‘gender diversity has specific advantages in tech environments’, which could explain why tech companies have started investing in initiatives to increase the number of applicants. women, to recruit them more effectively, retain them longer and give them the opportunity to evolve. But is it enough?
Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing your attention to the most inspiring and powerful women in the tech scene. Today we would like to introduce you to Gilli Haizler, COO of Razor Labs.
The Tech Woman of Today: Gilli Haizler, COO of Razor Labs
Haizler is a lawyer with a BA and an LLM from Bar-Ilan University as well as an MBA from the Kellogg-Recanati School of Management at Tel Aviv University. In her most recent role, she was CEO of Promarket, an Israeli marketing and production company. She has over 15 years of practical experience in marketing and has acted as a project manager specializing in strategy, marketing, commercial and legal negotiation, legal advice, business and business development, management crisis, financial and operational management, leading the company to finalize advantageous and sensitive offers, win auctions and increase budget efficiency.
When did you first get interested in technology?
I got interested in technology from a young age and even became one of the first to adopt new features and technologies as I grew older. Until recently, a period of my career took me down a path away from technology.
How did you find yourself in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?
At the end of my military service, I attended law school and participated in an excellence program. At 24, I had both my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree in law. I spent 2 years working as a lawyer for bigger law firms, then I felt like I wanted to change gears.
I plunged into my new role, going above and beyond, while juggling time spent with family. Slowly but surely things started to fall into place. I am very proud to have been the first female CEO of the company in 30 years, and even more proud to have had the opportunity to help move the company forward before that, as COO.
Has anyone ever tried to prevent you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
Well, that doesn’t seem totally unheard of. When I was 40, I decided to switch to a completely different industry. I really wanted to grow more in the tech space and was eager to find a role in which I could truly find my calling. But soon after I started telling people that I was considering a change of pace and profession, I received rather mixed reactions.
Some have told me that I was making a mistake, that with my age and my position in life, it would not be smart to start a career in a new industry. The consensus was that a big change at this point would be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve successfully. It was probably these voices that motivated me even more to prove that with the right courage and determination, a change like this is possible.
I wanted to prove that you can occupy a demanding management position while being a good mother.
A day in the life of Gilli
I believe that start-ups are a great place for anyone who wants to learn the tech industry and be a part of the changing world. I joined Razor Labs, an artificial intelligence company developing smart solutions for industrial manufacturing, because I believe that our technology can significantly contribute to the change of the manufacturing industry and the revolution of Industry 4.0. We all deserve a more efficient, productive and environmentally friendly world.
Today, in my role as Company COO, every day is different as I immerse myself in many different aspects of the business. I lead the operations of the company by helping to build the infrastructure and procedures required to establish an advanced delivery system for customers. This will really help advance Razor Labs’ short and long term growth goals.
What are you most proud of in your career?
The fact that I believe that I am a mother. I’ve been raising my kids apart from their dad for 6 years, and I haven’t let that hold my career back or keep me from climbing the ladder. On the contrary, it made me work harder. I wanted to prove that you can occupy a demanding management position while being a good mother.
Why aren’t there more women in tech? What is your opinion on this?
I think young women don’t see enough other women in high tech positions. Having more women in leadership positions could help set an encouraging precedent for women to be better represented in leadership positions. The more young women see female CEOs, CTOs, COOs and other leadership positions being interviewed on news, posting on social media and speaking at conferences, the more inspired they will be to get into tech.
Can you name some challenges (or obstacles) that women in tech face?
Having children and having a successful tech career is a balancing act that needs to be carefully managed, especially with the added complexities of maternity leave. This can deter ambitious young women from continuing on the same trajectory towards their success.
A second hurdle is unconscious bias, especially early in women’s careers, where they are often overlooked for promotion unless they are very assertive. This means that many deserving candidates never make it past the first rung of the corporate ladder, creating a tighter pipeline of female candidates all the way to senior management.
How would our world be different if more women were working in STEM? What would be the impact (social, economic and cultural)?
The impact of more women working in STEM would be huge. If young women are able to admire other successful women and lead the way, I have no doubt that we will be able to find more girls choosing to study math, science and computer science in school and in university. From a business perspective, I think improving gender diversity will bring different perspectives and increase levels of creativity just by multiplying perspectives. According to McKinsey, companies that have greater gender diversity are more likely to have above-average profitability, which will also have a positive impact on business results.
Any woman who wants a career in tech and is ready to learn and put in the effort can go as far as she wants.
The debate on diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see the results of the current discussion?
I think we’re already starting to see a change in momentum. Awareness has increased. Obviously, we would like to see a workforce that represents more of the diversity of our society, and it’s happening slowly. Much like what we just discussed about women in tech, the larger issue of diversity will require active encouragement from key tech players, from startup founders to academic departments. Frankly, I don’t think it will be long before technology becomes one of the most diverse industries in the developed world and beyond.
What advice (and tips) would you give to women looking for a career in tech? What do they need to know about this industry?
Don’t let the male dominated environment intimidate you. I believe in the not-so-distant future it will be a non-factor and technology will be more diverse – in terms of race, gender, etc. Any woman who wants a career in tech and is ready to learn and put in the effort can go as far as she wants. As Oprah Winfrey said – In life you get what you have the courage to ask for. With these things in mind, nothing really stands in your way.
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