Like finance and banking, the technology sector hasn’t always had the best reputation for warmly welcoming women in business. However, women are challenging this stereotype every day, including two female leaders in global executive roles at GoDaddy.
Ahead of International Women’s Day in March, Laura Messerschmitt, President of GoDaddy’s International Division, and Tamara Oppen, Vice President English Markets covering Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, share their tips.
Read on to learn how you can be unstoppable in business as an entrepreneur or in corporate life.
The GoDaddy women in business breaking the glass ceiling
Laura Messerschmitt didn’t so much find tech as tech found her.
When I went to college, I didn’t plan on majoring in math. But I found out that’s what I was good at.
“During my career, I found out that the skillset I had actually worked well with tech, and that I was attuned to working in tech.’’
After a successful stint at a well-known financial technology company and earning an MBA from Stanford University, the California native joined GoDaddy when it acquired the start-up she was working at in 2012.
Tamara Oppen’s experience in the media industry as a senior publishing and advertising executive helped to inspire a love of the fast-paced tech sector.
“I was definitely drawn to technology because I loved the positive impact that it was having on consumers and communities,’’ she says.
Tamara too is a successful entrepreneur, co-founding a digital consulting firm after running a digital health start-up. Now she plays a global leadership role for GoDaddy from her home office in Sydney, Australia.
The research is clear that diverse teams deliver better business results. And although the number of women in business is growing, they still only make up less than a third of the workforce of large tech firms.
As part of its commitment to diversity and pay parity, GoDaddy publishes annual diversity and salary data. It has also partnered with Stanford to reduce unconscious bias in processes like performance reviews and promotions.
Laura was an integral part of the diversity process when it kicked off in 2013/14, spearheading diversity initiatives in her team.
“The commitment I made for an entire year was that I would have one diverse candidate come in to interview for every job we advertised for senior manager or above,’’ she says.
“That actually led to better hiring outcomes overall. Not only did we hire more diverse candidates, but we actually got better candidates because we brought in people that we wouldn’t have normally thought of.’’
How to get your start-up ready for launch
Both Laura and Tamara have a unique insight into the mindset of entrepreneurs, having built successful businesses themselves. They’ve helped guide a number of GoDaddy customers to do the same.
She says only then will you know if what you’re selling is what your customers actually want to buy.
“If you can even get something small [launched] — it doesn’t have to be perfect — you can get a sense of what will work and what won’t. And that may end up changing your path,’’ she says.
The same applies to launching a website. It doesn’t have to be perfect — it just has to be out there.
“It’s finding out ‘is my idea going to work or is it not going to work?’ And ‘if it’s not going to work, why not?’ so you can make the idea better,’’ she says.
Tamara says technology has often been thought of as a barrier to start-up success, but it need not be with companies like GoDaddy offering simple and effective solutions.
My daughter built a GoDaddy website when she was 10 within an hour.
“As women we tend to be self-critical, and we put up barriers. The beauty of a lot of our products and services is that you do not need to be a tech expert,’’ she says.
Related: How to become an entrepreneur
Working like a boss
With many decades of experience across the corporate and philanthropic sectors, both Tamara and Laura have accumulated a lot of life and business lessons between them.
Here is some of their advice on the some of the common challenges facing women in business.
Why imposter syndrome might be good for you
Tamara says imposter syndrome has a bad reputation. But for a woman in business to feel anxious about a new role could be a sign that she’s made the right move.
“It’s ok to feel it,’’ she says.
“I always ensure that I take roles that are going to challenge me. If I don’t feel nervous before I take a role, then I know it’s in my comfort zone.
“So, it’s very much about challenging myself to move outside of my comfort zone, and inevitably have those feelings of anxiety and a bit of stress about ‘Am I going to be able to do this?’”
What about the elusive work/life balance?
Identifying your core values and honouring them will put you on the path to achieving a greater work/life balance, Laura says.
“To me, it’s knowing the things that matter and the values that matter,’’ she says.
Knowing exactly what you can’t give up and what you can is the key.
“Because you are going to have to make compromises, so make sure the compromises you are making are on those things.”
For Tamara, work/life balance is a myth. She instead tries to be more mindful about how she’s spending her time, like seeking quality over quantity time with her kids.
“You can beat yourself up around ‘But I’m not there for school drop offs or pick ups’ and that used to really bother me,’’ she says.
“Whereas now I’ll pick my daughter up once a week and we’ll walk home together or we’ll go and have a hot chocolate together. That half an hour is so much more valuable than seeing her for five minutes in the car.’’
How to banish imposter syndrome at work
If you have ever experienced imposter syndrome, or that creeping feeling you just aren’t up to the job, you aren’t alone.
Laura says it’s a common feeling among the many women in tech from around the world that she has helped to mentor. Her advice for businesswomen worried about whether they are qualified or “good” enough is to interrogate your fears.
Think through every decision you’re making and what’s the worst that could happen.
“It’s probably not as bad as you think. Why would I not put myself up for a role? Because I might not get it. Ok, well then is that bad?
“Say you don’t get it, but guess what? You raised your hand and now people are aware of you, now you’ve made some relationships with some people you didn’t know before. Now you’ve made it clear that you want that role.’’
How to ask your boss for what you want
Whether it’s a promotion, a new challenge or greater flexibility, asking for what you want in a workplace setting can be confronting for many people, particularly women in business.
Even so, Laura says it’s important to find a way to ask your manager for what you want, as most will want to help you.
“Speak up and tell your manager what you need,” she says. “Particularly your manager, because that’s the person most likely to help you.’’
What you say could be:
- ‘Hey, I’m trying to get a promotion.’
- ‘I’m just trying to learn something new.’
- ‘I’m actually not trying to get promoted right now, I’m trying to balance my life.’
“Be communicative about what you want to achieve,” suggests Laura.
How to look after your mental health at work
The importance of mental health at work rocketed into corporate consciousness during the COVID-19 pandemic and the many extended lockdowns and work-from-home orders.
Tamara says the book Mentally At Work by Genevieve Hawkins helped her to understand the importance of connections to self and to others to enhance productivity.
You’ve got to have an awareness of your own mental health and how you are thinking and feeling.
“I realised the mistakes that I made in whenever I used to get busy, I would cut things like gym classes and Pilates. The things that really helped me manage stress, I would cut out! That would only exacerbate the problem.’’
Now she says, she prioritises exercising and meditation every day to help manage her mental health.
These women in business are lighting the way — for you
The tech industry may still be a largely male dominated space, but more women are moving ahead in business. It’s thanks in part to people like Laura and Tamara, who are breaking through glass ceilings and empowering other women to do the same.
Editor’s note: Working for yourself? GoDaddy can help set you up with its free logo maker, free website builder and productivity tools like Microsoft 365, including the world-famous suite of products (Excel, PowerPoint, etc).