Male managers need to step up and support women
By Deirdré Van Rooy, Altron Systems Integration
All leaders need to take responsibility for uplifting women and developing female talent, says Deirdré Van Rooy, Head of Marketing and Communications at Altron Systems Integration. With most managerial positions still occupied by men, this is not a job that should only fall to women.
“Men need to do more,” she says. “If they are honest with themselves and listen to our experiences as women, they would see they’ve been elevated all the time. The question is, are they uplifting their female colleagues and direct reports? Yes, women need to uplift other women, but men still need to do more.
“I’ve been fortunate to have had both male and female leaders in my career, each with its own dynamics but only a few memorable instances where I felt encouraged and motivated to grow and succeed. I’m grateful to those who’ve mentored and coached me and invested of themselves, even if it was just their time, to see me succeed, and that I wish for every woman.”
Van Rooy says it’s important to profile women and recognise talent at all career levels, including junior employees. She is making a personal commitment to highlight the women who “are smart, making a difference and doing great work, but they’re ordinarily in the shadows. We need to bring those people to the foreground and make it known that they exist,” she says. This takes on particular significance in the IT industry, which is still heavily male-dominated.
She’s determined that her voice be heard and says women do have a particular responsibility to speak up. “Are you raising your voice, are you giving input, do people hear from you? Are you actively involved in bringing about change?”
Admittedly, this can require courage to speak out on issues that would otherwise be overlooked. “Even if you get negative feedback, you can turn it into a positive. Sometimes we have to make this known, that whatever the feedback, it is the right thing to do,” she says.
On an industry level, marketing’s image as female-dominated can work against it, with men in more technical or financial roles assuming that marketing is primarily about events and promotions. Van Rooy says women in this position need to work doubly hard, firstly to secure the trust of their colleagues, and secondly to show strategic value. “The challenge will always be there, and the question is, are you adding value?”
Van Rooy’s personal mantra is “choose your hard”.
“You can either complain about your health or your career or you can put the hard work in to make it better,” she explains. Either choice is hard.
“I’m starting to choose things differently, like how I view the space I occupy in the world, what type of friend I want to be, choosing to be more conscious of my health and more focused on my mental well-being. I’m also making other choices that bring about a certain level of happiness, choosing the comfort of my family and choosing to be present and connected to my family and friends. My choices are changing because I’m more present and intentional about what I’m choosing,” she says.
Women’s Month is important because women’s achievements aren’t always recognised – and women themselves tend to stay quiet.
“Women achieve so much but we downplay it all the time. We’re always so concerned with what the other person thinks. But I’ve earned the right to be here, I’ve achieved certain things, and I’m not going to apologise for it. Don’t douse your own flames. Let your light shine and own it,” says Van Rooy.