When I was growing up, my parents made it very clear: I could do anything my brother could do, from playing sports to becoming a doctor. My own mother was an ophthalmologist, so growing up, I understood both parents to be nothing other than equals. That was one of the greatest gifts my family gave to me—a belief that, as a girl, my voice and my talents mattered.
With this type of upbringing, however, comes a certain level of ignorance. For most of my life and throughout my career, I assumed (naively) that momentum was on our side and the invisible forces of progress would even things out soon enough. After moving into senior leadership roles, I’ve realized that while often not intentional, gender-related biases – sometimes overt but most often unconscious – do exist. The pay equity gap, for example, still exists. Parity at executive and board levels still exists. If we really look at where we are, there are barriers – legal, governmental, psychological, and attitudinal barriers of all kinds – that tend to hold women and girls back.
Celebrating Progress on International Women’s Day
However, we have made noteworthy progress too, and it would be both unfair and foolish to argue that we haven’t. There is so much we can point to. On International Women’s Day, we should look back with pride on the amazing work women (including all their supporters) around the world have undertaken to ensure equity and opportunity for themselves. Today is just one day during the year that we can pause, take a breath, and celebrate the achievements of all the trailblazing women who came before us. It is also a good time to remember that in many places across the globe, our mission to build a brighter more equitable world for women remains incomplete.
Building Gender Equity Across the Business
Gender equity was already a seed in my mind that further blossomed upon assuming my role as the executive champion of our DEI program. I am proud to note that 56% of the TPx executive leadership team is women, and we are cognizant of, and work to recognize, the strong talents and important voices of women at every level throughout TPx.
When we invest in women at TPx, we are not only helping them; rather, we are helping the entire company build a better future. One in which TPx women are encouraged to rise and achieve their full potential, which will bring a brighter and more prosperous future for us all.
Most of all, I am so thankful that I found a team of peers (both men and women) who share these important beliefs. At TPx, we celebrate women daily by ensuring that we are creating opportunities for them to pursue, acknowledging certain needs for flexibility, mentoring, instilling confidence, encouraging women to strive for senior leadership roles, leveraging their unique skills, inviting women into the conversation, and, more broadly, educating our entire workforce on inherent biases.
As shared below by several of my inspiring colleagues on the TPx executive team, creating this positive environment isn’t a one-and-done initiative. These women have helped to break down barriers by refusing to acknowledge any limits. Read more below from Chief Revenue Officer, Patti Key, Chief Marketing Officer, Lauren Wickstead, Senior Vice President of Operations, Carol Hilliard, and Senior Vice President of Business Planning & Enablement, Barbara Porter.
1. What do you think TPx can do to support and encourage more women to take on leadership roles?
Patti Key: Have conversations with women about their goals, look for opportunities to allow them to develop and/or demonstrate leadership skills to ensure they are visible and then promote them when the company is looking for leaders.
Lauren Wickstead: We have to be very mindful in our efforts to see women continue to grow and prosper in leadership roles. TPx is demonstrating that by fostering leadership growth for women, it can help transform even the most technical of organizations. With more than half of our executive team being female, along with women playing critical roles in many positions across the company, we are walking the walk. I think it is important to not only use a day like today to highlight these leaders but show a commitment to highlighting throughout the year.
Barbara Porter: In general, women are often not as direct about what they want for themselves. We need to encourage women to speak up about their goals and aspirations regarding their career path, then we can help guide them to achieve those goals within the company.
2. What factors impact a woman’s ability to lead others?
Barbara Porter: Women, just like men, can make great leaders. Women often have incredible multitasking capabilities and interpersonal skills. Whether or not you have children, in their personal lives, women are often the ones people lean on, which can also be the case in the workplace too. What can negatively impact a woman’s ability to lead others is perception. The perception of others can cause some women to second guess themselves or lead women to get taken advantage of. When you overcome stigmas and negative perceptions, there is no impact on a woman’s ability to lead.
Lauren Wickstead: Be yourself, be willing to challenge the status quo, and be willing to listen. As you do so, be fearless, strong, collaborative, and self-aware. Truly being yourself is the most important factor. Authenticity and staying true to your beliefs are critical factors to growth.
3. Describe efforts female leaders can make to support other females?
Carol Hilliard: I think we as women support each other very well at TPx. There is a unity here that you don’t always see in the workplace. The trait that jumps to mind is being genuine with a healthy splash of self-deprecation. As a leader, it’s all about mentorship, how do we help others succeed and navigate the workplace? In part, you must be ok to fail. We all have experienced times in our lives when our attempts to juggle it all goes horribly wrong and we miss something obvious. But it’s how you bounce back and overcome those obstacles that lead to success. Showing our vulnerabilities is a cornerstone to help others step forward and take changes, you will make mistakes and decisions will backfire but that’s okay.
Patti Key: If you see lack of diversity in an area, call it out and encourage those teams to diversify.
Barbara Porter: Keep your eye open for opportunities and help guide qualified women to those roles. Take the time to help them prepare for their future. Encourage training, networking, and other areas to learn for their continued growth. And talk about them to other leaders so they have opportunities to be seen where they otherwise may not have been.
4. What are the benefits to having women in leadership?
Patti Key: Diversity in general allows for different perspectives and ideas to be heard resulting in better solutions and stronger results.
Lauren Wickstead: There are numerous benefits to having women in leadership roles including:
- Diversity – Diversity in perspective and experience.
- Empathy – By nature, female leaders can drive a nurturing, empathetic spirit in an organization.
- Communication and Collaboration – Women thrive on a greater depth of communication and collaboration.
- Humility – Leading with a sense of accomplishment for the greater good.
While none of these traits are simply female traits, they are distinct traits that women leaders I admire have and lead with.
Barbara Porter: Women bring a different viewpoint. We sometimes see things from a different perspective, and this can bring ideas or input that would not have been brought to the table.
5. Do you believe that barriers to females in leadership still exist and how do we overcome these barriers?
Patti Key: Inside telecom, I think TPx is rare where 56% of the Executive Team is female and 50% of the Sales SVPs are female. Overall, I believe there is still a barrier to females in leadership, and the number of women being considered for these roles needs to increase. However, I think it’s significantly better than just five years ago. We need to continue to encourage women in telecom and provide opportunities where women can grow in their careers
Lauren Wickstead: We continue to see these barriers fall with more and more women being appointed to leadership positions. TPx sets a strong example for women in leadership and the value of having individuals that bring diverse perspectives to the table. Being purposeful and mindful in who and how individuals are hired, promoted, and celebrated within the organization.
Barbara Porter: I do, but I think sometimes they are more perceived barriers vs reality. Women have proven their abilities, and we need to stop holding ourselves back. Just like all barriers in life, if it does exist, you work to knock it down!
6. As a female leader, which factors contributed to your success in career advancement?
Carol Hilliard: I learned very early on you cannot succeed without really, really good people, and I became obsessed with developing the people I knew could move mountains. The key though is you also need to innately respect and appreciate diversity in others, this makes a huge impact and has a ripple effect for everyone you manage, so the people you chose to lead and the people they chose to lead need to emulate the same core values. If you get that right and layer on clarity of direction, then it takes off and get to ride the wave with a great team.
Patti Key: I have always been confident enough in my ability to succeed in something new that I could fight off concerns that I might fail. Then, I do whatever it takes to do that new job well. Often for me, that has meant less work life balance. I don’t think that is true for everyone but it’s how I have managed.
TPx’s Culture of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
We are committed to fostering a culture that attracts, develops, and nurtures talent, enables individual growth, and creates an environment where everyone feels included and valued. We believe we are stronger and can achieve more when we work together — with everyone bringing unique experiences and backgrounds.
Do you want to work in an environment that values strong women? Check out TPx’s careers page for more information on your next opportunity.