There are three important ways female HR professionals can break through the glass ceiling in the male-dominated IT industry, according to global head of HR for cybersecurity firm Intel Security, Chatelle Lynch.
The first step involves trust and reputation, and Lynch said that it is important to deliver on commitments and build a track record of trust in organisations.
“A few years ago I remember I was working on the design and launch of a new compensation program that I had fought hard to get buy-in for and needed to implement against a really strict deadline,” she said.
“It was tough, but my boss at the time said to me ‘Chatelle, I know it’s not going to be easy, but I’m not worried: you said you could do this and you always deliver.’
“The point is, what you commit to matters. Your reputation matters,” said Lynch.
“Be open and transparent, don’t make empty promises.
“Make compromises where you need to but once you commit, you need to deliver.”
Intel Security, which is the world’s largest dedicated security technology company with some 8000 employees globally, is currently going through a major transition in that will become a joint venture between Intel and TPG Capital called McAfee.
Lynch, who was born in Melbourne but now based in Texas, joined Intel Security as a compensation analyst in 2005 before working her way up through the company to be appointed global head of HR in 2015.
“Be open and transparent, don’t make empty promises”
Lynch also said it was important for female professionals to own their wins, as well as their failures.
“Women can sometimes be all too good at acknowledging when something doesn’t work out and how we’re going to do better next time, but then shy away from praise or recognition when we have those wins,” she said.
“Be proud and celebrate your achievements – they are often hard fought so we need to own them.”
Lynch also plays an active role in McAfee’s WISE (women in security) “affinity group”, which is designed to engage and support the growth, empowerment and success of professional women (of which there are about 800 in the group) within the broader company.
A third important step is to be inquisitive and take calculated risks, according to Lynch.
“I don’t like doing things a certain way just because that’s how we’ve always done it,” she said.
“Sometimes taking a step back, getting outside opinions, or just giving your team or your employees the freedom to think a bit differently and take a new approach can unlock amazing opportunities.
“It sounds cliché – but don’t be afraid to fail, where you have the opportunity and freedom to do so.
“Stay hungry to learn and find out more and then find new ways to address those challenges or opportunities.”
“If you have a seat at the table – you better be prepared to either use it or lose it”
Reflecting on her current role and career progression over the years, Lynch said there had also been a number of important lessons learned – the first of which is to “trust your gut”.
“It shouldn’t surprise you that as a HR person I’ve finely tuned my ability to read people, as well as situations,” she said.
“If my instincts are telling me something is off, or conversely if I should take a leap of faith, then I do.
“This has yet to fail me so far.”
The second most important lesson learned is to “speak up”, according to Lynch, who recalled earlier in her career that she would often be invited to big meetings or events and overthink her recommendations or input.
“I wish I could tell myself back then to speak up,” she said.
“Use your voice. If you have a seat at the table – you better be prepared to either use it or lose it.”
Lynch said this was particularly important for HR at the executive table when it came to significant organisational changes – such as the upcoming McAfee transition and associated challenges such as culture change.
“While leaders may define and set a strategy for the company culture, ultimately it comes down to the employees on how they embrace it,” she said.
“It’s important to me to get buy-in early on from every part of the organisation and from as many employees as I can to make sure not only we’re going in the right direction, but also hear what’s working or not.”
“Especially within cybersecurity, it’s an employee’s market in many countries around the world”
One associated program which the business has been running for almost 12 months is called “culture champions”, which comprises volunteers across the organisation who are passionate about making Intel Security (and the soon to be McAfee) “the employer of choice” in the industry.
“We’ve had great success with gaining employee feedback into what kind of a company they want to be a part of – this is an often once in a lifetime opportunity for employees to be masters of their own destinies and really shape the future of our business,” she said.
“Tied to our culture initiative, we recognise that especially within cybersecurity, it’s an employee’s market in many countries around the world.
“We’re facing a deficit of up to 2 million jobs globally by 2020.
“This means leaders need to put a lot more focus on the employee experience, how do we not only attract but also retain key talent,” said Lynch.
“Linked to this is work we need to do to bridge the gap between millennials and baby boomers where we know motivations and drivers for job satisfaction vary greatly.”
Technology is also playing a big role in the expectations of a leader to be much more accessible than ever before, she observed.
“Employees want to feel they know and trust leadership, and so whether it’s webcasts, videos or social media, giving more and more insight into the lives of our executives and their motivations and expectations, helps us to bring the employee along on the journey,” she said.