Around the world, individuals and organizations are contributing to the International Women’s Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge campaign in a rich variety of ways.
To help play our part, we invited senior women executives from various departments to a roundtable discussion. They reflected deeply on the role that gender plays in a tech-heavy workplace, and shared how (and indeed if) they feel supported as women within the company.
Discover their thoughts on topics ranging from female leadership and empowerment to remote-work–friendly policies, and how the right company culture has a massive part to play.
Introducing our participants for the International Women’s Day Roundtable:
- Kat Mariani – Internal Communications Lead, People Team
- Anna Quirk – Director, People
- Marina Zhuravlova – Head of Namecheap Platform and Digital Marketing
- Nicole Miller – Director of Finance
- Emily Jacob – Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Manager
- Marina Savina – Product Manager, Domains
- Andreea Constantinescu – CreativeLab Director
- Elpida Moutsiou – Global Marketing Manager, Domains
- Cristina Dias – Senior UX Manager
- Nata Trusova – Director of Customer Support
Have We Moved Beyond Gender?
In 2019, 29% of senior management roles globally were held by women, the highest number ever on record, and 87% of businesses had at least one woman in a senior management role. Yet at Namecheap, more than half of the company’s leaders are women.
And what seems clear is that gender distinctions in the workplace feel like a thing of the past for this group of Namecheap leaders and managers. As Emily Jacob observes, “the key ingredients to becoming successful and inspiring others are the same across genders and industries, large or small.”
Marina Savina is adamant that what matters are “the skills, competencies, and actual results the person delivers, and it doesn’t matter whether you are a woman or a man.” Kat Mariani backs this point, mentioning that “showing your passion for your work through your action, pace, flexibility, and curiosity. This is universal, in my opinion, not gendered.”
A Few Rays From the Gender Prism
A traditional reading of gender-normative preferences still comes into the picture for a couple of participants.
When Mariani reflects on boundaries and honest commitment, she thinks “being intentional about what you do take on may have gendered roots.” In her view, women may still fall into a trap of “taking on too much, or trying to do everything for everyone.” An important part of her success has been “getting comfortable saying ‘no,’ and pushing for clarity around roles and responsibilities.”
Jacob thinks “there can be a tendency in the tech world (and Namecheap is no exception) to lean towards ways of working that are quite masculine in nature — ‘Agile’ as a process is very much geared to ‘do, do, do’, in the way testosterone can just keep fueled.” She argues “there should be more room made for ebb and flow, for time to think, for creativity, and for collaboration. This would enable women to step into their zones of excellence in ways that constant ‘doing’ does not.”
Cristina Dias adds: “Even if a company has great values regarding gender equality, it doesn’t mean we don’t need to stay alert. All companies are made out of people and as most of us grew up surrounded by and believing in gender stereotypes, they are very much ingrained in how we think, how we communicate, how we joke, and how we act. We definitely need to stay alert all day, every day for all kinds of gender-based discrimination, and challenge them.”
Results Are Inseparable From Values
While the aim of action should be tangible results, it comforts Marina Zhuravlova that Namecheap’s culture expects more from her.
“I am confident that I can bring up any idea and find my own way to deliver it if it brings value to our customers and company and is in line with our values,” Zhuravlova says. “The end result is not the only thing — the approach to a situation, how I deal with consequences, take responsibility — this matters even more, and this is what makes a real entrepreneurial culture.”
Namecheap’s commitment to certain fundamental values carries a lot of weight for Jacob. “One of the reasons I chose to join Namecheap was its principled stand and ethical approach to topics like privacy and Internet freedom.”
Nata Trusova agrees that ethics play a big part, but also actively translating those ethics into positive actions, and feelings: “I’ve recently returned from maternity leave and the biggest thing that my company could do for me was to let me enjoy motherhood as much time as needed. I knew that I had a safe place to return, and in these unstable times I felt all the support I could ask for.”
Living the Commitment To Diversity
Everybody on the panel says the organization gains strength through its diversity. “I have the good fortune to work with a wide diversity of women of different generations and cultures,” says Anna Quirk. “Watching them mediate some of the common work/life issues gives me a lot of perspective on how I navigate the same things in my own life — or have done in the past. I love that contrast, it spurs thinking and renews my own resolve to be my best self.”
Nicole Miller brings up the fact that diversity doesn’t just enhance a team’s performance. It is also moving on a deeper level: “A healthy and inclusive culture can be a key determinant in how successful an organization will be. With varying backgrounds, experiences and opinions, everyone brings something different to the table, which is a beautiful thing.”
Zhuravlova expands on this by saying, “People here are very different, different locations, experience, preference, etc. We may have different views or disagree on something, but we are open to conversation and collaboration in order to achieve common goals and deliver the mission of free and open internet for everyone.”
On the subject of diversity in the workplace, Dias also says she hopes that: “ . . . my colleagues, friends, and peers are inspired by my values, ideas and actions, and that it was not just because I’m a woman that was able to be promoted to a management role.”
She continues: “Nonetheless, if being a woman in such a role can serve as an example for other women and help them believe that they too can achieve it, great — although I know that even as a woman I benefit from some privileges that unfortunately other women don’t. We can’t forget the role intersectionality plays here: gender, class, race, sexuality, access to education and much more, are dimensions that impact differently women around the world.”
Being Open And Honest
What’s also underlined by many of our executives is that diversity gets channeled into progress by open and honest communication. “The best decisions come from open-minded conversation and discussion,” Miller says.
Andreea Constantinescu goes further by emphasizing traits that are the cornerstones of every aspect of her life: “In order to become successful and inspire others, you must focus on developing a culture of gratitude, trust, and action.” For her, a strong relationship with a team, and across groups, is built on “staying present, focused and transparent.”
Savina applies a bit of network theory to the question of communication and draws some conclusions about healthy leadership. “It is the basic law of human communication,” she says.
“When we interact in any form we influence each other, and the bigger your connection network, the larger the effect of your words or actions.” Thus, for leaders, “it is critically important to understand that impact and always be thoughtful about their words and actions, as the consequences can have a bigger impact.”
A question that remains open is how this perspective meshes with the need for authenticity expressed by many of our respondents. It was the driver of success that was cited most often.
To Thine Own Self Be True
Zhuravlova lists it as the first ingredient to her success: “Stay authentic, don’t try to copy someone.” She thinks her candor should include her “ups” and “downs.” When she manages not to stay in her “downs” for too long, it “might be inspiring for others, too.”
In a perfect application of the principles she advocates for, Jacob shares a beautiful, expansive understanding of what it takes to become an inspiring leader: “having a clear vision, communicating that vision with clarity, and acting with authenticity, transparency, and compassion.”
Also reflecting on herself, and her own situation, Elpida Moutsiou says: “I think what made [my success] possible is not so much my achievements, which honestly don’t feel that great to me, but my positive and optimistic attitude, my being available to listen, my smile no matter what, my innate will to empower and motivate other women, to see them strive and achieve their best absolute potential. Because I know they can. Every woman can.”
Beyond the Individual
The campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. It draws awareness to the thoughts and actions of everyone, every day, so we are able to call out gender-based bias and inequality together.
On the subject of this year’s theme, Moutsiou says “It is every woman’s and every man’s responsibility to #ChooseToChallenge and call out gender bias and inequality every day, in every position, every company, at every stage of your career or at any age, regardless if you think you’ll be heard or any changes will happen.”
And indeed, this year’s theme calls for individuals to be in command of their own discourse, actions, and motivation, but also put them in context of the company as a whole, calling out any injustices. On the subject of this ‘collective individualism’ at Namecheap, Quirk says, “it’s something that resonates strongly with Namecheap’s culture.”
Mariani says,”The way our shared beliefs, norms, and actions become an everyday, tangible experience that has a true impact, not just on business outcomes but on the lives of the people who work here, is through the hearts, minds, and choices of individuals.”
As Quirk reminds us, “one of our tag lines is that we ‘build and foster entrepreneurs.’ ” She describes an enticing culture of excellence that comes out of this fundamental setting: “We each draw energy and inspiration from our leaders, but when people are self-motivated, curious, hungry… they see real success in our company. To me, this is what collective individualism is about. It’s about working every day as a free agent whose vision is in common with others.”
Namecheap’s willingness to help people concretely in their parallel endeavors comes out clearly with how the company encourages individual enterprise. As Quirk describes, the company helps “people develop a product idea when they have it, apply for a patent, set them up with a free website, etc.”
Jacob uncovers a beautiful and useful symmetry in the company’s audiences, the external audience of clients and potential clients, and the internal one of individual employees: “One of the great things about Namecheap is that it employs entrepreneurs — and entrepreneurs are its target customer.”
Work-Life Balance: World in the Balance
Since we are celebrating International Women’s Day, let’s talk about work-life balance as it applies to social activism.
The Namecheap entrepreneurial spirit is what Jacob credits directly when it comes to the organizing she does for survivors of sexual violence, both in her network UnShamed and in her coaching business ReConnected Life. As Jacob explains, “Namecheap is very supportive of me doing the work I do for ReConnected Life and UnShamed — I work part-time and sometimes flexi-time, to allow those ventures to continue. I feel empowered to continue my entrepreneurial pursuits alongside my role within Namecheap’s CRM team.”
The question of balancing work and family life came up a lot.
For Quirk, as for many others, the topic deserves a precise reminder of how we’ve achieved better parity with remote work: “For any person with a family, the pull to be fully available for one’s family while also investing in a career is a constant balancing act. With remote work, there is so much more flexibility to ‘be there’ for the school play or take pictures on game day. In this respect, a global work-force spread across time zones is actually an advantage as well.”
Balance Through Remote Working
Constantinescu wants to emphasize that the allowance for working remotely is “a powerful message” addressed not just to women in particular. While it brings challenges as to “how to connect, grow and help your team evolve,” it helps with “many soft skills, like being a good listener and solution seeker, being disciplined and adaptable, and gaining better focus.”
Miller makes Namecheap’s success inseparable from the policies of trust and autonomy that bind the company and its employees together. She explains, “We are a group of extremely hard workers who will do whatever it takes to get the job done — but we are also given the space to be the wives, mothers, daughters, and friends that we need to be in our personal lives. This respect of the family is what I believe has created such loyal and hard-working employees at Namecheap and is a key factor in the extraordinary success that we have achieved as a result.”
We’ll leave it to Marina Savina to sum it up in the most elegant way: “At the end of the day the results of your work are what matters, and not where you are working from.”
While women make up nearly half of the total global workforce (46.9% reported by Catalyst), as of 2018 women held only 25% of all the jobs in the tech industry according to Adeva IT.
Miller even appreciates that “gender equality is a lifestyle and not just a management initiative”.
At Namecheap (a technology company), 47% of our workforce are women, and 51% of the company’s leaders are women. Even so, Mariani admits, “We don’t have a lot of formal systems or processes around empowering women that I know of.” However, in an environment that “rewards people who are action-oriented and driven to create relationships,” Mariani sees many women thrive.
Mariani also makes the point that the organization has to remain vigilant to findings from the broader tech culture. “There’s some research that’s been started into agile cultures, startup cultures, tech cultures, and the ways that practices/norms in those environments can intersect with gender identities — sometimes in ways that unconsciously exclude or create barriers.”
Jacob and others underline that creative, roll-your-own initiatives of individuals on the topic are heartily welcome. As an example, Jacob cites the “stealth campaign” she is conducting as editor of the Inspire Newsletter “to feature women’s voices in our inspiring quote which is at the bottom of every newsletter.”
Luckily, the future employees of Namecheap will have plenty of great examples to look up to. “In a traditionally male-dominated industry, we have such a diverse workforce of women in leadership positions,” underscores Miller. “Although not the main board,” as Jacob does remind us. Future goals! The work is never done.
Happy International Women’s Day 2021!
For more entrepreneurial inspiration, check out our articles featuring The Social Being: A Woman-Run Digital Agency, as well as Hustlecrew, a company that works with employers of all kinds to promote inclusivity and make the tech industry more diverse.
Women Lead: Namecheap’s Female Leaders Get Real .