Despite its historical “tech bro” culture, the technology sector is changing. Female business leaders are not only joining tech companies but leading them.
Two women who are leading the charge at GoDaddy are Laura Messerschmitt, President of GoDaddy’s International Division, and Tamara Oppen, Vice President English Markets overseeing Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, Tamara and Laura share their tips on how to back yourself and thrive as a female corporate leader and entrepreneur.
These female business leaders are breaking barriers in tech
For all her success in the tech industry, Laura Messerschmitt says she was never particularly attracted to working in tech with its male dominated firms. However, tech eventually found her.
“When I went to college, I didn’t plan on majoring in math, but found out that’s what I was good at,’’ she says.
“During my career, I found out that the skillset I had actually worked well with 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 had a successful career in media publishing and advertising that helped inspire her passion for the potential of technology. “I was definitely drawn to technology,” she says.
I loved the positive impact that it was having on consumers and communities.
After leaving behind a corporate career to run a digital health start-up, Tamara co-founded a digital consulting firm. She now manages her global GoDaddy role from her home office in Sydney, Australia.
Why diversity makes a difference
Research shows that that diverse teams deliver better results. But although the number of female business leaders in large tech firms is growing, they still only make up less than a third of the workforce.
The average large tech firm has about a quarter of women in leadership positions, according to Deloitte analysis. Compare that to GoDaddy, which had women in a third of all leadership roles as of 2021.
As part of its commitment to diversity and pay equality, it publishes an annual diversity and salary data.
Laura was among the female business leaders who helped accelerate the diversity push in 2013/14. In fact, she committed to interview one diverse candidate for each role she was hiring at senior manager level or above.
She says more diversity has led to better decision making and more role models for employees.
“People could see people that looked like themselves, so that leads to longer tenures. It leads to people wanting to stay at GoDaddy,’’ she says.
The addition of more female business leaders has also helped GoDaddy to better connect with its customers.
What it takes to be a successful entrepreneur
Both Tamara and Laura have a keen insight into what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, having built their own businesses and helped many GoDaddy customers to do the same.
Tamara says many female entrepreneurs tend to be self-critical and worry about failure.
“You don’t have to be the best,” she says. “Failure is part of learning and adapting and challenging yourself.’’
Laura explains many entrepreneurs focus too much energy on worrying about how to get set up or how to launch a website, when they should really be worrying about what comes next.
“Once you are online, you need to be thinking about how to get customers and keep them coming back,’’ she says.
“If you focus your energy and time on that, that’s how you’ll be successful.”
Laura encourages entrepreneurs to launch their ideas, even if they aren’t perfect — and the same advice applies to creating a website.
The biggest barrier we see is that people won’t launch their website because they think it has to be perfect.
“Actually, it shouldn’t be perfect, because you want to launch it and see what works and what doesn’t and make changes based off that data.’’
Working like a boss
With many decades of experience across the corporate and philanthropic sectors, both Laura and Tamara have accumulated a lot of life and business lessons between them.
Here are their tips to help women succeed in business and corporate work environments.
Why imposter syndrome might be good for you
Tamara says imposter syndrome has a bad reputation, but feeling anxious about a new role can be a sign that you’ve made the right move.
“It’s ok to feel it,’’ she says.
“I always 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?’”
Why work/life balance is a myth
Tamara says she no longer strives to attain the elusive work/life balance. She now seeks more of a harmony between the two when they come into conflict.
“Work life balance just doesn’t happen. And I think it puts too much pressure, particularly on working parents, when they try and strive for this unachievable goal,’’ she says.
“Where I’ve evolved to is around mindfulness, and how I’m spending my time and making choices that are right for me personally and for my family.
I’ve evolved to quality time, for instance, with my children rather than quantity.
For Laura, getting a better balance between her home and work life comes down to being attuned to what matters most.
“It’s knowing the things that matter and the values that matter, and knowing exactly what you can give up,’’ she says.
“What you can give up is the key because you are going to have to make compromises. So, make sure that the compromises you’re making are on those things.’’
How to say no effectively
It’s just one little word but mastering the art of saying ‘no’ effectively is not always as easy as it sounds. This is particularly true for female business leaders juggling work and home responsibilities.
Laura says her eyes were opened at business school when asked to consider how senior men verses senior women say ‘no’ in the workplace, particularly when parental priorities clash with work obligations.
“You’ll see the men will say something like ‘I’m sorry, I’m busy at that time,’ or ‘I can’t make that meeting, let’s reschedule,’’’ she says.
The women will say something like ‘I’m so, so sorry, my kid has a soccer game or a baseball game. I’m really sorry I can’t make it. I wish I could.’
Laura encourages women to be thoughtful about how they are answering ‘no’ and try to minimise the associated guilt. “If I do need to say no, I just say no. I don’t give more detail than I need to,’’ she says.
Tamara tries to be mindful of the events she agrees to attend to minimise the need to say ‘no’ later.
“Before I commit to any event, I always ask myself: If I was super busy or if there was a family event that came up, would I still be saying yes to this event?’’ she says.
Why you should practice asking for what you want
Whether it’s more work/life balance you are after — or even more responsibilities — it’s not always easy for women to ask for it. Laura says most good managers will try to help you achieve your goals, but they need to know about them first.
“If you don’t speak up, they’re not going to be able to help you,’’ she says.
When it comes to asking for a raise or a promotion, it’s about finding a way that feels authentic for you.
“Women tend not to do that and so they need to get more comfortable in their own way,’’ Laura says.
“Even if they don’t feel comfortable saying ‘I feel like I deserve a promotion,’ they could instead say ‘I want to get promoted. What are the next steps I need to take to get there?’
“That signals to their manager that they’re in line for promotion or that they should be considered.’’
How to combine work and motherhood
Both Tamara and Laura are mothers, and both have had times when navigating the juggle has been a challenge.
Tamara says it helps to lean on her partner and others to help during busy times, as does letting go of the pressure to do it all.
“It’s taking a step back, reflecting on what does my week look like, what do I need to let go of?’’ she says.
“The other thing is not being a perfectionist — that used to hold me back so much because I am a perfectionist. So, it’s ok if that load of washing doesn’t get done.’’
Similarly, Laura says being a working mum involves navigating the feelings of guilt and perfectionism. She tries to be conscious about “where things need to be perfect verses when they can be ok and living with that unapologetically.”
“There are certain times when [my children will] say ‘I’ve got a performance and mum I really need you to be there,’’’ she says.
“Ok, nothing will prevent me from being there. I’ll be there. But they don’t need every single thing that maybe I thought they might need or that a ‘perfect’ mum might do.’’
These two are leading the way — for you
The tech industry may still be a largely male dominated space, but more diversity is coming. It’s thanks in part to women like Laura and Tamara, who are breaking through glass ceilings and empowering other women to do the same.
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