Guest Contributor – Lynne Clegg, EMEA CIO, MetLife
From a young age, I can remember family members and friends asking me what I wanted to be when I
grew up. The conversation often centered around roles like teacher, nurse, or retail worker. After all, these were the jobs the women around me had, so it felt natural for me to gravitate toward these traditional positions, as well.
During my secondary education, my curiosity grew, and I became intrigued with business and technology. As I made choices about my schooling and accepted early-in-career positions, my family always supported me and encouraged me to reach for the stars while stepping outside of my comfort zone in the STEM fields.
Now, as MetLife’s EMEA CIO, I am often asked about my experiences and how I broke through the glass ceiling to achieve a senior leadership role in a field historically dominated by men.
Shining as a Leader
Over the course of my career journey, especially as I moved into more senior positions, there were countless times where I sat at a conference room table surrounded by men. Like a fish out of water, I often felt like an imposter because I was the only woman in the room. I had to adjust my style in this environment to fit in and to behave and contribute in the same way as my male counterparts. Admittedly, it was tough at times to achieve common ground with these leaders, and I questioned my own ability to break through and have an equal place at the table.
This all changed when I committed to bringing my authentic self to work each day and growing my confidence in a male dominated field. The reality is my personality, empathy and collaboration abilities are what enable me to shine as a leader, even though I am still learning and deepening my technical knowledge. It’s important to realize as a leader that you don’t need to know—or do—it all, especially in an industry that’s constantly evolving!
Steps You Can Take to Break Through
I now have 25 years of experience in technology, and there are several things I’ve learned along the way that have helped me grow, advance and build a career in a field I love. Here are five:
- Find a coach to help you navigate; a sponsor to promote you and represent your abilities and readiness to step up; and seek direct feedback from people you trust that allows you to build on the positive and take advantage of growth opportunities.
- Cultivate relationships with your peers and seek out diversity in your network to build trust and find common ground.
- Be yourself and act with authenticity and vulnerability. These are leadership qualities that help to connect female executives with all levels in the organization. Also be self-aware, challenging the bias and stereotypes that you may be conditioned to in your company, culture, or personal environment.
- Break the cycle of fear that holds you back. On a recent work-related trip to India, I was really inspired by how a female technology professional has challenged herself to “break the fear,” exploring new opportunities in learning and development, driving her own career despite personal setbacks, and speaking up when she didn’t have the confidence to do so in the past.
- Reach back down the ladder and pull other female and diverse talent up behind you. Leverage your succession plans and team bench strength to buck the trend and build diverse leadership teams for the future.
As I write this, I recognize all the great work that has been done to help level the playing field for women.
I also recognize that there’s much more that needs to be done, especially in underserved communities, to ensure that companies are truly representative of the customers and global society they serve. I’m committed to leading the change, and I’ll be forever grateful to those who encouraged me to make a difference in technology, in the workplace…and in the world!