How I Learned to Find My Voice, and Lead
One highly visible action can instigate others.
Originally published by OZY on March 8, 2018.
When I first started working in technology, I was often one of the only women in the room. It was a rare occurrence for others to ask me to share my experience. As a result, I was excited when I was invited to speak about my experiences on a Sit with Me panel, a space that allows for honest conversation about the future of women in technology.
At the panel in Wilmington, Delaware I sat in a red chair, and shared my personal journey. I told stories about how my mother and grandmother dealt with sexism and how far society has come in four generations as my daughter finishes high school and applies to colleges. I shared how my parents prepared me to work in the male-dominated tech world by teaching me to be independent, the value of hard work, and treating me and my brother equally in every way. I shared how I found my voice working in finance and technology and how I’m using that same voice to advance other women.
The red chair is symbolic of the fact that women in technology need more seats at the table, and that one highly visible action can instigate others. Having programs like Sit with Me, or JPMorgan Chase’s Women on the Move, provide resources and support so that women are more represented in all fields and levels. There is also a great responsibility to invest in in and empower future generations of technology talent and JPMorgan Chase does that outreach early, through many of their Technology for Social Good programs.
In addition, the composition of the leadership teams at JPMorgan Chase has changed since I started working there. Overall, the staff is 50% female and well represented in top leadership positions. Out of the eleven Operating Committee members five are female, such as Lori Beer, who is the Global CIO. Twenty-four percent of the tech division is female. Folks coming out of school look for that—we all do. And if we don’t see a good role model ahead of us, it’s difficult to see opportunities for growth in an organization.
In my generation, a woman pursuing a major in computer science was almost unheard of. But I took an internship with JPMorgan Chase’s technology department, and this opened my eyes to the incredible opportunities in technology. I loved the intellectual challenge, and how the team didn’t draw any lines around me based on gender. It was more like, “You’re a smart person and you have an extra pair of hands, let me show you how to do this.” One team member immediately invested in my success and taught me how to code.
At first, I didn’t notice the gender imbalance in the office, but as I was promoted, I became keenly aware of how few women were at the management table. When I walked into a room, I would think, whenever I say something, it better be the most brilliant thing ever because I represent every woman on the planet right now. Over time, I let that go. I now remind myself that I’m consistently invited to have a seat at the table because I earned it.
Courtney Smith Goodrich, JPMorgan Chase’s chief strategist and programs officer of global technology.