A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Today’s Woman in Tech: Gilli Haizler, COO of Razor Labs
Haizler is an attorney at law with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in law from Bar-Ilan University as well as a master’s degree in business administration from Tel Aviv University’s Kellogg-Recanati School of Management. In her most recent position, she served as CEO of Promarket, an Israeli marketing and production company. She has over 15 years of hands-on experience in marketing and acted as project director specializing in strategy, marketing, commercial and legal negotiation, legal advisory, new business and business development, crisis management, finance and operation management, leading the company to finalize advantageous and sensitive deals, winning bids, and increases efficiency in the budget.
When did you become interested in technology?
I was interested in technology from a young age and even became an early adopter of new features and technologies as I grew up. Until recently a period though my career took me on a path that veered away from technology.
How did you end up in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Upon concluding my military service, I attended law school and participated in an Excellence program. By 24, I had both my Bachelors and Masters in Law. I spent 2 years working as a lawyer for the bigger law firms, and then felt I wanted to shift gears.
I dove head on into my new role, going above and beyond, while juggling family time. Slowly but surely, things began falling into place. I’m very proud to have been the first female CEO of the company in 30 years, and even prouder to have the opportunity to help lead the company forward before that, as the COO.
Did anyone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
Well, that doesn’t sound totally unfamiliar. When I turned 40, I decided to shift to a completely different industry. I really wanted to move more into the technology space and was eager to find a role I could really find my calling in. But not long after I started telling people I was considering a change of pace and profession, I received some rather mixed reactions.
Some told me I was making a mistake, that with my age and position in life, it would not be smart to embark on a career within a new industry. The consensus was a big shift at this point would be very difficult, if not impossible, to pull off successfully. It was probably these voices that motivated me even more to prove that, with the right grit and determination, a change like this is possible.
A day in Gilli’s life
I believe start-ups are a great place for anyone who wants to learn the tech industry and be part of changing the world. I joined Razor Labs, an artificial intelligence company developing smart solutions for industrial manufacturing, because I believe our technology can significantly contribute to the change of the manufacturing industry and the industry 4.0 revolution. We all deserve a more efficient, productive, and environmentally friendly world.
Today, in my role as the COO of the company, every day looks different as I immerse myself in so many different aspects of the business. I’m leading the company’s operations in helping to build the infrastructure and procedures required to establish an advanced delivery system for customers. This will really help advance Razor Labs’ short-term and long-term goals for growth.
What are you most proud of in your career?
The fact that I believe I’m a mother. I’ve been raising my kids apart from their father for the last 6 years, and I haven’t let that hold back my career or prevent me from climbing up the ladder. On the contrary, it actually pushed me to work harder. I wanted to prove that you can hold a demanding senior position and still be a good mother.
Why aren’t there more women in tech? What’s your take on that?
I think young women don’t see enough other women in senior hi-tech positions. Having more women in leadership could prove instrumental in setting an encouraging precedent for women to be better represented in senior management positions. The more young women see women tech or startup CEOs, CTOs, COOs, and other senior positions, being interviewed on the news, posting on social media, and talking in conferences, the more they will be inspired to go into tech.
Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?
Having children and leading a successful tech career is a balancing act that needs to be carefully managed, particularly with the added complexities of maternity leave. It can deter ambitious young women from continuing in the same trajectory toward their success.
A second obstacle is an unconscious bias, especially early in a women’s career, where they are often overlooked for promotion unless they are highly assertive. This means many well-deserving candidates never get past that first rung of the corporate ladder, creating a narrower pipeline of women candidates all the way to senior management.
How would our world be different if more women worked in STEM? What would be the (social, economic, and cultural) impact?
The impact of more women working in STEM would be enormous. If young women are able to look up to other women achieving success and blazing a trail, I have no doubt we will be able to find more girls opting to study math, science, and computer science in school and university. Business-wise, I think improving gender diversity will help bring in different points of view and increase the levels of creativity simply by multiplying the perspective. According to McKinsey, companies that have more gender diversity are more likely to experience above-average profitability, so it will also bring a positive impact on the bottom line of businesses.
The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current discussion?
I think we’re already starting to see a shift in momentum. The awareness has grown. Obviously, we would like to see a workforce that represents the diversity of our society more, and that’s slowly happening. Just like what we’ve just discussed about women in tech, the broader diversity issue will require active encouragement from major tech players, from startup founders to university departments. Frankly, I don’t think it will be long before tech is one of the most diverse industries in the developed world and beyond.
What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career? What should they know about this industry?
Don’t let the male-dominated environment intimidate you. I believe in the not-so-distant future, this will be a non-factor and tech will be more diverse—in terms of race, gender, and otherwise. Any woman who wants to have a tech career and is willing to do the learning and make the effort can go as far as she wants. As Oprah Winfrey said – You get in life what you have the courage to ask for. With those things in mind, nothing is really standing in your way.