Karen Kesner, executive vice president of Americas, Chayora, details why its important for the next cohort of young women to seek out sponsors, mentors and coaches to aid their career progression.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced as a woman in the telco/tech industry but more importantly how did you overcome them?
I have worked in male-centric environments my entire career. There have been incredible experiences, successes and lessons learned. However, it hasn’t been a breeze. I see first-hand women and men viewed differently, dramatically different interpretation of conversations, bias and perceptions that have weighed heavily in gender gap challenges. I am always on the lookout seeking likeminded men and women to lead building awareness, develop programs, elevate women’s voices, create opportunities to shine toward impacting gender equality.
What did you learn from those experiences and how did it shape your career moving forward?
My passion is helping influence positive outcomes with maximum impact. This often gives me the opportunity to help others shine. I have worked deliberately to build networks and encourage diversity to deepen relationships bringing different perspectives to a team. This approach when built on a common goal has proven to increase profit margins and the bottom line. Striving for greater transparency around pay to ensure people are paid for equal work is an ongoing challenge that can only be impacted by pulling together.
As you are now in senior position yourself, how do you help the next cohort of young women as they progress in their careers?
Women in general tend to self-censor. Be true to yourself – never stop learning and developing skills, have courage to fail and lead with confidence. Set goals with the understanding there are many paths toward achieving your goals. What you set out to achieve often takes on unexpected twist and turns and that is OK. Learn from them. Understand your audience, and outside influences. Seek out sponsors, mentors and coaches to develop open and trustworthy feedback loops that will be a foundation for your career.
What do you think needs to happen in your industry to bridge the gender gap or do you think enough is already being done?
Closing the gender gap is a global challenge. Critical to pioneering impact starts with understanding why it’s important it needs to change across cultures. Assessing the audience, colleagues and customers views to adapt their inherit bias in a way that offers updated perspectives, assumptions and points of view is paramount. This happens through performance, relationship building, establishing sponsors of someone that knows these individuals know you.
What single piece of advice would you give a young woman, who wants to do what you have done and reach the top of their career?
Embrace change and learn from every experience, whether you feel that experience was good or bad. Review these learnings, create a feedback circle and network, apply insight and leverage your skills to prepare several approaches to achieve your goals.
What inspired you to become a Women in and Telco Tech advocate? What was it about this particular initiative that resonated with you?
Long standing gender bias is difficult to tackle head on. I have worked with many inspirational colleagues and leaders with the same passion to create a global platform for the next generation leaders and innovators. Balancing ways to advocate diversity and gender equality that doesn’t create defensiveness will take men and woman on this global platform promoting respect and recognition.