The glass ceiling, gender stereotypes, imposter syndrome – despite hard work, ambition and tenacity, women in the workforce face an uphill climb in advancing their careers and establishing roles in leadership positions.
For every 100 men promoted into manager-level roles, only 87 women are promoted too, according to 2022 research conducted by McKinsey. The management consulting firm suggests this disparity creates a “broken rung” women encounter early on in their careers. And in the world of STEM, this disparity is prevalent at a young age. The World Economic Forum estimates that global women enrolment in technology, engineering and mathematics at the university-level is between three percent and eight percent.
But the industry is documenting slow, steady progress. Women representation reached nearly 33 percent in large global technology firms in 2022, Deloitte found. Its research suggests that women’s share in the overall tech industry increased by 6.9 percent from 2019, with the fastest growth occurring in the proportion of women in leadership.
We’re contributing to this transformation within the industry, with gender ambitions at Liberty Global that include increasing the representation of women and growing our representation of women in the wider leadership team.
To mark International Women’s Day, we spoke to three trailblazing women leaders at Liberty Global. Here, they shed light on how they navigated their careers in an industry dominated by men, how the workforce can usher in change, and their best advice for women and minorities entering the field.
Suzana Grujev is VP of Mobile Access Strategy at Liberty Global. Her career includes nearly a decade at Liberty Global, leading in mobile access strategy and mobile operations.
Karen Prichard is Chief Information Security Officer at Liberty Global. Previously, she’s held roles as Chief Security Officer at Virgin Media, and Global Director of Information Security at HSBC.
Madalina Suceveanu is Managing Director of Mobile and Cloud at Liberty Global. Her previous career includes CTO of the European Cluster, Turkey and Egypt (10 countries) and CNO of Germany at Vodafone, CTO and other senior responsibilities at Orange.
Liberty Global: What attracted you to a role in technology, and what’s kept you in the industry?
Suceveanu: I was born in Romania and graduated from the Polytechnic University in Electronics and Telecoms. I had an early exposure to tech and innovation, giving me a quick understanding of how much I could learn and how much I can enable, facilitate and impact through technology. I was one of the very few girls studying artificial intelligence at school and this remained one of my favourite topics, becoming an essential part of every technological or social development these days.
Grujev: I come from the former Yugoslavia, and to be a woman in tech was not really a problem. Jobs in technology meant you have security, a bright future. Thirty years ago, I wanted to study mathematics and people told me that the only path to follow afterwards was to be a professor, which was not my idea of the future. So I went into electrical engineering instead.
I have been so lucky to work alongside many mentors – in Liberty Global and previous employers – who always so openly shared their knowledge and gave me opportunities to grow. And three decades later, here I am working alongside these amazing women.
Prichard: I am always up for a challenge and to learn more. The subject of security in the world of technology is something that is always rapidly evolving and the need to want to learn to stay ahead and be fully informed is essential. I simply like that constant challenge.
Liberty Global: Do you have a role model, someone who you would say had the biggest impact on you?
Prichard: I have two key role models that I have always looked up to throughout my career. I truly believe HM The Queen was a phenomenal lady who showed us all what commitment and dedication can do to you as an individual and those around you. She showed that when times are tough, it is essential for a leader to show the way through. My mother is also someone that has inspired me and who has shown unbelievable drive and dedication coupled with a staunch belief of never giving up. She used to say, the challenges will always come at you but there is always a way of going round, over, under and on occasions through, to achieve your goals.
Grujev: Dr. Horst Lennertz is considered one of the pioneers in the area of mobile telecommunications in Germany and Europe. Twenty-five years ago he promoted equality and diversity in corporate life, which was much ahead of the time; he was my mentor, and you could also call him my “business father.”
Liberty Global: Have you, as a woman in a field dominated by men, felt like you had to amend or adapt yourself to succeed?
Prichard: You could be the only woman in a meeting and think you need to be like the men you’re around but as you develop your own self-confidence and believe you have a right to be at table, you let your personality shine through. Sometimes, it is purely your own perception that holds you back. It can be hard but knowing that coupled with believing in yourself and driving forward, are some of the key enablers to determining your own success.
LG: Does the tech industry face any intrinsic challenges to make a more equitable environment for women?
Prichard: We’ve really struggled to recruit women into the organisation within cybersecurity but across the globe there is a shortage of this skillset. The focus should start in schools – we need to start identifying to young girls that technology is something you can do and that begins with career counsellors. They play a key role in making sure we have more women in technology.
Grujev: It’s about challenging the implicit biases we have. Traditionally, society thinks women can’t grasp technology and the domain is perceived as having poor work life balance, on top of being a man’s world. Many girls believe that STEM lacks the creativity they seek, so we need to break that misperception. We need to change this thinking and believe that tech can empower everybody.
LG: How do we change the workforce for the better, improving it for women and minorities entering into the tech industry?
Suceveanu: We need to understand what better means and how do we approach and phase this change to make it relevant. The simplest thing we can do is offer our colleagues and the new generation support so they are not experiencing the same roadblocks and difficulties as we did. We do this through mentoring, coaching and sponsorship. We can ensure ourselves and our colleagues have awareness of what inclusion means and how valuable diversity is. Our measure of success is helping women to feel comfortable to be themselves in the workplace, to feel safe in expressing their opinions and in doing their best work.
Liberty Global: What is your best piece of advice you’d like to share with women and minorities in the world of tech?
Grujev: Consider opportunities that come your way and have the confidence to take your ideas seriously. Don’t focus on the five percent of the things you don’t know, but the 95 percent that you have already grasped. We are a multitude of many things and not just one thing. This is the same advice that I give to my daughter and to my son, for that matter. Do not let fear stop you from doing anything in your life.
Prichard: Be yourself, believe in yourself and stay true to yourself. Set your goals and remain focused on achieving them whilst also identifying suitable mentors to guide you on your journey. Integrity, confidence and commitment are certainly key enablers to your success.
Suceveanu: Always try to put yourself forward for challenging responsibilities even if you do not feel fully ready. Stay disciplined, focused, and clear with what you want and just go for it! Most importantly, do not forget that we are human and health and family should always come first.