A recent report found that just 30 percent of the average tech company workforce is comprised of women. By comparison, women make up 59 percent of the overall U.S. labor force and almost 51 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau.
And while comparable data is tough to come by in the legal space, it’s well known that the legal industry has struggled with diversity challenges with respect to both gender and race. Against this backdrop, it’s more important than ever for women in the legal technology workforce to learn from each other about what it takes to build a successful career in the industry.
We sat down with Sara Hobson, senior director of sales at LexisNexis, and Lorin Keuhner, sales manager at LexisNexis, for a candid conversation about the unique challenges women face and how they can improve their chances of success. Hobson and Keuhner know what they’re talking about; they were both named to CRN’s “2016 Women of the Channel” special report, which honored women in the technology sales channel (i.e., working with VARs and technology integrators) whose expertise and vision are deserving of recognition.
Here are five tips they shared:
- Manage time wisely
“The fact is that women, especially those of us who are mothers, are typically expected to juggle more responsibilities in our personal and professional lives,” said Keuhner. “That means we need to learn and practice excellent time management skills in order to make sure that we’re getting things done on time.”
- Find a mentor, be a mentor
“It’s really important for women to have mentors throughout their careers, including both men and women, who can help coach them as they grow and pass through various seasons of life,” said Hobson. “In addition to finding mentors for ourselves, we also need to be willing to mentor other women and help them along their journeys as well.”
- Challenge the status quo
“I think women are occasionally afraid to challenge the status quo, out of fear that we’ll be labeled difficult,” said Keuhner. “But I’ve learned that it’s important to stand up and question business decisions that don’t make sense to you, so long as you’re doing it in a constructive manner. The courage to challenge conventional thinking is an important way that we can make a mark in the workplace.”
- Don’t fear mistakes
“For those of us who may be really focused on trying to get everything done perfectly, it’s important to set aside your fear of making mistakes,” said Hobson. “Just dive in and try to make things happen, accepting the fact that you’re going to get a few things wrong along the way. That’s OK, just keep learning, keep asking questions and keep pushing.”
- Work your confidence!
“My advice to women in the legal technology industry is to take yourself seriously and choose the field you want to target with great care,” said Hobson. “Once you have that career track in mind, become an expert in your chosen field and muster up as much internal self-confidence as you can possibly find, then work that confidence every single day. It’s so important to believe in yourself and keep reminding yourself that you can do this!”
Hobson and Keuhner have worked together with their colleagues to propel the success of an aggressive channel sales program at LexisNexis. That program was refined and expanded earlier this year to provide channel partners with greater access to technical and sales training, customer relationship information, and new quote and deal registration capabilities to give channel partners added control throughout the sales cycle.
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and a powerful advocate for women in the technology field, recently said: “No industry or country can reach its full potential until women reach their full potential. This is especially true of science and technology, where women with a surplus of talent still face a deficit of opportunity. I know from my own experience that the path to change is best traveled when we travel together.”
By sharing their experiences, successes, mistakes and insights with each other, women can be better positioned for success in the legal tech workforce.
* * *
This post is by Daryn Teague, who provides support to the litigation software product line based in the LexisNexis Raleigh Technology Center.