Women in IT

Leadership through Dedication to Intellectual Curiosity

Karen Powell, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer, Provana

Embodying a success-driven mindset, Karen firmly believes leadership positions require a dedication to intellectual curiosity and a little bit of luck

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“I believe that embodying a success-driven mindset and entrepreneurial spirit is gender neutral. Regardless of your gender, we all face challenges and are, similarly, given opportunities. For example, formal education often leads to more opportunities in the corporate world.”

Karen Powell,
Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer,
Provana

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The International Women’s Day was celebrated with the customary pomp and fanfare this month a few days back. Despite all the buzz surrounding women’s empowerment and conversations on gender diversity in tech, women are still underrepresented and often discriminated against in the tech industry, if we go by the numbers. But the silver-lining in the cloud has been the recent strides taken by the fair sex in various walks of life, including the IT industry.

In commemoration of the International Women’s Day and in celebration of and gratitude to Women’s Power, we have embarked upon cataloguing the achievements and voices of leading women in the tech industry.

In a special interaction with SME Channels, Karen Powell, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer, Provana, reveals her views on gender parity; how women can reach leadership positions in the IT industry; what it takes to handle business-critical roles; and how to strike a balance between personal life and critical professional roles. Edited excerpts…

Do you think the world today has been able to attain gender parity?

I believe that embodying a success-driven mindset and entrepreneurial spirit is gender neutral. Regardless of your gender, we all face challenges and are, similarly, given opportunities. For example, formal education often leads to more opportunities in the corporate world. If you look at the data, at least in the US, the number of women graduating from accredited colleges and universities has continued to grow and eclipsed men – as of 2021, women made up 60% of college students and 65% of college graduates. I think the proof is in the data.

In the IT industry, there are still very few women in leadership positions in India as well as in the world. What should women do to reach leadership positions?

Leadership positions require a dedication to intellectual curiosity and a little bit of luck. Women, and for that matter men, who wish to achieve leadership roles need to be proactive in learning and in pursuing positions in companies that have a track record of celebrating talent, regardless of gender. As a leader myself, I’ve made it a mission to establish a company culture that’s based on hard work and merit – those who have the drive for continuous improvement and growth will continue to rise within the organization, regardless of their gender.

On your journey as a career woman, how have you braced yourself to handle business-critical roles?

As I mentioned above, continuous learning and a curious mind are essential elements of being a successful leader. As I’ve progressed throughout my career, and still today, I rely on my network of mentors, peers and others I admire for advice and wisdom. When you surround yourself with trusted advisors and others who have achieved what you are also trying to accomplish, it creates an opportunity for vulnerability and sharing – we’re all helping each other reach the next level. My greatest piece of advice for rising leaders is to build a solid network, whether it’s through your education or professional networks, that you can carry with you as you progress in your career.

How do you balance your personal life and critical professional roles?

As you grow in success, there are always more things competing for your time – more meetings, more people who are asking for your input, more opportunity to grow and invest. What I’ve learned is that in order to be effective, I must be fully present whenever I am with my family, my colleagues or my clients. That time is going to be more productive and more rewarding when I eliminate distractions and allow myself to embrace the moment.


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