Stacia, what is it like for you to be a woman in a leadership role in tech these days?
We are living in a time when there's an open discussion about the need to have more women in leadership not only within the tech industry but across the world. While talking about it is not enough, it is important progress! I consider myself extremely fortunate to have over 15 years of experience working in this industry. That experience allows me to deal with gender bias in such a way that it does not have an impact on my self esteem. Beyond demanding equal pay and opportunities, how we perceive ourselves and maintain a healthy sense of self worth is critical for our success.
You started your career in the music industry, then moved into e-commerce and tech. How have you seen these industries change over time?
The very early days of my career in tech in San Francisco during the late nineties were a very different time. Tech had not yet become a big business. The internet was a new, strange place and the people that were interested in exploring it professionally were more diverse in background and mindset. I felt embraced by a community of people who were curious and very much in love with technology's potential to change the world for the better. Today, the industry's challenges more acutely reflect, and sometimes amplify, existing problems of inequality and the lack of diversity and inclusion.
What role do leaders play in addressing these challenges and creating a more diverse and inclusive work environment?
Leaders carry the power to either open up or shut down spaces for exchange and discussion. It's crucial that we are aware of how we choose to use this power and privilege to make sure we are as inclusive as we can be.
Leaders carry the power to either open up or shut down space for exchange and discussion. It's crucial that we are aware of how we chose to use this power and privilege to make sure we are as inclusive as we can be.
Can you describe what inclusive leadership looks like for you?
I think it means making an effort to understand the point of view of people who I don’t immediately relate to or those with whom I don’t share the same background, and ensuring that they feel welcome to express themselves. For me, this has been particularly important in the last weeks as the Size & Fit department grew substantially and I was able to welcome many new people to the team.
What is Zalando getting right in terms of diversity and inclusion in leadership?
Zalando has made a very clear commitment to diversity and inclusion both internally and externally. We are pulling in the resources necessary to support the entire organization to meet these commitments. It’s important to remember that we can all do our part to make Zalando a more inclusive workplace. The small moments of interaction matter because in the end it’s how we treat each other everyday that determines how connected and valued we all feel at work.
Where do you see opportunity for improvement?
We have an incredibly international workforce and thus expectations about what diversity and inclusion looks like vary depending on where you are coming from. For example, these discussions have been happening in the US and the UK for some time now, while I believe that in Europe, the discussions have only started more recently. This presents the challenge of a very mixed set of expectations amongst our employees. We need to understand what diversity and inclusion looks like at Zalando, set clear expectations and goals, and then lead the rest of the industry by example.
You emphasized the difference every one of us can make through their daily actions. How are you personally supporting women’s careers at Zalando?
While I believe in mentorship programs and training, my preferred approach to supporting other women is through one-to-one connections. I take the time to get to know different women – and men – throughout my work across the organization. I often reach out directly when I see an opportunity to help someone. This might result in a casual mentorship over many months or just an important one-time conversation.
What has been the best career advice you’ve ever gotten?
Cindy Gallop says 'if you can't see it, you can't be it'. She opened my eyes to the value of having role models, someone that you can relate to who’s a little further along in their journey. When you can observe someone you directly relate to walking a path like the one you want to travel, you can begin to imagine your own journey.
And what advice would you give to young women who are just starting out in tech or other male-dominated industries?
Beware of the critical voice in your head and don't allow it to stop you from taking risks and learning. Give yourself permission to engage in the learning process, which means learning from your mistakes.
Thanks a lot, Stacia!