For Women’s Month, we invited Flavia Vergili, the global head of VTEX’s People & Places department, to have a candid and honest conversation about gender inequality in technology and what VTEX has been doing to remedy this situation. Check out the interview below.
Flávia, thanks for taking part in this chat with us. As a leading woman in a global company, what strategies would you say we need to make VTEX a company with more gender equality and to increase the number of women in our offices?
At VTEX, we have a diversity group that is always discussing possible initiatives we can undertake with our employees, as well as trends they have discovered elsewhere and that we can apply here.
The People & Places team is focused on the corporate education process regarding diversity, and we look at this month as an opportunity to promote actions about women in the workplace. Companies are adapting to these changes and we must be at the forefront of this, by creating a fair and equitable environment.
Women’s presence in the technology market is still very small. What can companies do to increase the number of female employees and to encourage women to work with technology?
The first step is education. It is very important to bring this topic up for debate in companies in order to remove unconscious prejudice in some cases and discuss this subject, which is sometimes a taboo in many places.
There is no point in having a recruitment process considered to be without bias, selecting CVs without identifying gender or even requiring the presence of women in the final stage of the process, if the company hasn’t pressed for education on this issue internally.
If the company doesn’t create this receptive environment, it can hire female professionals but won’t be able to retain them, since there won’t be a pleasant environment for them to work in.
The maturity of the inclusion process will make it easier to attract these professionals, and companies that are focused on this internal development will be able to reduce the turnover.
Companies can also create diversity committees to work on this topic internally, and it also helps a lot in this process, by creating internal vocal partners on this topic. This initiative should come from the leaders that will constantly reinforce this inclusion.
Why is it important to have female leaders in the technology market?
There are several cases in history that prove that women are able to stand out in this market, such as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson at NASA, who changed the course of history at a time when gender and race inequality were even higher. We need to be the protagonists of our careers and demonstrate our capabilities in the market to end gender prejudice.
It is a proven fact that having diverse collaborators brings important benefits to companies, such as turnover reduction, increased creativity and innovation, conflict reduction, better results, and it can also improve the company culture.
The technology market is predominantly filled by men, which means that at VTEX this issue must be a priority, since this change will have a positive impact on the business and on the ecosystem.
We need to insert female programmers into the job market in order to combat gender inequality. Otherwise, this gap will only continue to widen.
As for having women in leadership positions, the benefits are even greater due to the diversity, in addition to the inspirational effect that this will have on the women in the company and in the market, proving that the top performers will always be acknowledged, regardless of gender, ethnicity or age.
VTEX decided to speak openly with its employees about this topic, but many companies choose not to deepen this debate. Is this a challenge for the company’s image? Why did we decide to adopt this position?
The first step to solving a problem is to admit that it exists. VTEX is right to bring this issue up and we will work hard to reverse this scenario.
By speaking openly, we will positively influence other companies to take a more conscientious stance. This is our social responsibility, as I believe that we can have this impact within the e-commerce ecosystem.
It is worth mentioning that our culture is strong precisely because everyone at VTEX has an active voice and can position themselves without any retaliation. We want to deal with these issues in a transparent way, because only then we will be able to evolve as an organization.
It is easier to understand that we can build great career paths when we have inspiration. Who are the women that inspire you as a leader?
Throughout my career I had several leaders who supported my development and always gave me autonomy, which I believe helped me in my professional growth.
One of them was Lívia Borela, who is currently serving as CHRO at BRK Ambiental. I have worked with her in two companies, and no matter the workplace, she has always displayed a strong work ethic and shown me how important it is to follow your values, in addition to always raising the bar of my projects.
Another reference is Susan Catalano, who was my manager at WeWork. She has always provided me with autonomy, empowered me to make strategic decisions in the region and, most of all, cared about me as a human being.
What are the challenges and lessons of being a leader in a global position?
The first challenge is to create processes that are scalable regardless of the country where they take place. For the People area, due to local labor issues, it is difficult to act in a more automated way, so it is essential to be able to find a system with this global capacity, or to create processes and training that are able to work with this diversity.
Another lesson is dealing with cultural differences that can impact the relationship between stakeholders in different ways. For example in Brazil it is common to greet a coworker with a kiss on the cheek, but in some Asian countries this can be considered an offense.
Occupying a global position is challenging and dynamic. An interesting lesson is that you don’t know everything that is happening around the world, so you need to build relationships based on trust between teams, managers, partners and customers.