The workplace has been oppressive to women for most of human history. We pride ourselves on being a more equitable world today and sometimes fall into the trap of viewing gender bias and discrimination as “a thing of the past..”
But it isn’t. Women still face challenges towards advancement in leadership roles, the gender pay gap is still a factor and women still face sexual harrassment across a wide spectrum of intensities during their working lives.
But women are pushing back. They are protesting inequities and demanding changes from their employers and their governments. They are asserting their value as employees and leaders and advocating for change.
At Billtrust, we are amplifying the voices of members of our company community through a series of panel discussions entitled “What’s it Like”.
In March 2022, we hosted What’s it Like: Being a woman in the workplace.
Meet the participants
Sarah Siggelakis is the moderator and co-chair of our Women’s Employee Resource Group, known as WIT. Sarah is also the Senior Manager of Strategic Programs.
Kim Kerry-Tyerman is Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility. It’s her role to build out our environmental, social governance function.
Sangeetha (“Geeta”) Lakshmipathy is Senior Director of Quality Engineering at Billtrust and has been with the company for 16+ years. She started her career as a developer before moving into QA roles.
Kiele Lowe is Vice President of Product Invoicing, Cash App and Go-To-Market Competitive Intelligence.
So, what did the panelists share?
Kim Kerry-Tyerman shared her observation that a female-powered profession is not necessarily a “female-led” profession.
“Though I’ve chosen a heavily female-powered profession, I wouldn’t say that it’s female-led. This is undoubtedly an issue in corporate social responsibility and the nonprofit sector.”Kim Kerry-Tyerman, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility
Sangeetha Lakshmipathy went on to add that she’s seen a lot of developments and is hopeful about the future for working women. In her experience, the workplace has become more inclusive of women and their concerns.
“Things have improved, especially compared to how some started their careers over twenty or thirty years ago. We have a great support system now. People are ready to both listen and discuss our issues and make an effort to resolve them.”Sangeetha Lakshmipathy, Senior Director of Quality Engineering
Kiele Lowe echoed some of the positive shifts in her experience of being a woman in the workplace. Despite the initial sexist pressure to change her appearance, she found success in the world of business.
“A few things have made a marked difference. For example, when I first started, I was told that I had to wear heels, hoses and skirts if I wanted to get ahead. I rocked a serious power suit that was like a pantsuit back in the day because that was who I was. I was explicitly told that I needed to change it up if I wanted to get ahead and that my manager wouldn’t look kindly upon me if I did not do that.”Kiele Lowe, Vice President of Product Invoicing, Cash App and Go-To-Market Competitive Intelligence
Kim Kerry-Tyerman reinforced that women are critical in creating an anti-sexist environment and must be careful not to enforce sexist standards.
“Women are significant contributors to creating an anti-sexist environment. For example, I’ve had some interactions with women where my posture or appearance has been criticized by a fellow woman, which sends the message that my appearance is more important than my content. I would argue that that’s not something that many men are receiving in the workplace.”Kim Kerry-Tyerman, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility
How are these leaders at Billtrust advocating for women new to the workplace?
Sangeetha Lakshmipathy advocates mentorship for anyone at any stage in their career, as well as a strong personal brand, visibility and a solid reputation.
“They need to find the right mentor-mentee relationship. Develop a solid personal brand and be visible. This applies to young people starting their careers, not just to women. Everyone needs to develop a reliable personal brand and a strong reputation that can put them on the radar for exciting opportunities”Sangeetha Lakshmipathy, Senior Director of Quality Engineering
Sarah Siggelakis reiterated this point with the need to reach out to mentors without hesitation.
“People do want to be your mentor. So you’re not inconveniencing them by asking someone to take 30 minutes to meet with you. It took me way too long to figure that out.”Sarah Siggelakis, Moderator and Co-Chair of the Billtrust Women’s Employee Resource Group; Senior Manager of Strategic Programs
The group went on to compare younger and older generations of women in the workplace in terms of perceptions, standards of inclusion and attitudes.
Kim Kerry-Tyerman highlights that there is a lack of equity in the workplace for females.
“It’s not equitable for us. We’re not paid the same. There’s data out there that we’re not treated equitably across the board. In terms of generational influences, I struggle with that just because I don’t have the language from the people that trained me to talk about equity in the workplace.Kim Kerry-Tyerman, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility
Sangeetha Lakshmipathy shared the optimistic perspective, however, that Billtrust is avoiding these trends.
“As far as the pay gap, I don’t see that, to be honest, because I have a big team. I know how things are processed. Fifteen years ago, ten years ago, maybe that was the case, but I know how items are processed now. I don’t think there is a gender-based pay group now. So I don’t believe that is being practiced.”Sangeetha Lakshmipathy, Senior Director of Quality Engineering
Kiele Lowe is also optimistic about the current situation for women and men alike in the workplace as a result of the pandemic.
“It’s been interesting for me to evolve from a management perspective, be open to that and not have the same expectations, such as, ‘What are you willing to give up to get ahead?’…I’m glad to see that we’re becoming more human regarding how we interact. Having the values that we have here at Billtrust and hearing it live has been exciting.We can be honest and transparent about it.”Kiele Lowe, Vice President of Product Invoicing, Cash App and Go-To-Market Competitive Intelligence
Wrapping up being a woman in the workplace
Billtrust is committed to creating an equitable workplace for all individuals. But to achieve this, we must highlight the experience of marginalized groups and put special emphasis on remedying the obstacles of structural biases.
That’s what we’re doing with this What’s it Like series. It’s a step towards understanding and engagement with the wider company. And it’s a step towards greater equality in the workplace.