International Girls in ICT Day, celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday in April, highlights the need to promote career opportunities for women in the world's fastest-growing sector. We had the pleasure of interviewing Encora Inc.'s People & Culture Mexico, Anabel Montiel about the importance of inspiring young women to pursue careers in Information, Communication & Technology (ICT), her own journey into the industry, and how closing the gender gap will drive innovation.
Anabel, please introduce yourself and tell us about your background and current role?
I was born in Mexico, where I still live today together with my husband and our two boys who are aged 10 and 3. My professional journey so far has been somewhat unusual but very varied and interesting. I obtained a degree in psychology and graduated with honors. I've always been interested in human behavior and the underlying physiological processes of these behaviors. But after graduating, I realized my educational journey wasn't over. I enrolled at El Colegio de Sonora to study social sciences. In 2014, I started working at Encora. I have had the pleasure of watching the company grow and prosper over the years and I am proud to have been part of that.
What do you remember from your job application process before being hired by Encora?
I had initially applied for a different position within Encora. However, Roberto Martinez, who is now President at Encora Mexico, felt I would be more suitable for a role related to people and culture. At the time, Encora, formerly Nearsoft, was experiencing a transformational period of rapid growth during which the number of staff, production levels, and clients greatly increased. There was a close community spirit and as the company kept growing, the need to maintain our culture and values became apparent. It was a challenge but actually reflected my interests more than the job that I had applied for.
What do you remember from your first days working at Encora?
My first impression was overwhelmingly positive. People were friendly, helpful, and open to suggestions which helped me transition into my new role. By talking with people face-to-face and actively listening to their needs, challenges, and expectations, I was able to create a proposal for a new People Development team, and that was the start of my career at Encora.
How has working at Encora changed over the last years?
When I first joined Encora, we were working with hundred people in one office. When we had to move to a bigger building where we had three floors instead of one, people started to feel disconnected from each other. Today, we have 500 Encorians in Mexico alone, spread out over different offices in five cities. Worldwide, we now have 5,000 people working with us. We were compelled to find new ways to stay connected, and I think we did a good job at keeping everyone engaged at the same level as before. This last year, a lot has changed due to the pandemic. Working from home can be psychologically challenging, so our People & Culture team is continuously implementing initiatives, tools, and training to help our people take care of their mental health. As a company, we need to remain sensitive and keep finding ways to support each other.
What is one thing that you know now, that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
I always understood the importance of communication, but as my career progressed, I became more skilled in delivering and accepting messages. I have learned that empathy is essential for building relationships with people. By creating and maintaining a workplace where different perspectives are valued and embraced, we have been able to retain and attract talent, foster better relationships, and encourage collaboration between team members, departments, and external partners. What I’ve learned about connecting and communicating with people has been immense and would have come in useful, had I known then all that I now know.
In your opinion, why is it important to encourage girls to seek ICT careers?
Inspiring young women to pursue careers in ICT is important for two reasons. First of all, it is important for women to feel empowered so that they can be the best they possibly can be. Many girls growing up still have this stigma that they are expected to go into certain professions―ICT not being one of them. We should teach children that tech is for both men and women. Only then will we be able to eliminate gender stereotypes that have been boxing women in for decades. Secondly, it’s important for the entire industry because diversity in the workplace improves innovation, creativity, and productivity. Undoubtedly, the lack of women in the ICT sector is an unfortunate waste of expertise and potential. We as women can do the same things as men. When women are included, entire teams will benefit from perspectives and approaches that come from different life experiences.
Do you see efforts being made by Encora in closing the gender gap?
At Encora, we have many initiatives to ensure that we attract and retain female employees and I believe that we are on the right track. Our efforts include more than celebrating International Women's Day, it is a continued push for action by all genders to create a more inclusive workplace. In pursuit of creating a welcoming environment, we offer lactation rooms on-site, flexibility in work schedules, and ensure that women and men are paid the same compensation for performing the same job. We still have a long way to go in terms of achieving full gender equality, but it is encouraging to see that attitudes are changing and consciousness is rising.
What do you think other companies can do to encourage more women to choose careers in ICT?
Companies can attract more female applicants by enacting priorities like equal pay for equal work, paid family and medical leave, more affordable child care, etcetera. They could also take steps to reduce unconscious bias for example by working with anonymous job applications. Research has proven that more women and minorities are hired when the hiring process is anonymized. Also, companies should reach out to the women in their organizations and listen to what they have to say. It is important to work with women in the company to promote dialogue, consult with them, and create an environment where they can self-organize as a group and propose what they want for themselves. Empower women to be the drivers of change. After all, when it comes to the support women need in their workplace, who would know better than the women themselves?
What else can we do to pave the way for the next generation?
The main issue in our industry seems to be that there are still more men applying than women. We need to acknowledge this is a systemic issue with multiple causes and effects, which require systemic change. This will allow us to understand that solutions are everywhere and that it is not just up to leaders to bring about change. As individuals, we must not underestimate our power to create change and demand gender parity―we should continuously ask ourselves how we can be better, do better for our female workers. That goes not just for women, our male coworkers have a big responsibility here as well. They should help to maintain a safe and inclusive working environment, and when the opportunity to promote or hire someone arises, they should be purposeful about increasing diversity.
Can you name one thing that you believe has been a major factor in your success?
Having other people believe in me has helped me to believe in myself. Doubting yourself is easy while believing in yourself can be hard at times. I always try to be supportive of others, because that’s what has helped me become a better version of myself. I want other women to experience the same feelings of encouragement and support.
Do you think female mentors can help other women advance to leadership positions in the ICT field?
Absolutely, women have the responsibility to empower and lift up other women and eliminate the challenges for future generations. But the movement for gender equality should be a movement that includes both women and men. We all need to work together, challenge, and lead each other so that one day, closing the gender gap will no longer be a goal, but an accomplishment.
Like what you read?
In this interview, Encora Inc.'s Global Vice President, People & Culture, Suzanne McKenna, shares her own insights and talks about the critical role that women play in shaping the tech industry.
Want to join the team?
Are you ready to create the future you want with us? Encora has open vacancies for people who are just as excited about tech as we are. Visit #WomenHackers for more information and available positions.