According to the Women in Tech Network, it will take 133 years to close the economic gender gap. In recognition of International Women’s Day 2023, unified communications company Ringover shines a light on two of its newest female talents. Recently appointed Brooke Hammel, sales support manager and Angela Clodfelter, US channel management director, discuss their experiences and challenges as women in tech and what they hope for the future female workforce.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is embracing equity. Simply providing equal opportunities is not enough. Instead, we must provide inclusive opportunities that help people of all backgrounds to thrive. In the U.S., nearly half of the workforce is female, but only 27% make up the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce, according to the United States Census Bureau. More specifically, women made up 28% of the tech industry workforce in 2022.
With over 50 years of combined experience working in the tech and telecoms industry, Hammel and Clodfelter have had turbulent, yet insightful careers, climbing the ladder to achieve success and lead them to where they are today.
Finding your feet
Making waves early on in her career, Angela Clodfelter founded two telecom companies in the late 1990s. She saw success early on, achieving recognition as one of the first female-owned and operated companies in the Southeast to successfully implement an international VoIP call center.
Clodfelter’s expertise varies from account management, through to the technical installation of infrastructure including some of the first Private Branch Exchange (PBX) lines installed in the US.
“The constant change within telecoms is what attracted me to this industry,” said Clodfelter. “I like being kept on my feet. One of the most notable changes I witnessed was the introduction of voicemail and IVR. Considering businesses used to take messages by hand, voicemail was one of the first steps to improving business communications and management.”
Hammel began her career in 2000 working for telecoms equipment supplier Lucent Technologies, before moving over to Avaya for ten years, where she worked in roles including support manager and business operations analyst.
“My relationship with the tech and telecoms industry was formed when I realized that communication is the most fundamental ability in human nature,” said Hammel. “We can literally attribute the transformation of our culture and society to technology and I wholly believe that technology is the key for business expansion and development.”
Although Hammel and Clodfelter have achieved longstanding careers in this industry, it’s been found that, generally, retention can be difficult. Deloitte’s 2021 Women at Work study , which polled 500 women in the global technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) workforce found that almost a quarter of women are considering leaving their roles due to workload increases affecting their wellbeing. The report also indicates that only 38% of women feel sufficiently supported in their roles by their employers.
According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report, only 86 women are promoted to manager for every 100 men at the same level. But the gender gap for women in technical roles is even more pronounced — with just 52 women being promoted to manager for every 100 men. However, it’s worth noting that the tides are beginning to turn. HP, for example, has pledged to reach gender parity in roles at director level and above by 2030.
The obstacles that women encounter in technical fields begins long before they reach the promotion stage.
“At the start of my career, operating in a time where all the decision makers were men, I found myself having to prove I was worthy of doing the same job as my male peers,” said Clodfelter. “The biases towards women were very present.”
“I’ve experienced situations in the workplace where my knowledge and achievements have been dismissed because I am a woman,” added
Hammel. “It can be a difficult pill to swallow when you realize you aren’t viewed as equal or as having the capability to effectively execute your role because of your gender. Attitudes like this can be damaging and hinder women’s progress in the workplace, but perseverance is key.”
International Women’s Day 2023
“This year’s theme of equity is poignant when you consider that not all students have the same access and opportunities to STEM programs and initiatives,” said Hammel. “The case is that more opportunity is available for children in private school education — which isn’t accessible for most of America. There needs to be more opportunity across the U.S. so that every child, regardless of their socioeconomic position, has access to STEM programs,” said Hammel.
“Children are the future and it’s so important to nourish their interests and provide them with equal opportunities,” said Clodfelter. “We need more voices championing the opportunities in STEM and TMT roles and I hope that this year’s International Women’s Day makes that realization.”
When discussing their tech heroes, it wasn’t the tech giants that sprung to mind. In fact, both Hammel and Clodfelter acknowledge their heroes as fellow women in the industry.
“I felt like I was not able to achieve in a male dominated industry until I worked with Paulette Carter, a local contact center leader,” said Hammel. “I met her when we both worked for Avaya, and she saw in me what I , myself, did not. She has extensive experience in transforming businesses customer experience and operations and I attribute where I am today to her.”
“Karin Fields is my inspiration,” said Clodfelter. “She was an owner of MicroCorp, one of the largest telecom services brokers in the U.S. I relate to her so much because she was a woman in the late 1980s and early 1990s, who dove into the world of telecom and was able to achieve great things in a male-dominated environment.”
“Marilyn Dooley is also another inspiration who took me under her wing in the late 90's,” Clodfelter added. “She built a very lucrative regional TSB and was a great mentor.”
Offering her advice to the younger generation of the workforce, Clodfelter opined: “If you set your sights on it, don’t give up. The notion of women holding mostly male-dominated roles is changing. There is more of an opportunity for everyone to succeed. All someone can say is no.”
Reflecting on what International Women’s Day means to them, Hammel explained, “It doesn’t matter where you’re based in the world, history and statistics show that women have experienced unfair biases because of our gender. To finally be celebrated with occasions like International Women’s Day is extremely important for us.”
Clodfelter added, “The world is finally recognizing women for what they are — superheroes, each and every one of us”.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we must acknowledge that women are still hugely underrepresented in many STEM and TMT roles across the U.S. However, IWD is a celebration that provides the opportunity for women to share their stories, giving a voice to those that need it and offering hope to the next generation of the female workforce.
Edited by Erik Linask