Home » International Women's Day » Why women benefit from mentorship, coaching and an empathetic workplace

Catherine Carolan

Software Engineering Manager, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and
Chair of the Inclusion and Diversity Committee, HPE Galway

Ruth O’Brien

Chief Risk Officer, Hewlett-Packard International Bank (HPIB)

Two women working for different sides of the same company explain how businesses can best support and inspire female colleagues to ensure they achieve their career goals.

Catherine Carolan and Ruth O’Brien work for the same company — but their career experiences are different. Carolan is Software Engineering Manager at multinational IT company Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Chair of the Inclusion and Diversity Committee at HPE Galway while O’Brien is Chief Risk Officer at Hewlett-Packard International Bank (HPIB), an institution authorised by the Central Bank of Ireland.

Varied work experiences and opportunities

“That’s the benefit of working for a global company like ours,” explains O’Brien. “It includes technical and engineering roles but also finance and other roles, so there’s a diversity of opportunity. I’ve worked in several roles on the finance side, which is something I value. I always say to women: ‘If you want to stay relevant, grow and progress, you have to be relentlessly curious and challenge yourself.’”

Various informal and formal structures are in place to help them do just that. These include career development planning sessions and mentoring programmes. “The framework for career progression is there,” O’Brien insists. “We just have to make use of it by being proactive.”

If you want to stay relevant, grow
and progress, you have to be relentlessly
curious and challenge yourself.

Ruth O’Brien

Employee resource groups and career progression

This includes leaning into networking opportunities by joining employee resource groups (ERGs). “In my experience, women in the business help each other,” insists Carolan. “The company facilitates them with the ERGs and by funding or sponsoring events where women from inside and outside the business can gather for support.”

It’s also critical for women to feel inspired by female leaders. “Catherine and I have very obvious senior role models within our organisation,” says O’Brien. “HPE’s global Chief Technology Officer and Head of HPE Financial Services division are both women. The impact female leaders have shouldn’t be underestimated because they can give junior colleagues the confidence to apply for senior roles.”

Creating a flexible and supportive workplace culture

The best companies focus on creating an inclusive and empathetic workplace culture. For example, by offering male employees six months of paternity leave, HPE has levelled the playing field. “This policy indirectly benefits women because it brings equality to caring responsibilities,” explains Carolan.

However, she admits there’s still work to do to ensure that women are better represented in IT. “I’ve seen big strides in the 20 years I’ve worked in the sector,” says Carolan. “Yet, we need to encourage more women into IT and advocate for those who currently work in it so that more women can enjoy the great careers in this sector and companies can benefit from the fantastic talent available.”

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