Women in Tech Leadership: Arlene Adams

Date Published

Last week, we were delighted to bring together female leaders from across our portfolio for our first Women in Tech Leadership event of 2022. Joined by guest speaker, Arlene Adams, founder and former CEO of Peppermint Technology, the conversation covered confidence and self-coaching as well as building teams and encouraging more women into tech leadership positions.

Having worked for 30 years in the technology sector – including 20 years at board level – Arlene has achieved huge success, from founding and running a fast-growing start-up, to managing a $1bn product business. During this informative and inspiring session, she shared some insight into her journey so far, showing how fearlessness, an entrepreneurial mindset and positioning herself to work with positive people have been key to achieving milestones in her career.

“If you want to be in a space that’s constantly evolving, there’s no better place than tech.” 

While the global technology sector continues to evolve at a rapid pace, building a diverse workforce with innovative thinking has become crucial for putting the UK at the forefront of industry. However, there is much room for improvement, as only 31% of tech roles are currently held by women, reducing to 10% at leadership level. Discussing this issue, Arlene identified ways in which women can progress to leadership positions within technology businesses or bring their ideas to life by starting a tech company of their own.

Build your confidence. Women in tech have made huge strides over the last 30 years. Recognising this, it is important for female leaders to acknowledge small wins and focus on their achievements to build the assurance and determination needed to reach their ambitions:

“You can worry, or you can believe in yourself!” 

Challenge your mindset. When pursuing a career in tech, fear can often be a major obstacle. But, by understanding and embracing it, fear can also be a key driver in achieving success.  Face your fears, foster an entrepreneurial mindset and build the confidence to take risks that will elevate a growing business.

Be clear about what you want. Competing for board positions is challenging, especially in a fast-growing industry such as tech. Arlene’s advice to anyone aspiring to hold leadership positions is to really understand their goals and why they want to achieve them. While securing a board level position may seem like the epitome of success, it may not be the career step that truly aligns with every individual’s goals.

Raising the profile of Women in Tech

Although supporting female rising stars in tech is crucial, there is still some distance to go to achieve true diversity in the sector. During a follow-up Q&A discussion with the network, Arlene also shared some practical actions to empower women in technology and encourage them to move to the forefront of the industry.

Lead from the front. Representation within companies is key in creating a diverse workforce. With that in mind, opportunities should be taken to magnify the voices of women in leadership positions, allowing them to act as role models within the company and influence others. This mode of thinking is what inspired SEP’s Women in Tech Leadership network, which provides a platform for female leaders to share experiences and advice with other women within SEP’s high growth technology portfolio companies.

Don’t overthink it. Although representation and support are crucial, ensuring diversity and empowering women does not fall solely to female CEOs in tech. Women at any stage of their career can take the reins by focusing on developing their skills, building their network, and embarking on new training and qualifications. Initiatives to encourage diversity in the sector and a variety of grants, sponsorships and career changer programmes exist to help women take the leap.

Create safe environments. Company culture is central to ensuring an inclusive workplace where women can thrive. This includes creating a space where women can express their concerns, learn from others and receive professional guidance. Alizeh McClelland, a Principal within SEP’s investment team and a founding member of SEP’s Women in Tech Leadership network, comments:

Working at SEP, I can openly share my ideas and receive the support I need for my professional and personal development. By creating a community of female executives, we are seeking to provide women across our portfolio companies with a safe environment where they can gain inspiration from each other’s professional accomplishments and support each other in achieving their individual career ambitions.”

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