Jan Babiak draws upon her decades of high-level career experience to work toward expanded opportunities for women working in technology – all the way to the top.
Babiak, a longtime ISACA member and board member with Walgreens Boots Alliance., Inc., Bank of Montreal and GHD Group, has made advocating for women advancing to upper management one of her core priorities. She is involved in the International Women’s Forum and Women Corporate Directors, among other organizations, in her efforts to connect women with leadership opportunities.
“There aren’t a lot of women who have been successful in the C-suite themselves available to help women make that last step, and that last step is actually one of the most difficult, so that’s an area I have real passion around,” Babiak said.
Babiak has encountered many of the barriers noted by respondents in The Future Tech Workforce: Breaking Gender Barriers report throughout her career, which included 28 years with EY – 20 of those based in London working in leadership roles related to information security and regulatory issues. She has been in hundreds of meetings – counting those with clients – in which she was the only woman, given the male-dominated state of the field.
“Sometimes I was welcome, but sometimes there was clear resentment or, worse yet, patronization,” Babiak said. “As I earned the right to influence who else would be admitted to leadership, I worked to sponsor the best talent, and that included both men and women in equal measure. Interestingly, I found I always had a much higher percentage of women in my leadership teams than my male peers, and our results were usually much better. Now that really feels great, and is a testament to the tangible benefits of diverse experiences.”
Babiak believes a comprehensive approach must be taken to seriously address a wide range of systemic issues that have created the gender disparity in the technology field.
“A great starting point is having measurement, transparency and accountability for gender equality at every level – in the schools, in the workplace, in government, etc.,” Babiak said. “Another key area of emphasis would include educating the parents and teachers of young girls about the opportunities in technology for their daughters. They are the greatest influence and, sadly, they often have biases that actively discourage interests in STEM related areas.”
In addition to promoting career advancement for women, Babiak directs much of her focus toward helping boards and senior management better understand cyber security priorities, as well as advising those on technical career paths how they can grow into management roles.
While Babiak has lived in Nashville, Tennessee, since 2010, she considers herself “a global citizen.” She returns to the United Kingdom several times a year and travels extensively on a global scale.
“It’s interesting seeing how wonderful it is when you mix the different experiences of people from different cultures and people with different challenges from a regulatory standpoint,” Babiak said. “To see how global the world is has been a tremendous and wonderful enlightenment for me. I wish everyone had that experience.”