Kirsty Gilbert is a Regional Director at Snowflake where she’s focused on accelerating growth in the enterprise market across UKI. Exceptionally passionate about delivering value, Kirsty spends her time developing the strategy of the business she’s responsible for in order to help her team and the organizations she works with achieve their goals. Outside of her career, Kirsty is a proficient scuba diver, fitness enthusiast and strong advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion within the technology industry.
We sat down with Kirsty to learn more about her and explore the topic of diversity in the technology industry.
When did you get interested in the tech industry?
I started working in technology at the age of 18, initially as an EA to the CEO of a technology reseller and then moving across to sales. It was by chance that I got the opportunity, and it was an interesting transition, to say the least.
Starting my career working at an executive level and having an understanding of how businesses are run gave me a good head start when transitioning into sales. It was especially helpful to understand what’s discussed in the boardroom.
In my experience, there are many women who get into technology by chance rather than making it a conscious choice. I’m really striving for this to change. How great would it be to have more women making a conscious decision to pursue a career in technology?
Support and challenges
I’ve been faced with my fair share of challenges throughout my career, with both gender and age being obstacles that I’ve had to overcome. The culture of the technology industry 16 years ago was very different from how it is today, and I certainly had to fight for credibility in the earlier days.
On one occasion, I was presenting a solution with a junior-level male counterpart, yet every question asked during the presentation would be directed at him as opposed to me. He would then direct the question to me, and I would in turn answer it. This ended up becoming a regular pattern in meetings. It left me feeling totally deflated and I found myself asking questions: “How do I assert myself in a meeting without coming across as too aggressive?” or “How do I strike the balance between maintaining my femininity but also being masculine enough for people to find me credible?” It was a total conundrum.
For many years, I’d be the only female around the table, researching football (which I have to confess, I’m not a huge fan of) to make sure I could join in the conversation on a Monday morning. At one point I even tried learning golf—this was a complete fail, I suck at golf!
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some fantastic leaders over the years who’ve taught me that I just need to be myself. People are much more receptive when you’re authentic, and it’s a heck of a lot more enjoyable.
A day in Kirsty’s life
My days are spent mostly looking at the strategy of the business I’m responsible for, understanding its customer and market challenges, and developing a business plan to help both my team and the organizations we work with to achieve our goals.
In a previous life, I was a professional ballroom dancer, and having moved to London very recently, I’m starting to take that back up as well. It certainly helps focus the mind and take some time out of corporate life.
What are you particularly proud of in your career?
As a leader, I take great satisfaction in enabling my team to achieve their goals—personal or professional. It’s fantastic to be a part of a company that makes a real impact, whether it’s leveraging AI to support “whole-person” healthcare or supporting education services with the likes of University of Sydney.
I’m also proud to have a 50/50 mix of men and women on my team—it creates diversity and promotes an extremely collaborative and inclusive environment.
As an individual contributor, I think my proudest career achievement was developing the capital markets industry at a previous company. It was great to build an industry segment from the ground up to be one of the leading verticals in EMEA.
Who has been the biggest inspiration in your career?
As cliché as it sounds, my dad is my biggest inspiration! He’s worked in technology for over 30 years, starting as a developer in financial services and then building his own company. I remember how proud I felt when he got a job working for a Formula 1 team developing software to analyze race data in real time—I told everyone who would listen.
He’s exceptionally creative and takes a lot of pride in staying at the forefront of the industry. I definitely get my love of technology from him and he’s been my biggest supporter.
Why aren’t there more women in technology?
There’s no straightforward answer to this question. There are likely a number of factors that contribute to a lack of women in technology. From an early age, it’s ingrained in girls that subjects such as math and science are more male-oriented. Even the marketing of toys in the early years was geared toward boys. This translates into higher education, and then into the workplace, which in turn has created a bit of a “bro culture” in the technology industry, especially in sales.
It’s quite a complex topic, but ultimately I believe it boils down to a societal view in early years that boys tend to be more suited to STEM topics, while girls tend to be more creative. This, of course, isn’t true—there are many creative men, and many mathematically focused women, but the preconception does carry through into the work environment, leaving fewer female role models in the industry.
How do we get more women inspired about careers in data?
We should make STEM more accessible in the early years, market these subjects to all genders, create more of an inclusive culture, and continue to champion female role models.
Do you think that data can help build a more diverse and equal workplace?
Yes, absolutely! 49% of the workforce are women, with only 22% of tech directors and 19% of tech workers being women—this is a huge underrepresentation. Forbes states that organizations obtain higher investment when there are women sitting on the board. This is a huge advantage and we need to ensure we’re promoting this diversity.
According to a recent study by Morgan Stanley, a more diverse workforce, as represented by women across all levels of the organization, was correlated with higher average returns. Morgan Stanley states that from 2011–2019, companies with more gender diversity enjoyed a one-year return on equity that was 2% better than companies with low gender diversity. Further, these more diverse companies experienced lower return-on-equity volatility, too.
Despite progress made, we are still a long way away from achieving gender equality. Thanks to investor demand, increased data and transparency driving investment strategies, and more-robust impact report capabilities, organizations are more empowered to create more-equitable outcomes for all.
My goal is to continue working to create a more diverse and inclusive environment within our industry. It’s not only about the people you recruit but also the environment you create. We all need to promote a culture of openness and transparency where people aren’t discouraged from being themselves.
Additional references and sources:
- The Detrimental Effects of Sexism in an Instruction Situation
- Why Gender Diversity May Lead to Better Returns for Investors
- National Center for Women in IT (NCWIT)