Getting Out of My Own Way: Reflections from a Female Executive

In honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to share some of my experience working at the executive level. I was recently asked what it is like to be a “female executive” at a technology company? The question made me take pause because I wouldn’t use the qualifier of “female” to call myself an “exec.” I am simply an exec. The experience reminded me of when I was asked how I felt about being in an “interracial” marriage, it might sound silly to say, but I never thought of us that way, we were just “married.”

Now this is not to say that as a woman and working wife and mother I have not had to make many life choices to find the right balance between career and family; I just do not believe tough choices are something only women have to make.

In digging a little deeper, I asked myself the “female exec” question in a different way. Had I overcome any obstacles, as a female, to reach where I am today in my career? With the 20/20 vision that hindsight affords me, the answer I have to admit is yes. I had to overcome myself. The reality is that the challenges I faced were there because I enabled them to be, or because I allowed them to matter. As a young professional in this industry, I used to feel the need to prove I was as good as the guys or even appear less feminine so that I could be seen as “one of the guys.” I wouldn’t put my picture up in profiles or video chats because I didn’t want people to realize I was a blonde female. Crazy right?

It wasn’t until I got out of my head, and thus out of my own way, that I realized I was the only one I had to prove anything to and that being myself – a feisty 5’3” blonde woman with a Ph.D. – was more than good enough for any profession. It was at that point that my career took off. Not because I was a female, or in spite of the fact, but because I was pretty damn good at what I did.

Today I have the pleasure of serving as the Chief Innovation Officer at a fantastic company where I am glad to say gender is a non-issue, which I guess makes it newsworthy in a weird way. Half our executive leadership team is female. Half my team of developers and designers are women and nearly half our whole company too. We all face tough choices with work-life balance, but it is about making those decisions for ourselves. At Remote Learner, the majority of our employees work remotely, and we have unlimited PTO as a way to support one another in finding that balance. But those are benefits our company offers to support ALL employees – regardless of gender.

The next time I am asked, “What is it like being a female executive in a technology company?” I won’t hesitate to answer – “For me, at this company, it’s pretty great!”

Dr. Page Chen is the Chief Innovation Officer at Remote Learner and serves on several Advisory Boards for technology startup companies in the edtech industry. With degrees in Adult Education and Instructional Design for Online Learning she has designed “out of the box” solutions for all ages and a wide variety of industries for over 20 years. For the last decade, she has focused on open source solutions with a key interest on how integrating techniques used in other fields that incorporate interactive technologies could be utilized in eLearning platforms in a way that has a positive impact on learner mastery. Working together with the design and development teams at Remote Learner, Dr. Chen incorporates her research on proven behavioral design and persuasive technology techniques to support the ongoing design and development of products and instructional strategies.