In March, ahead of International Women’s Day, I had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Mary Ann Yule, President and CEO of HP Canada, about women in technology, mentorship and mindfulness, gender balance in the workforce, and advice she could share for women in tech. More recently, our conversation turned to address working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and sharing advice for small businesses that are working remotely to survive.
“Over the past few weeks, we have taken swift measures to keep our employees and their families safe,” remarked Yule. “This includes mandating that anyone who can work from home do so, as well as cancelling all in-person meetings and non-essential travel until further notice.”
“The transition to a work from home model presents a number of challenges, particularly as it relates to security…. One of the ways we’re trying to help combat these issues is by advancing security solutions to provide complete threat protection for businesses and their remote workforces.”
Yule explained that for those working from home, “over 80% of home office routers have been found to be vulnerable to potential cyber attacks,” and so HP’s focus on providing security solutions is high, right now.
Yule grew up in a working-class family, and made it her mission to carve out her own path. “I learned from a young age that setting goals and sticking with it when things got tough was how I’d make my mark,” Yule explained.
“My parents believed that I could achieve anything I set out to do, but I didn’t have CEOs or senior executives in my network to provide career advice, which proved to be a challenge in the early years of my career. That network gap is something a lot of first-generation and middle-class Canadians can identify with, and it poses a challenge no matter your gender.“ Yule added, “I found leaders within my business network who were great mentors and supported my development.”
Yule is also an advocate for mentorship.
“I think mentorship is incredibly important for both women and men. For mentees looking for advice, have a clear idea of exactly what challenge you are trying to solve. It is much more productive if you approach a mentor with a specific skill you want to improve or problem in mind.”
“In my role as the CEO and President of HP Canada, I take great pride in being a mentor and advocate for young women in the technology industry,” said Yule.
“I have made it my mission to foster a work culture at HP where diversity and different thinking is celebrated and I make the time to mentor and coach leaders and rising stars within the company, encouraging everyone to bring their authentic selves to work. I do this,” explained Yule, “by setting an example, highlighting parts of my identity that I am proud of – a child of immigrants, a woman, an internal cultural curator, a business leader, a mother, amongst other things. At the end of the day, we are all human and it is important to soften those barriers and establish authentic connections.”
Yule also shared that she practices mindfulness and mediation.
“I try to implement mindfulness in both my work and personal life,” began Yule. “I find meditation incredibly helpful in keeping me grounded in the moment. It can be as simple as taking a minute to pause and absorb everything that is happening around me. That being said, it is a challenge to maintain that mindset on a daily basis and is something I’m actively working on.”
I also asked Yule about the priorities of leading a gender-balanced workforce as well as a diverse one.
Yule responded, “At HP Canada, more than half of our senior leadership team is female and as a global corporation we have the most diverse Board of Directors of any technology company. These aren’t just ‘nice to haves’, they are business imperatives that create a strategic advantage for HP.”
“In order to equip HP leaders with the ability to foster an inclusive environment and build diverse teams, I support unconscious bias training by having all managers complete [diversity and inclusiveness] training prior to opening a requisition. We have a responsibility as humans to broaden our mindset…. [And] to help foster a workplace where every employee feels free to bring their authentic selves to work.”
What is Yule’s advice for women, today?
“The best piece of advice I can give to women is to have the courage to make your voice heard. Often, speaking up can make you feel vulnerable, but if you come to the table armed with something to contribute, not only will the company benefit from your great ideas, your career will also benefit from proving your value to senior leadership.”
Yule added, “Whether you are a woman at the onset of your career or have years of experience under your belt, I also encourage you to seek out mentors both within your company and externally. Guidance can come from a senior leader that you report to or colleagues across the business. Use this as an opportunity to understand parts of the business you would not otherwise engage with and diversify your skill sets.”
“Finally, don’t be afraid to take chances. Be confident and go for it. You will never have 100% of the answers; that is what keeps us constantly growing. You cannot be afraid – have confidence that you will make the right choices. And it is OK to feel vulnerable. It does not make you any less valuable and you will not die from it. The more you tolerate feeling vulnerable, the more you can normalize it. “