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Coffee Chat: Four Important Questions for Women Leaders

By Amy Josef, Director, Corporate Programs Marketing, Bentley Systems

There is a notable lack of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries, especially women leaders. Thankfully, there are efforts underway to foster girls’ interest in sciences and technology, and in architecture, engineering and construction industries at an early age, hopefully leading to a greater number of women who are leaders in these fields in the future. Bentley Systems, Inc., a global leader in developing comprehensive software solutions for advancing infrastructure, is proud to have amazing women in leadership roles who are setting the pace for future generations. Several of them—Lori Hufford, VP of connected services; Claire Rutkowski, chief information officer; and Anne-Marie Walters, industry marketing director— took time out of their schedules to share their insights:

Q: What advice would you give to women trying to break into engineering and technology fields?

Hufford: “You must have a passion for technology and understanding how things work and love science and math. If you don’t inherently love solving problems and ‘getting your hands dirty,’ then engineering is probably not right for you. Next, dive deep into your passions and establish your technical credibility.”

Rutkowski: “Have confidence and be yourself. If you enjoy engineering, don’t be intimidated by being in the minority from a gender perspective. Think of it as a gift that sets you apart. When I have been in meetings as the only woman, I’ve repeated the mantra, ‘I am an IT professional.’ It was my way of saying ‘I am on a level playing field with everyone else.’”

Walters: “If you’re in high school, work with your technology teacher and take advantage of things like TechGirlz and GETT programs and participate in a robotics competition or FutureCities. If you’re in college studying engineering, get involved with organizations like DiscoverE, which has great resources and can connect you with other female engineers.”

Q: What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Hufford: “Technical credibility is essential. Leadership and communication skills will facilitate success, but are not sufficient. Technology professionals respect and will follow those who have demonstrated technical acumen and will resist those who have not.”

Rutkowski: “I believe the biggest barrier to female leadership is unconscious bias. Although there is increasing desire to create diversity and to look for a variety of skills, backgrounds and strengths on our teams, it is also a common human trait to hire and promote people who are of the same background, beliefs and gender.”

Walters: “Women work really hard to get the job done and will generally include the entire team in a success. We tend not to blow our own trumpets. Never be afraid to claim your successes and put yourself forward for promotion.”

Q: What woman inspires you and why?

Hufford: “My grandmother had no formal schooling, but she was always engineering solutions to household problems with little resources during the Depression. She could have contributed to the engineering field if she had educational opportunities. She inspired me to take advantage of every opportunity presented to me.”

Rutkowski: “If I had to pick only one person that others would know, I would choose former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She was known as the Iron Lady because of her determination to get things done. She laid out her strategy, created plans to execute on that strategy and then had laser beam focus on getting there.”

Walters: “I am inspired by Benazir Bhutto, of Pakistan, and Angela Merkel, of Germany. To be a good political leader in today’s world is tough; to be female and be such good leaders is fantastic. I think both women lead as women and represent the best characteristics.”

Q: Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

Hufford: “I will likely be cooling down from an early morning run or traveling to my son’s soccer or basketball game, depending on the season.”

Rutkowski: “Depending on the season, you’ll either find me at the soccer field or at the library with my kids.”

Walters: “I love to volunteer, so most Saturdays I am usually working on a Habitat for Humanity construction site, working with repairing someone’s home for Goodworks or doing something for my church with the youth or our women’s group.”

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