Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty, Q&A 

What important trends are you seeing in the digital operations management space?

Unfortunately, there’s still a huge chasm between how long a customer will wait and how long it takes the average company to address customer-impacting IT issues. Complexity is at the heart of the enterprise challenge, driven by legacy investments that can’t keep pace with the instant gratification world and the proliferation of apps, devices and signals to manage. We bring context to address complexity. We enable teams to predict, prevent and rapidly resolve business-impacting incidents for exceptional customer experience, so that people in IT can focus their efforts on innovation. It’s an incredibly exciting time and opportunity.

What is the biggest challenge for women in the workplace?

Access to opportunities in education, jobs and equitable compensation are known challenges we must address. But even when we do, women and many parents in general must still overcome systemic obstacles like the high the cost of childcare. Full-time care for children aged 0-4 in the United States is an astounding $9,589 a year on average—more than college tuition. As a country, we need to explore and implement wide-scale solutions now. We need to enable parents to thrive in their careers so they can continue to make an important contribution to the economy and progress of the nation.

What is your advice for women looking to take on more leadership roles in their field?

Explore ways to grow horizontally and experientially in your career rather than focusing too narrowly on one particular expertise. Expanding your knowledge, network and skill set across different disciplines is critical to developing the business acumen and empathy needed to be an effective leader. Consider also taking on board and advisory roles to enrich your development and expertise outside of your primary role. Give back to the community around you via your experience and mentorship. Seek diverse sponsors and mentors who will not only support you but also challenge and stretch you beyond your comfort zone. Bottom line: Take some risks in trying new things. If you’re comfortable, you are not doing it right.

Every March we celebrate the many historical contributions women have made to the United States. This year there is another anniversary to include in those celebrations. This year, 2018, marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act, often referred to as H.R. 5050, as it represented a significant step at the time towards parity for female business owners.

Clearing misconceptions

As difficult as it may be to imagine, 30 years ago, in some states, a woman could not get a business loan without a man to co-sign for her. There was an overall lack of understanding about the diversity and complexity of the female business owner community. This was evident in "The State of Small Business Report" that mistakenly set forth that most women-owned businesses were home based. Recognizing that these biases and the resulting policies were impeding their ability to grow their businesses, the leaders of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) began to advocate for a better understanding of the contributions female business owners were making to the economy and for the removal of obstacles, like the male co-signing requirement, for their fellow female entrepreneurs. Their efforts culminated with the signing of H.R. 5050 by President Ronald Reagan.

Today, thanks to H.R. 5050, the U.S. Census includes women-owned C corporations in their reporting data; the National Women’s Business Council conducts important research into the women's business owner ecosystems that is shared with policy makers; the Women’s Business Center program offers resources including business education to women across the country; and women are no longer required to have a male co-sign for their business loan. We have come a long way.

What data can do

Of course, more work remains. NAWBO was founded in 1975 to serve as the first advocacy organization for all female business owners. We are proud to represent this diverse and robust segment of the economy. According to the 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express, there are an estimated 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. These businesses are responsible for employing nearly nine million individuals and generating nearly $1.7 trillion in annual revenues.

Having good data is the first step in driving good public policy. Now that we all understand the significant contribution women business owners make to the economy, it is incumbent on us all to work together to continue to expand access for female business owners to capital, contracts, confidence and community.