As part of our support for International Women’s Day “Choose to Challenge”, we invited our female leadership to discuss their views on gender inequality and related issues. Earlier in the week, we heard from Emily Georgiadis. For this #IWD2021 Ringside, we caught up with Fatima Chawdhury, corporate counsel on the RingCentral commercial team. Fatima’s role is to provide legal support to RingCentral stakeholders, protect the business legally and commercially, and successfully execute contracts between RingCentral and its customers.
Can you tell us a bit about you?
I have a real passion for communications related technology in an academic environment and thoroughly enjoy drafting key legal principles and creative solutions for that technology. I find the speed of how technology evolves fascinating. At the start of my career, it was all about the Blackberry and now look where we are, RingCentral, message, video and phone all in one platform.
Outside of work, I’m Bridgerton, and a certain Duke obsessed and love psychological thrillers.
Have you benefited from having any personal mentors? What’s been the driving force to get you where you are today?
My mentor would have to be my dad; he taught me that anyone could be anything if they worked for it, irrespective of whether you are female or male. He used to refer to William Golding, “I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men; they are far superior and always have been.”
I think anyone can do anything if they want to. I’ve had more than one driving force to get me where I am today: determination, focus and being cheeky – my sense of humour gets me through a lot.
Many women are quick to automatically classify strength in their character as a flaw or associate it negatively. Be strong, assertive, and have confidence in yourself. Click To Tweet
What advice would you pass on to other women to help them progress?
Many women are quick to automatically classify strength in their character as a flaw or associate it negatively. Be strong, assertive, and have confidence in yourself. If you see yourself in a negative light, then how will everyone else see you?
Too often, opinionated, strong women are labelled as “aggressive” or “abrasive” – please never believe this. What I’m getting at is be kind to yourself and embrace every part of your personality for what it is.
How has COVID-19 impacted your work life balance and responsibilities outside of work? Any tips you can share on how you’ve managed the past 12 months?
COVID-19 has been so insightful in many ways. Like everyone, it’s been challenging for me. I joined RingCentral in August 2020, in the middle of the pandemic and that’s been strange, not yet meeting a person in real life!
The main piece of advice from me: Laugh! That’s all I do, take each day as it comes and enjoy it, whatever you do. You won’t always get it right, but do your best and have fun doing it.
My key must-haves:
- Amazon Prime (my best friend never lets me down and always on time).
- Air Fryer – the best product ever, other than my iPhone, of course!
- Netflix and Bridgerton – enough said.
Why do you think we still have so few female leaders (vs male as a percentage of total leadership) in the technology sector?
I think it’s because we don’t have many prominent publicly recognised female leaders in the technology world. When we think of Facebook, we think of Mark Zuckerberg immediately, but how many people think of Sheryl Sandberg? How many of us know of Susan Wojcicki, COO of YouTube, but we all know of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs? Is it because women are humbler, or is it because women are not acknowledged for their work in this arena and therefore do not receive the same level of attention as their male counterparts?
Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass on to help women overcome issues associated with ‘the glass ceiling’ in our industry?
- Do your research and rely on your instincts. Is there diversity at the top? If not, bring it to the attention of the C-suite and educate the company on how to diversify.
- Read the gender pay review report for your company – it is available on the government site and has to be published annually by organisations with 250 employees or more. If there’s a noticeable difference, it has to change, and you can help make that happen.
- Be seen and be vocal. If ‘office banter’ makes you uncomfortable, tell your colleagues and educate them on why it’s not right.
There’s one saying that we should all carry with us: ‘A strong woman stands up for herself, a stronger woman stands up for everyone.’
Do your research and rely on your instincts. Is there diversity at the top? If not, bring it to the attention of the C-suite and educate the company on how to diversify. Click To Tweet
Sound advice on progression and thoughts on the lack of female leadership in the tech industry – thank you to Fatima for being so open. Stay tuned for the next #IWD2021 Ringside interview next week.