Women's Wednesday: Meet our Internal Ops ladies

We wrap up the last edition of our Women’s Wednesday series with our Internal Ops ladies. We explore their views on gender equality in the workplace and what it means for women to lift each other up.

Avy VTOL lifesaving drones HR manager

Meet our Internal Ops ladies

With International Women’s Day approaching,  we’ve decided to put our Avy ladies in the spotlight through a series of interviews, to find out about their experience when it comes to being a woman in the drone and tech industry. It’s no secret that we find ourselves in a male clustered industry,  where women still don’t always receive the recognition and credit they deserve, as well as equal opportunities and at times equal pay. In companies where 50% or more senior leadership positions are held by women, they’re more likely to offer equal pay and female employees are more likely to stay with the company. However, women feel less enthusiastic about their senior leadership prospects than men, only 25% of them felt it was likely that they’d be promoted to executive management, compared to 54% of men. For all these reasons and more, we believe it’s important to raise awareness about the current state of the tech industry and find a way to motivate women to join the workforce, while celebrating women that we know. And where is a better place to start, than right at home. Read on to find out how these Avy wonder women are navigating through what sometimes appears to be a man’s world. 

For the last edition of Women’s Wednesday we talked to the Internal Operations, the only majorly women team at Avy. Ilse, HR captain, Chris, subsidy and grant manager and Laura, management assistant, explain what attracted them to a job in a tech company, and share their ideas on how to increase gender equality in the workplace.

What is your role at Avy and how does your typical day look like? 

Ilse: Until a few months ago, I was a member of the strategic team and the team lead of internal operations, as well as the HR captain at Avy. Currently, I am on pregnancy leave and when I get back I will focus solely on the HR as Avy is growing rapidly and there is a bigger workload in that domain. I am in charge of making contracts, arranging 30% ruling, conducting interviews and setting up the hiring process. I also have an HR consulting hour, and provide extra support for employees who might need it.

Laura: I work as a management assistant. I try to support the management, and since I just started, I am mostly helping out the CEO and CTO but plan to help other team leads in their day to day tasks. A lot of my work is making sure things do not fall through cracks and that everyone is on top of their game. Also, I organise company-wide meetings and sessions. So you could say my role at Avy is the one of the facilitators.

Chris: I am a subsidy and grant manager. I do project management for Avy’s funded research and development projects. That means I apply for new subsidies and grants, and keep track of our progress; how many hours we put into these projects, are we reaching milestones etc. Furthermore, I communicate with our donors and receive, as well as, implement their feedback.

Avy VTOL lifesaving drones internal ops
Chris & Ilse from Internal Ops with Manon from Marcom

What attracted you to work for a tech company? What was your  dream job when you were a kid?

Ilse: I’ve always been attracted to technology. I loved puzzles and I always enjoyed math and physics classes in school. I almost did my studies in math, but eventually chose to go for a broader field and studied Science and Innovation Management.

What I found interesting at Avy is that we always discuss innovation, possibilities, opportunities and future, instead of focusing on problems. The world is full of creativity and possibility, so we get to create our own path, which is what Avy is doing and I’m here for it.

When I was really young I wanted to be a ceramic artist because I could see my mum doing it and I’ve always thought it looks cool. At some point, I wanted to win a Nobel Prize in science, which is not really a job but it was a dream of mine!

Chris: Before I came to Avy, I worked for an organisation that developed a sustainability reporting model for businesses. After that I wanted to work in a company that has a tangible product, so when I came to Avy and saw the drone I thought “Ok, now we’re talking.” It looked new and exciting, a product to make a direct impact with. 

My dream job when I was little was to be a teacher and it stayed my dream for a very long time. As a kid I loved going to school and always looked up to my teachers. I didn’t become one, but I still enjoy learning and passing on knowledge to others!

Laura: I did my studies in Environment and Resource Management, and just recently finished my thesis on WWF. I used to work at the Media Art festival, and always had deep interest in sustainability. I wasn’t looking for a job in tech, but for a job that could give me an opportunity to facilitate the staff. I also knew Pi (Avy’s founder) for a while and knew about Avy’s mission that aligned with mine. Once the vacancy opened I applied, and here I am!

One of my dream jobs was to be a baker. I loved looking at the oven when cakes were baking and thought it was fun to wake up early in the morning to bake bread for everyone. Another job I really liked was the one of the garbage man. I loved how they could hang off the trucks, and a rebellious part of me wanted to do the same.

What could companies do better to increase gender equality in the workplace?

Ilse: If we want to ensure more gender equality in the tech industry, we should start by getting more women interested in tech, which starts early on in primary school. For example, when I was 8 I did something called Technica Teen, in the community centre of our neighbourhood. They basically organised activities for children, and one of the weekly classes was for girls only, led by a woman where we learned how to fix our bikes or do other repairs. That’s an example of how we can make women feel more independent in a fun way. Once they join the job market, one of the ways we can attract women can depend on how we write job vacancies. The way you formulate it can be nuanced more in male or female way and you can make employer branding more engaging. However, if you have 100 applicants, and only 2 women among them, it’s less likely they will be the best of the best. Once women are hired, we need to ensure gender equality  through essential factors such as a fair salary system, clear policies, setting boundaries and preventing harassment.  

Laura: I think what is important to achieve gender equality is to have more women in leadership roles or in strategic management of the companies. In some countries and companies there is a certain quota that needs to be met that can ensure equal numbers of men and women in these positions. The reason why I believe in this kind of policy is because if there are more women they are more likely to have this vision of equality and enforce it more steadfastly.

Chris: To achieve gender equality at the workplace I believe the hiring practice is really important. Having a diverse pool of talent to hire from is essential, which starts with inclusivity in the education system and I feel like companies cannot really influence that. There are lots of studies on what kind of language to use in job ads; it’s the small details like including m/f in the job title or what adjectives you use that can make your ad speak to a more diverse crowd.

It’s crucial to educate the senior management on gender in the workplace. I feel a barrier for a lot of people to talk about gender and inclusion is that they‘re afraid of saying something ‘wrong’. It’s true that this space can in that respect be very unforgiving.

I believe a little education can go a long way: not everything has been figured out yet so there should be room for discussion with your peers, as long as you are willing to learn!

How important it is for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

Ilse: I think it’s quite essential and believe women can be pretty supportive of each other, which can have a positive impact on the atmosphere in the workplace. It comes naturally to women to show interest in each other’s life, give each other compliments and find ways to bond even outside of work. Unfortunately, I know there are also environments where women are doing things behind each other’s backs. At the beginning, I was the only woman at Avy and I’ve always felt supported. My male colleagues were always attentive and kind. However, it’s special when you have women around that you connect with.

Laura: It’s definitely important. It plays a great role in how comfortable you feel when expressing what you need in order to do your job. It’s not always easy to function in a male dominated company if you don’t feel supported, which is why I believe it’s crucial for women to appreciate each other and acknowledge the extra value they bring to the team. Sometimes women feel like they need to adapt to their male-dominated environment by ignoring the gender equality issues they struggle with. However, if there are other women around it’s easier to make changes and challenge existing conditions.

Chris: Well I think when people hear statements like this they might think of Madeleine Albright saying “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” However, I think it’s a bit out-dated and implies some kind of preferential treatment among women in business.

The way I like to support my colleagues (as well as friends), is to send them messages of appreciation when I see they’ve achieved something, small or big. Something small that says “I see you and notice the effort you put in”, can go a long way. I do this for all my colleagues, but I do think among women the language we use in these moments is a bit different and there’s a double layer of appreciation. That’s where I do see an innate kind of bond, allies, even.
Avy VTOL lifesaving drone ladies office
Empowering each other with a glass of vino

Which badass/powerful woman do you admire and look up to? How does she inspire you?

Ilse: As a kid, I was looking up to Pippi Longstocking a lot. She was so independent, and I aspired to be like her. But someone special who I admire a lot is Avy’s investor Shawn. She is a self-made woman who created a very successful company from scratch, and she did it more than 20 years ago when it wasn’t as common for women to run a company. She is deeply focused on growth and learning which I find inspiring.

Chris: I enjoy seeing women in my life excel, and it makes me happy to just see it all around me. It’s very general, and it’s every-day stuff.  I admire all the women I know who fight for what they want and get things done. It can be something small and obvious that I find inspirational, and most importantly it’s omnipresent.

Laura: I find it inspiring when I see women in their flow doing what they want. I have a friend who worked as a designer in a car shop and was very unhappy with it. After some soul searching she started doing traditional massages, and literally flourished with it. Stories like this one I find uplifting and I admire every woman who just goes for it.

We would like to thank our Internal Ops ladies for sharing their experience. This was the last edition of our Women’s Wednesday series, and the lesson we can take from hearing these experiences and ideas is how important it is to keep the conversation going and continuously raise awareness on gender issues of modern society. That is the only way to achieve equality we so yearn for. We explore this topic in our next piece for Women’s Day, in which we reverse the roles and ask the men from Avy about their views on women in tech and in the workplace. 

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