The Next Stone in the Path: My Decades-Long Journey as a Woman in Technology

Women in Stem

By Isabel Espina, VP of Enterprise Architecture, ADP and 2016 recipient of Anita Borg Institute "Woman of Vision" award

"What's it like being a woman in tech?" is a question I'm often asked. Throughout my career, the lack of women in STEM-oriented roles has always been very apparent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women still account for only 25 percent of full-time workers in computer and mathematical occupations and 14 percent in architecture and engineering.1

When I started my career 30 years ago, this disparity was even more pronounced. I was working in operations for a bank after graduating with my degree in electrical engineering and computer science. Now, as I look back on my career and am celebrating my 20-year anniversary with ADP, I'm happy to say that there has been significant progress.

Throughout the past two decades, ADP and I have evolved alongside each other as innovators. Since I was young, I gravitated towards science and math. I loved that these fields provided a problem to solve and endless creative possibilities to explore in solving them. This is what attracted me to ADP in the first place Ð the opportunity to imagine and make an impact. When I was hired to be a part of the Technology and Strategic Architecture team, I was able to use my technical chops to design software and creatively troubleshoot problems Ð directly contributing to ADP's transformation into a technology leader, and helping to keep our pulse on how big data and applications impact the way people work in an increasingly complex digital world.

An integral part of my development as a female leader has been the people I surround myself with, my teammates. Whether it was working as a database administrator for our former Pay Expert tool, or designing standards for our systems to communicate with one another, my teammates always inspired me. I've also had mentors, both male and female, during my time at ADP, who've demonstrated through their character and commitment to innovation what it means to lead. My first boss at ADP, Inna Brovman, was a huge inspiration as a working mother. She was a resourceful, strong woman who advised me on how to manage my work and home life at a time I was considering (and slightly overwhelmed by) the prospect of starting a family.

Other bosses, like my current one Roberto Masiero, the head of the ADP Innovation Lab, have helped me make important decisions about my career trajectory. At times, I wanted to stay along a more technical path to represent for the ladies. Now, in my position leading the Enterprise Architecture team, I get to do that in a different way: maintaining my technical skills while taking on a role in which I can effect change in how the business is run.

For other women in technology, here's my advice: when you get where you want to go, turn back around and help clear the road for the next. That's how we will continue to chart a path for the next generation of female technologists, engineers and scientists.

I believe this mentality of mentorship is a big reason why ADP again has made the Anita Borg Institute's Top Companies for Women Technologists in 2017. To me, this list gives us the examples to look to in creating the path of leading more young people, especially young girls, to fulfilling STEM careers. But we need to continue building on it. The small decisions you or I make day-to-day just might be the stepping stone a future tech leader needs to keep putting one foot in front of the other.