The Global Women in Telco & Tech Awards and Summit: Hear from our Advocates - Victoria Lonker
Victoria Lonker, vice president of global products, Verizon Global Products and Advocate for the Global Women in Telco & Tech, explains why it's important to bring other women with her to the table and why women should own the fact that they can do everything a man cant.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced as a women in the telco/tech industry but more importantly how did you overcome them?
As I moved up the proverbial ladder, I found fewer and fewer women at the table, and it was the first time in my career that the difference was noticeable. This meant that diverse styles and points of view were not always shared, or available for consideration. Fortunately, I’ve been lucky enough to have strong male and female role models who have given me tremendous support and opportunity. The industry as a whole still tends to lag others in terms of woman in finance and technology leadership roles. I think we also pigeon-hole women into roles where our skills in execution are valued over those of strategy, until such time as we move up to senior roles where the reverse seems true.
What did you learn from those experiences and how did it shape your career moving forward?
I’ve learned how important it is to bring other women with me to the table, to the meeting, to the conversation. It has also forced me to look more closely at the people on the various teams I’m on to ensure they represent the faces of our customers. I think sometimes I’ve underestimated how important it was for other women to see me in action and to accept their genuine pride in my success. While I will always be among those to cheer on my fellow female talent and encourage them, I sometimes had a hard time accepting the same – as if I didn’t deserve it. We all deserve to be celebrated, reminded of our value, and encouraged to be bold and badass. A woman named Laura Smith said, “The lioness does not try to be the lion. She embraces her role as the lioness. She is powerful, strong and nurturing. She does not mistake her meekness for weakness. The world needs more kind, compassionate, humble, faithful, persevering, confident, fierce, bold, pure, and tender-hearted women.” Companies need to value these attributes rather than treat them as weaknesses to overcome.
As you are now in senior position yourself, how do you help the next cohort of young women as they progress in their careers?
I want to make sure young women know they are not invisible to me. I try to make sure I reach out proactively: whether by text, email, coffee, lunch, etc. In reality, I can’t have formal mentoring relationships with all of the woman I’d like to: there simply isn’t enough time. I can do informal mentoring, which is sometimes even more intimate and personal, creating opportunities for lasting relationships and friendships.
What do you think needs to happen in your industry to bridge the gender gap or do you think enough is already being done?
I think we need to make more conscious choices and “take a chance” on women in leadership roles. We need to stop having different expectations for men and woman that limit our thinking about their potential. I heard a great anonymous quote once: “Women weren’t created to do everything a man can do…Women were created to do everything a man can’t do.” We have to do our part though. We can’t stand by and hope someone notices us and taps us for new roles and opportunities. We have to put ourselves out there. Go after what we want. Ask for it.
What single piece of advice would you give a young woman, who wants to do what you have done and reach the top of their career?
I’ve noticed that women sometimes hold themselves back from an opportunity because they impose restrictions on themselves like: I’m not qualified, I haven’t served my time, I need more experience, I only have 4 of the 5 skills needed…a man would never say those things! If they meet one skill required, they assume they have all of the others too! We hold ourselves back when we forget that there is nothing we can’t do. Surround yourself with woman you respect. Give yourself room to fail so you can practice new skills. Value cooperation over competition. Be the boss you want to have.
What inspired you to become a Women in and Telco Tech advocate? What was it about this particular initiative that resonated with you?
I’ve been in this industry for over 30 years, so the women here are “my people.” I also love the global nature of this initiative as I have teammates and employees all over the world and the change we make has to be universal to be sustainable. If not now, when