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Red Hat’s Margaret Dawson: ‘We’re Really Not’ Seeing Equality, Diversity in Tech

Women in Technology
Channel Partners' Edward Gately

Edward Gately

Red Hat’s Margaret Dawson has been an executive in the channel for many years, with previous roles at Hewlett Packard, Symform, Hubspan and Napera Networks.

The senior director of global product marketing is well aware of the challenges women face in male-dominated tech. She has made it her mission to increase equality and diversity in this industry.

Red Hat's Margaret Dawson

Red Hat’s Margaret Dawson

Dawson currently is traveling the country giving a speech called “Snort Out Loud.” It illustrates her belief that a perceived need to hold back and be something they are not is discouraging women and girls from pursuing a careers in tech.

She has developed five calls to action: women affirming women; less tears and more “kicks in the butt”; more intentional hiring of women; more women only tech conferences; and re-embracing feminism and its original intent.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Dawson talks about her experience in tech and what she hopes to accomplish by speaking out. She joined Red Hat, a provider of open hybrid cloud technologies, in 2015.

Channel Partners: You’ve been a successful executive in tech for many years. What’s been your key to thriving and succeeding in this male-dominated industry?

Margaret Dawson: I think there are a few things. One of the things I somewhat joke about, but it’s true, is that I grew up in the automotive industry, so when I got out of college I went and worked in Detroit just because I knew that environment and that market, and it is a very, very similar industry in that it is also male-dominated. In some ways, being in an industry where women are the minority and also loving the technology – like I still love muscle cars and lifting up the hood, and seeing how things work – served me very well when I ended up transitioning to tech a few years later. I found I really loved the technology and was very passionate about that, and asked a lot of questions. So that constant curiosity and passion about technology itself, and not finding it strange that I was in a situation where it was a majority of men has served me very well.

And then I think there [are] some other things as well in terms of being willing to take risks and kind of have an opinion for things, and sometimes jumping off the ladder so to speak, and going to a startup that was doing something new and different, and being willing to take that kind of risk. In a lot of my mentoring and coaching, I find that a lot of women will sometimes be very risk-averse. It ends up helping you because you not only learn new things, but you end up being involved in initiatives or activities that maybe put you in front of new people and new places, and kind of puts you in those leadership positions that you might not normally have.

And the other thing I would say is I’ve had a lot of focus on helping others be successful, whether those be executives that I have supported in the past, or people that have reported to me. And I think that karma does come back around.

CP: Are we seeing progress in terms of increased equality and diversity in tech?

MD: We’re really not. I think my passion for this story and why you’re seeing so much energy around wanting to see changes is (because) we’re not seeing the progress. In fact, in some ways, some numbers have even gotten lower in terms of …

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