Creating a safe space for authenticity: Insights from Rebecca Mikrut | HCLTech

Creating a safe space for authenticity: Insights from Rebecca Mikrut

HCLTech’s Creative Director discusses how to inspire inclusion within leadership and the importance of celebrating International Women's Day
7 minutes read
Mousume Roy
Mousume Roy
APAC Reporter, HCLTech
7 minutes read
Creating a safe space for authenticity: Insights from Rebecca Mikrut

"As leaders, it's crucial to cultivate an environment where every individual feels empowered to bring their authentic selves to the table," and that’s how Rebecca Mikrut, the Executive Creative Director at HCLTech begins the discussion around “Inspire Inclusion” – the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day.

Reflecting on her journey, Mikrut shared her experience, challenges and strategies for fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace. "Recognizing diversity as encompassing more than just gender or race is essential. It spans across various dimensions such as age, religion, sexual orientation, ability, neurological diversity and beyond. Understanding the unique perspectives of each team member is paramount. Many of us navigate the intersectionality of multiple categories, highlighting the need for inclusivity at every level," she added.

Intentionally trying to add diverse people to leadership ranks, making sure that everyone is educated on how to talk about these issues and understanding the difference between intent and impact. That's one strategy that happens top-down. On a personal level, Mikrut says: “Mentorship is important. I've been fortunate to have really strong mentors, both male and female. It's great to have strong female mentors, so you have someone as a sounding board who has had similar lived experiences in the workplace. But I think also having male mentors gives me a completely different perspective on how to handle something, especially in situations where I may feel a little less assertive or not know how to sort of get my way into a conversation, having that perspective can help me find that path.”

Navigating leadership in tech: Challenges and triumphs

Reflecting on her journey as a woman leader in the tech industry, Mikrut shared insights into the challenges commonly faced by women. "Early in my career, I encountered situations where my voice was overlooked in male-dominated environments," she recalls. “It took resilience and support from mentors to assert myself and rise into leadership roles."

Statistics reveal that while women make up nearly half of entry-level positions in tech, their representation decreases significantly at higher levels, with only 20% reaching executive roles. Mikrut’s journey echoes this trend, underscoring the need for concerted efforts to break down barriers to women's advancement in tech leadership.

She highlighted the importance of mentorship in women's career progression. "Having mentors who believe in you and advocate for your growth can make all the difference," she emphasizes.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) lie at the heart of Mikrut’s initiatives at HCLTech.

She spearheaded initiatives to ensure representation and inclusion within the organization. "By involving employee resource groups in campaign development," she explains, "we ensure that diverse perspectives are not just acknowledged but actively celebrated."

Strategies for breaking barriers

Organizational commitment to diversity and inclusion is essential for effecting meaningful change. According to McKinsey’s, only 86 women are promoted to manager for every 100 men at the same level. The gender gap for women in technical roles is more pronounced, with only 52 women being promoted to manager for every 100 men. 

Addressing the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles, Mikrut emphasized: "We need intentional efforts to diversify leadership ranks and create inclusive cultures."

Society has taught women to be obedient and to take up small spaces. It can be counterintuitive and challenging to take the space you need and claim that in a conversation.  “You have to sort of get comfortable being uncomfortable, right? You have to do things that feel a little bit foreign,” she adds.

She advocates for fostering an inclusive culture where everyone feels empowered to contribute. Through mentorship and education on diversity issues, she believes in equipping women with the tools to navigate challenges and seize opportunities.

Mikrut also states the importance of individual agency in championing inclusion. "Each of us has a responsibility to challenge biases and advocate for equitable practices," she says.

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Empowering the next generation

To young women entering the workforce, Mikrut offers invaluable advice: embrace discomfort, assert your presence and cultivate mentorship relationships. She encourages women to challenge societal norms, speak up for their aspirations and surround themselves with supportive mentors who provide guidance and encouragement.

“Make your intentions clear, people can't read your mind. So, if you want to go somewhere, make sure everybody around you knows where you want to go so that you have a support system to help you get there,” she says. By challenging norms and amplifying your voice, you can pave the way for future generations of women leaders," she emphasizes. 

It's important that executive leadership at any organization takes Diversity, Equity and Inclusion very seriously because then it will become a corporate priority that cascades throughout the organization. “Inclusion starts at the top,” she says.

Mikrut’s leadership exemplifies resilience, advocacy and a steadfast commitment to inclusive practice. As we commemorate International Women’s Day, let’s work collectively towards a future where diversity is celebrated, inclusion is the norm and women’s voices resound in every sector of society.

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