One million, one hundred thousand women.
As of January 2022, that’s how many women were down in the U.S. workforce when compared to February 2020. For context, that’s roughly the population of Montana — all no longer working.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, men have fully recouped their respective Covid-19 labor losses, while women are still lagging behind.
To remedy this disparity, companies need to work on building better workplaces where women can thrive. Asking women to “girlboss” their way to the top is out. Providing structural support to elevate women in the workplace is in.
This topic was one of many salient takeaways from the “Recoding The Tech Industry: Elevating Women For Success” webinar hosted by Liberty Mutual this past November. It’s one of the many events the insurance company hosts to create a space that celebrates and supports women in tech.
This webinar featured Liberty Mutual’s first female chief information officer, Monica Caldas, who shared her story and offered advice for women getting footing in their own careers.
Who is Monica Caldas?
With more than 20 years of experience under her belt, Caldas is the chief information officer at Liberty Mutual, orchestrating a 5,000-person global team in harnessing the power of data and tech to deliver digital capabilities. She is a passionate DEI advocate and is engaged in the company’s ERGs and Hispanic Affinity partnerships. In 2023, she became the first woman to serve as the company’s chief information officer.
Caldas came to the United States as a young immigrant. “I still remember the first time that I saw the Statue of Liberty. I distinctly remember my dad telling me that America is a place of opportunity for those that work hard. That moment helped motivate me to get where I am today.”
Caldas, now a mother of two who balances soccer games with executive meetings, has channeled that work ethic to open doors that were often closed to women in tech. She explained that she has always been drawn to solving tough problems, and technology captivated her.
“As I transition into this global role, I am thinking about how I support the culture and start the dialogue that it’s OK to have these conversations. We can work together as a community, across our allies, to make a better outcome for everyone,” Caldas said. “I’m committed to making sure that we create the right environment for everyone, including moms, to thrive. I’m looking forward to tackling big problems.”
As a woman leader in tech, Principal Software Engineer Margie Feng was inspired by Caldas to start conversations around creating the environment where everyone can thrive on her own team at Liberty Mutual. “I want to make sure everybody — women and men — know that family is a priority,” Feng said. “I trust them, and that should be something we recognize the need for as a team.”
When Caldas shared her experience as an immigrant and a mother, it struck a personal chord for Feng, who has been with Liberty Mutual for 16 years. When Feng started her career in tech, she was one of the only women in the room. There were few women represented in leadership around the industry, let alone immigrant women.
When Feng started her career in tech, there were few women represented in leadership around the industry, let alone immigrant women.
“Monica Caldas inspires me enormously. I believe in her leadership and that Liberty Mutual will continue to work towards ending the gender gap,” said Feng.
During the webinar, Feng learned that there is an important distinction between a mentor and a sponsor. According to Caldas, “Mentorship is where you get helpful advice, someone to help you think through your own development. A sponsor promotes you to other people and advocates for you when you are not in the room. It can be the same person or different people, but make sure you have both.”
Feng shared, “Hearing Caldas’ story, I realized how important mentorship and sponsorship have been in my advancement at Liberty Mutual. I want to give it back and help unlock the power for others.”
DEI Drives Progress
Liberty Mutual’s technology and digital teams are constantly looking to change the insurance experience using cloud-native technologies, scalable microservice-based architecture, and modern software-delivery methods to drive industry-leading products and services. The company knows that diversity, equity and inclusion are critical to that technological growth.
Women make up a smaller number than men in the tech workforce. Women are also more likely to experience impostor syndrome. How can women take more calculated risks in pursuit of career goals?
According to Caldas, “‘No’ is guaranteed if you don’t raise your hand and ask.”
That’s something Technology Associate Paige Lyle had been struggling with since she recently pivoted into tech as a coding boot camp graduate who is participating in Liberty Mutual’s TechStart program. Since the women in tech webinar, Lyle has found the courage to raise her hand for work that might have intimidated her before, including volunteering to present an application demo with her TechStart cohort.
Launching Tech Careers
TechStart is an internship and co-op program providing immersive, hands-on experience for new tech talent. During a three- or six-month assignment, cohorts learn and apply valuable skills to real challenges. The program provides excellent hands-on, real-world experience and successful interns are often offered full-time opportunities.
“TechStart is a developmental program. I was on a team working on a specific internal application that provided real business value. We were getting Agile framework, coding and problem-solving experience,” said Lyle.
This webinar was Lyle’s first women in tech event with Liberty Mutual. She says she signed up for it within a minute of receiving the invitation. “I was really excited, and it definitely delivered,” she said. “I’m looking forward to more.”
She’s also been motivated to join the Women in Technology employee resource group at Liberty Mutual. It’s a group that Feng has found a lot of strength from.
Women in Tech ERG
With more than 500 active members, the Women In Technology ERG provides Liberty Mutual employees with programming that inspires, uplifts and supports both women in tech and allies. The group has three key areas of focus:
- Recruitment and retention, including member participation in well-known tech conferences and corporate sponsorships.
- Creating connections, which offers panels and key events to not only build and strengthen bonds within the ERG, but also to provide opportunities for women to amplify their voice and grow their career.
- Liberty Encouraging Girls in Technology, a subgroup within the ERG whose mission is to close the gender gap in tech. Through local partnerships and community engagement, they work to spark girls’ interest, encourage exploration and motivate them to pursue a future in technology. LEGIT recently launched a coding program to support girl scout troops getting their coding badge, and helped a New Hampshire-based all-girls team win the First Lego League challenge.
“There is a lot of inspiration from the women in technology group, and the support is tremendous. They share a lot of opportunities and help elevate each other within the company,” said Feng.
Lyle added, “I am just at the start of my career in tech. This gives me a lot of hope and inspiration for where I could be in 20 years. I’m really excited for the future here.”