Navigating the future with insights from Valcon’s women leaders

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we sat down with two of our female leaders, Sonja Meijerink, Managing Partner at Valcon South-East Europe and Jodi Steenaart, Head of People Valcon UK, and talked about the experiences and challenges encountered throughout their careers.

The landscape for women in data, tech and consulting has changed a lot since the turn of the millennium, with more women in the workplace and better opportunities. But it would be naïve to say we have reached an age of equality – there’s still a lot of work to do. This is why it’s vital to recognise the efforts and initiatives that have contributed to creating a more inclusive and empowering environment for women.

At Valcon, we believe in a diverse workforce. And today we are happy to share insights and advice from two of our female leaders, Sonja Meijerink, Managing Partner at Valcon South-East Europe and Jodi Steenaart, Head of People Valcon UK. Here they talk about experiences and challenges encountered throughout their careers: 

Sonja Meijerink, Managing Partner, Valcon South-East Europe

In the evolving landscape of technology and consulting, the journey of women has seen dramatic shifts. Reflecting on these changes, Sonja shares her insights from starting in a male-dominated field in 1992 to witnessing and contributing to the significant progress women have made over the years.

Sonja, how has the landscape for women in tech and consulting changed in your role?

When I began my career in IT consulting, I could count us women on one hand in a sea of thousands. And we would often be mistaken for secretarial staff. Despite these challenges, I was determined to make my mark in IT consulting, driven by a passion for the field and encouragement from my mother to show how things could be different.

How have women’s role changed in leadership?

There has been a big evolution in leadership and there used to be resistance to women’s more emotionally nuanced approach. It took time for the notion that women could excel in managerial roles to be accepted. Our leadership style, often more emotional and empathetic, is gradually becoming recognised as a strength, although there is still resistance. It’s important to remember showing emotion is a testament to my commitment and care for my work and team.

How does Valcon work to advance gender diversity? 

We’ve always aimed for a diverse workforce, understanding that a mix of perspectives strengthens our teams and appeals to our clientele. Particularly in countries like Croatia and Serbia, the tech field is more gender balanced and we actively encourage women to pursue careers in this promising sector.

What is your proudest moment?

Winning the prize for the fastest-scaling company led by a woman was a highlight, although I initially longed for the top prize, not one segregated by gender. Yet, understanding the importance of role models, I embraced the recognition and really hope to inspire other female entrepreneurs and women who’d like to become tech entrepreneurs.

What is your advice for aspiring women in tech and consulting?

For women entering the field, remember, the sky is the limit. At Valcon, I’ve experienced a culture of equality, where opportunities are not defined by gender. Don’t let self-imposed limitations hold you back. Whether it’s seeking mentorship or striving for leadership, our company supports your ambitions. The path is yours to choose, with countless opportunities waiting.

Jodi Steenaart, Head of People, Valcon UK 

Jodi, how has the industry evolved?

I would say that in the last 10 years or so, there has definitely been an evolution of women in the industry. Take women in technology networks and how they have proliferated – five years ago you’d see them only at the bigger consultancies, but are now common place at smaller players too. 

Can you tell us about Valcon’s inclusion efforts?

At Valcon, our Women in Technology (WIT) Committee has blossomed in the past couple of years, a big step in our mission to empower women within our business. These platforms provide leadership training and really impactful coaching, creating an environment where women are encouraged to celebrate their accomplishments openly – this embodies the spirit of the “I am remarkable” initiative.

How do you engage the next generation?

Last year, Valcon’s ‘WIT’ committee ran our second successful STEM work experience programme, which aims to inspire young girls and show them a career in technology is attainable and exciting. A lot of the girls who attended have aspirations of careers in areas like cloud engineering, which is testament to the changing perceptions among the next generation.

What would you say to women thinking about starting out in this industry?

Have the confidence to get on and do it and don’t be deterred by perceptions it can be a male dominated sector. The concept of diversity of thought and the knowledge that diverse teams are more successful are now standard, so this helps breaks down barriers and empowers women to be brave and confident. 

For women starting out in this industry, look for the right mentorship and keep that going throughout your career. Being a mentor and mentee are both extremely valuable. And of course this goes for everyone, not just women in technology! Having a good mentorship programme in place is brilliant for cultivating grass roots.