There can be advantages in being a women leader in a male-dominated industry.
Rebecca Rockafellar, general manager of iStockphoto, thinks so.
“I was asking some colleagues to help me crystallize what makes me different as a female leader versus some of the male leaders in our organization,” Rockafellar told us.
“And one thing that a male colleague called out is that I am able to gain the trust of others by just being very visibly confident in my own skills without boasting. So there’s some element of quiet confidence that I’ve engendered as a female leader in our organization.”
Rockafellar joined Getty Images in February 2003 and became the senior vice president of eCommerce platform management seven years later. The following year, she became the general manager of iStockphoto.
We caught up with Rockafellar, who told us three major ways her management style differs from her male colleagues:
1. Social Intuition
“Women have a natural tendency to both pay attention to work but also observe the reactions of those around them,” she said. “I think men have those traits too, but in general women file away facial expressions and body language a little bit more closely. And instead of just discounting that social intuition I think we use what we see in our relationships and test for possible trouble and create a more bonded technology team.”
As an example, Rockafellar said there may be times when you witness someone who isn’t completely on board with your idea.
“Some women leaders might fear engaging with that person, that it might be a sign of weakness to show empathy or encourage emotional expression, but the reality is if you want to have a healthy culture, you have to listen. And that doesn’t always mean that you have to indicate agreement or let someone throw it on, but you have to have an open door policy that engenders the creative environment that technical businesses need to thrive.”
3. Building Consensus
“I know what I want as the general manager of iStockphoto or the senior VP of eCommerce,” said Rockafellar, “But I like to build consensus and focus on results and be open to others’ ideas. I always have a definite opinion about how to get a task done, but I find that by working communally with my teams I can build loyalty and work out a passionate execution and often hear an idea that might not have surfaced if I’d been completely directed in a top-down fashion.”
The role of women managers in the tech industry has evolved since Rockafellar started working in technology in the early ’90s. “At the most at that time there would be a female program manager working with a team of all male developers, and there are more and more women in those technical roles over time, which I think is great,” she said.