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An interview with Jane Moran, Global CIO Unilever

Jane Moran recently reached Computer Weekly’s Top 50 Influential Women in Tech list. We caught up with her to talk sustainable growth, how to encourage more women to consider tech as a career and what skills we’ll all have to learn in the future…

How would you describe your role?

Jane Moran, Global CIO, Unilever
Jane Moran

Global CIO, Unilever

Jane Moran began her career as a venture capitalist but after networking their office, realised her love was IT. She’s held CIO posts for the past 15 years and has been Unilever’s Global CIO since June 2014. She was the first woman to top Computer Weekly’s ranking of the 100 most influential people in technology.

As Global CIO I don’t see myself as the owner of technology but as an architect laying the foundations so that my partners in the business can bring in and deploy new disruptive technologies quickly, easily and safely, better do their day jobs and drive our business growth.

What is IT’s role in our sustainable growth?

Technology will underpin everything that we are doing to sustainably grow our business.

For example, we are piloting the use of sensors in our factories to track power usage and find out our peak times so that we can reduce power usage at non-peak times. This will not only save us electricity, it will reduce our costs and help to save the planet.

Technology is also digitising Unilever. That’s digital everything – supply chain, product development, sales and marketing. We are also empowering our employees to be agile. All of our new employee applications are designed to be ‘mobile first’ so that we will have a truly mobile workforce with the tools and tech so that people can really focus on their day job.

How important are women in Unilever’s workforce?

There is already a large body of work at Unilever on diversity and more specifically on gender diversity. And that starts at top.

Paul Polman has said that: ‘The benefits of having a gender-balanced organisation are plain to see; it helps power creativity and innovation, deepens the talent pool and allows us to better serve our diverse consumer base.’ Having your CEO support that and also sit on a diversity committee is telling in and of itself.

There’s also a business case behind it. We know diversity is a key driver of innovation and Unilever is on the front foot. We require a gender-balanced candidate slate for job applications. We have programmes that strengthen leadership accountability. We have strong maternity and paternity programmes to encourage women to return to the workforce and we are working to make sure that organisations outside our company help to feed in that talent pool of female talent.

Importantly, we also have enablers that help keep women in the workforce. One of these is agile working. We know that when women are mid-way through their careers in their 30s-40s many end up dropping out of the workforce because at this point in their lives they are often the primary care giver or they’re caring for elderly parents and they can’t handle the demands of both. I really believe what Unilever is doing around agile working to support everyone during this time in their lives, but especially women, is going to help keep women engaged in their careers.

What kind of future do you see for Unilever?

The book Exponential Organisations argues that growth will be driven by how businesses collect and use information. You can’t do that without technology.

Look at some of the billion dollar companies under five years old, such as Uber and Airbnb. These companies don’t have any assets, they have technology; the technology is grabbing information and the analytics is driving their growth.

So my takeaway is that in 10–15 years’ time we are going to be more of a digital company and digital consumer goods products companies are going to win. Everyone at Unilever will be a technologist. Just like we take English courses at school, we will need to take coding and computer science as it will underpin everything that we do every day.

Jane Moran’s 4 top tips for women building a career in IT

1. Find a mentor

I would encourage women to seek their own mentor outside their boss to bounce ideas off. This is especially important in technology where on average only 17% of the workforce is female. We’re lucky in Unilever, we are twice that. But if you work in tech and are in a meeting of ten people and only two are women it is important to have a sounding board outside of that.

2. Find your voice

If you are in that less than 20% in the room you tend not to speak up. There is an assumption that if you do good work people will notice. That works in academia because the work is graded, but it doesn’t always work in the professional community – you need to promote yourself.

3. Claim your credit

Spend 10% of your time telling people what you have done. A lot of women say ‘my team’. Every once in a while it’s OK to switch those pronouns and take some credit for yourself. Turn up the volume on interactions so that your good ideas get heard, you move the business forward and you move yourself forward in your career.

4. Take your place at the table

Be physically present and when you sit down at a meeting, really get involved with the meeting and really share your ideas.

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