Suzanne Bolton

Start with identifying your vision; what does your career and life look like for you? What job, what company, what salary, what is the team like, what industry.

Country of origin

United States

Which company do you work for?

Starz/Lionsgate and my own company Transformative Visions

What is your specific area of specialisation?

Product management, operations scaling & automation, plus leadership coaching.

How long have you been in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields?

Since University. I left with a Bachelor of Science in math & computing, went on to do exercise physiology, then did a masters in tech management. Have always worked in tech or exercise physiology.

As a woman in a male dominated industry, what has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

Misogyny, sexism, harassment, the difference in pay, mansplaining; if a man just repeats what I said, it is listened to, over me. Being promoted over women. These are all things faced by me and by most women. In one company I worked at, there were a few women being harassed, with two that actually left the company. I stood up against it and took it to HR. Unfortunately, it was not well received, instead, I got a call from the CTO suggesting that maybe this man had autism or some other issue. What I didn’t know at the time was that he was the board of directors’ son, so all they did was move him around anytime this sort of thing happened. I still went in and challenged the status quo, it ended up with me losing my job shortly after that. Which was FINE as I operated with integrity and stuck to my values. It wasn’t me doing something wrong, it was that man and the senior leadership. Looking back, I can see how misogynistic that leadership team was; the bullying, the tantrums and the sexism was prevalent. This company didn’t start off that way, it was a new leadership group that came in and slowly chipped away at women in that leadership level. Awful behaviour.

What inspired you to join this industry?

A fascinating, complex, knowledge-based industry that offers challenges to unpack. I love to break down something challenging and make it better, plus I love information and learning. I also love to coach and mentor others and watch that lightbulb go off for them too.

What changes, if any, have you seen in your field with regards to women in your field?

More women have entered it in the last 15 years. When I started my first job, I was the ONLY women at work, everyone else was a male. They were all fabulous though. It wasn’t until I moved to the US that I ran into men that were out of line and behaved poorly in corporate. I saw one man throw a folder at a woman and told her to file it. I have been excluded from meetings, talked around and not interacted with. I don’t see that as much now, although I do know people in industries such as finance where a lot of it still goes on. I am also aware, given that I work in Hollywood, of how much sexism still goes on, for those who are younger than I. Still more work to be done there. Now there is more willingness to talk about these issues, there is more attention and therefore an opportunity for change, an example is when Netflix rolled out their harassment policy for all production companies they work with, where they have to do sexual harassment training. A first for Hollywood and a win for women.

How can we attract more women to consider a career in the STEM fields?

Highlight the breadth of jobs available, the fact that it is a creative field; you can’t get more creative than ideating on a product idea and see that come to life. Like building a product that customers enjoy and use; nothing more fabulous than that!

If you were to advise other young women starting their careers in the tech or within the STEM fields, what is the one thing you would say to them?

Start with identifying your vision. What does your career and life look like for you? What company? What salary? What is the team like? What industry?. Secondly, identify the values that are important to you at work, then don’t stop until you find a company that fulfils that. Once you do, remember to have fun with that job, your passion and fun will bring everything else into focus. From a skills perspective, focus on building h4 stakeholder management, be curious about what they do, how your role interacts with them, how you can solve their pain points. Stakeholders are key to success and a lot of people miss building these relationships. Be curious, find out more about your team, stakeholders, managers, customers, curiosity goes a long way. When faced with sexism, don’t keep it to yourself, talk to other women, see if it is happening to others build that support if it is. Know that it is not about you, but about a man behaving poorly and inappropriately. It is NOT acceptable. Then talk to HR. With your career you don’t have to have everything figured out, it all comes together in the end perfectly.

Have courage and follow your heart with jobs, take that job overseas, or with that other company, it is not always about money, that follows as you step into and follow your passion. Lastly, be courageous, ask questions and be curious, speak up, be relentless and ASK for that promotion and that pay raise. Always, always keep a document of your achievements and projects you lead, so you can substantiate your worth and therefore a pay raise. If they don’t give it to you, be willing to leave for another better paying job elsewhere. STEM is a fascinating domain with many, many opportunities that allow you to be creative and step into the exploration of ideas, made into reality.

When not working, what do you do for fun?

Read, coach companies & individuals, play with my dogs, go on hikes or camping, listen to music, dinners with friends.

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