CIO Perspectives: Leading the Tech Function Through COVID-19

Rhonda Gass of Stanley Black & Decker and Klara Jelinkova of Rice University discuss technology’s burgeoning role, how they’re supporting their people, and the importance of self-care.
Sep 1, 2020 12:00 PM ET

Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, many of the changes reshaping how we work and live rely on technology. Because technology ties so much of every company together, CIOs have had a unique view into what’s been going on and how to manage it.

While women continue to be significantly underrepresented in such tech roles—with fewer than 20 percent holding these jobs—a group of 60-plus women executives in operations and technology gathered recently to hear from two leading women CIOs: Rhonda Gass and Klara Jelinkova. Led by McKinsey’s Gayatri Shenai in a webinar on June 5, 2020, the two shared how they’ve led their teams during a time when technology is more important than ever, the challenges of balancing careers and families while working from home, and what they’ve learned to date as they navigate these unprecedented times. An edited version of their remarks follows.

Supporting people

Gayatri Shenai: How are you ensuring success of your employees at home?

Rhonda Gass: First and foremost, we give people the permission to push back and say, for example, “I have a two-year-old, and she’s screaming right now. I’m not going to make the meeting.” We’re all dealing with crazy things right now, and we’ll figure it out.

We’ve also gotten feedback from people that they feel like remote working has leveled the playing field. Everyone is now a little widget on a screen. People don’t want to lose that.

So we’re already thinking about and planning for how we can make a more immersive, collaborative experience when we get to the point where some people are in the office and some are remote.

Read the full interview