March 24, 2021
To celebrate IWD this month, we're sharing a Q&A blog series to shine a spotlight on some of the amazing women we have in our team, in both leadership and tech roles, here they’ll share their experiences and learnings on how they’ve made it to where they are today and how they’ve challenged gender bias along the way.
We'd like to introduce to you, Heather Andrews, our Vice President and GM of the Americas.
Q. Heather, tell us about your path to this role?
A. I came to WEX in 2014 through the acquisition of Evolution1, (where I was a founding member), which is now known as "WEX Health". I was then fortunate enough to have the opportunity to move from one division of WEX to another when I was brought into the Executive Leadership Team of WEX Corporate Payments in 2018 to lead Global Strategic Accounts. From there, my role expanded to the whole of the Americas' Travel and Enterprise Payments and, now, with the acquisition of eNett & Optal, my role of GM of the Americas is the start of yet another adventure and opportunity with WEX.
Q. And what do you enjoy most about what you do?
A. I will never tire of being pushed to learn, solve complex challenges, and bring amazing talent together to do exciting things in the market. Over the years, WEX Travel has brought plenty of dynamic change, global disruption, and wonderful people to propel me in all of these ways. It is truly a joy to be leading during times of immense momentum and positive growth. And though it might seem strange, it has been even more of a, maybe not "joy" necessarily, but definitely a blessing to be leading during times of challenge that none of us have ever seen in our lifetimes. The WEX family's resilience and compassion right alongside its drive for continuing business success has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. Now, it's time for the recovery train and we are right in the driver's seat!
Q. Why do you think it can be difficult for women to get into tech and/or leadership roles in tech?
A. Women at the "Table" need to continue to become more prevalent, more typical. I do believe it is happening gradually, but we still have a way to go. When I say the "Table", I'm referring to the space within an organization and industry circles where an individual is well-known for their expertise, influence and respect.
An incredible power that current leaders have is their unique capability to reach out and help "could-be great leaders" build key interpersonal connections to give those individuals the opportunity to, when an opening at the Table arises, get a chance at that seat. The tendency for leaders to find familiar leadership personas, and like-minded mentees to bring along is a key part of that dynamic. In this way, more women at the Table have brought more women to the Table by becoming 'familiar leadership personas', representing, mentoring and showing other women the way to get there.
Q. What’s your advice or message for women wanting to be in a leadership role?
A. Everyone has a different path to success. My path has been focused on looking for ways to make a positive impact on everything I have an opportunity to influence. If I touch anything in business - a project, an opportunity, a customer relationship, a team, a process - I do everything in my power to make it better than it was before. You need to find your own path to success, but leaning toward positive impact and tangible results seem to be a couple of good baselines to start with.
Q. In spirit of this year's IWD theme, #choosetochallenge - Have you ever been in a professional or personal situation where you’ve witnessed or experienced gender bias? Did you choose to challenge it?
A. True story from my pre-WEX days: Among a group of myself and some professional men, after I was on stage with other executives presenting awards at a formal ceremony, one particular charmer looked me over and said “Well, at least they got some eye candy up there this time.” I'm typically not short on words, but in this case, all I could do was grin and say, "Ah yes, you are very impressive," and confidently walk away. Thankfully, these types of encounters are rare and the sentiment in most professional environments have become intolerant of this behaviour. I knew his embarrassment among his unimpressed colleagues would make the point for me. Sadly, however, in certain regions and some industries still today, this type of situation is not so unusual and is tolerated way too much.
I have to admit, I have been fortunate enough to work with team members and leaders that express support of diversity and female leadership, and generally strive to walk that talk. The truth is, however, that a handful of those great leaders and mentors still unconsciously behave in ways that are completely counter to that desire. Calling out those behaviours while keeping the culprits as allies, is somewhat of a balancing act at which, through the years, I and so many other female leaders have become pretty adept. We do it quite often and quite naturally.