The Legends Campaign, a partnership between Reign FC and Avanade, honors women for their extraordinary contributions in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Prior to our July 28 match against the Chicago Red Stars, Reign FC will recognize Microsoft Corporate Vice President Erin Chapple as a Reign FC Legend.
Chapple attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, where she majored in Electrical Engineering. After graduating in 1998, she moved to the Pacific Northwest to work for Microsoft.
Throughout her time in tech, Chapple has worked hard to create more educational and professional opportunities for women to enter the field. In 2007, she was honored by her alma mater for creating an undergraduate scholarship and mentorship program for women in engineering. The same year, she was also recognized by Microsoft with the company’s Outstanding Mentor for Women Award.
Chapple holds a master’s degree in Applied Behavioral Science from the Leadership Institute of Seattle. She was given Microsoft’s Management Trailblazer Award in 2009, and was honored by the company in 2011 at the Microsoft Women’s Conference with the Leadership Advocacy for Women Award.
Have sports meant anything particularly special in your life?
My father was an elementary school teacher and principal. As far back as I can remember, he was always involved in coaching the school basketball team. If he had a choice, he would coach the girl’s team. He used to say they were better at listening! This made for a more rewarding experience as a coach to see just how much they grew as a team throughout the school year. I learned a lot from my watching my father in this role. The motivation that comes from a healthy sense of competition. The respect for the game and importance of honoring the rules. The joy and fulfillment that comes from supporting others. While this has helped me in my career and life in general, ultimately it made me a fan. I could appreciate the sport in an entirely different way seeing it through his eyes, as well as appreciate the sense of community amongst the fans. Being a Canadian, I’m a huge hockey fan. Our frequent trips to Vancouver to see the Canucks are quality family time and has expanded our family to those we’ve met at the games. My life is richer because of this.
What lessons do you think young girls can learn from sports that can serve them in the business world?
One of, if not, the most important aspect of leadership is the ability to build, create and motivate a team. There are several attributes of a great team. It is diverse. There are members who bring different skills, different perspectives, different experiences. It knows how to bring these diverse members together, levering their strengths, betting on one another, working individually at times and as a collective at others, trying new things, failing at times, regrouping and finding the motivation to try again and ultimately win together. Playing a sport, learning about yourself and how to work as a team is a great early experience to help build these skills. Discovering who you are as a player, learning to play your position, how to rely on your team members, how to motivate each other and ultimately realizing how much more you can achieve together than individually prepare you for first college and then business.
You joined Microsoft in 1998. How have you seen the landscape for women in the tech industry change, both at Microsoft and in general, in your time at the company?
I think it’s important to realize how much technology has and is changing the world around us. Technology today is infused in almost every dimension of our lives, from personal through business. Just think about the last time you went without some aspect of technology for more than a day! Whether it’s purchasing a ticket to the next Reign game, ordering a coffee on your way to work from your mobile phone or checking who’s at your door through your home security system, technology is everywhere. Technology is much more accessible as a result, and appealing to women. We can see not only how they benefit from technology but how it can impact the world in a better way. This also makes it much more important for women to join the technology industry. In order to design products that meet the needs of and represent the world we live in, we need the workforce to reflect that population. As a result, there is more awareness today of both the value of having women in technology, and a diverse workforce in general, as well as how to support their growth and success. I see this both within Microsoft and across the industry. This is leading to increased representation, greater opportunities as well as more freedom to authentically be who you are in the workplace. The awareness and recognition investment is necessary to change as well as the growing number of allies I see leaves me hopeful the journey we have started will become more successful.
What does being recognized as a Reign FC legend mean to you?
One of the most important things I believe we as women can do is to support each other. For me to be recognized by such a powerful group of women whom I admire for their dedication, energy, inspiration, and the role models they are in society, is all that more special. It fuels me up and motivates me to find even more ways I can give back and find ways to showcase the amazing ways in which women in technology are changing the world around them!
Can you tell us a little bit more about your work to empower women in tech?
The heart and soul of the work I do is about creating community. Creating a safe place where women can come together to connect, to seek out advice and to recharge is key. I think it is important that woman shouldn’t have to think about the ways in which they are different but to see the power of who they are, to hear the hard truth, to find an advocate, to be motivated, ultimately - to support each other. This could be a community of peers, as we have with our women’s technical executive community. By bringing this group together the world feels a little smaller and we build connections across the organization we can use to influence which in turn empowers us to effect change. It could be a mentoring community where the intent is to share knowledge and provide access to women who have been successful, and male allies, to empower the women to take ownership of their careers. It is an ever-changing journey where I am consistently looking for what communities we need to create, so they can empower themselves. And then by connecting leadership with the challenges and opportunities these communities represent, we can evolve the organization to create greater empowerment in the system for everyone.
Why is it important to have women’s professional sports teams?
Two words – role models. It’s harder to envision being something you can’t see. We face this in technology all the time. Junior women look up in the organization and do not see many who look like them. Consciously or unconsciously this raises doubt. It narrows opportunities instead of creating them. For our young girls to turn on the TV and see a women’s soccer match, even if they personally do not want to play professional sports, it expands their thinking on what is possible - what should be the norm. I want to live in a world where every young girl thinks anything is possible!
What advice would you give to young women who are pursuing dreams in a field where they are underrepresented?
The line that pops to mind immediately is – someone needs to go first! Seriously, for everything that was worth doing (or not!) in history, someone was first. Why not let that person be you? If you are passionate about it, and it makes you happy, it’s worth it. Now that doesn’t mean you need to do it alone. I would not have made it to where I have in my career without support. Support from my family and friends. Support from other women in my field who either had come before me, or perhaps more importantly, who were with me on the journey. Support from mentors who could share their experience and help me grow and advocates who helped create opportunities for me. Having a well-rounded, what I call Board of Directors, to help navigate the path forward, push me when needed, even when I felt alone, and most importantly encourage me every step of the way.