The Tech Panel at the Symposium on Women in Leadership brought together four women from the many corners of the tech world. Hannah Coutand is a Business Development Manager at Intel, but got her start in technology after graduating from University of Virginia and going to work for telecom firms in the United States, Germany, and Rwanda. Jennifer Delaney works as a Senior Manager of Large Enterprise Product Solutions for Paypal. Before getting her MBA from Cornell, she worked at a tech startup called Shopkick because she wanted to take some risks while she was young, something she suggests everyone try before it’s too late. Rachel Martin is the Director of Partner Operations for Cornell start-up YEXT and has degrees in engineering from both Cornell and Stanford. She joined YEXT because she wanted to work in the tech world instead of getting her MBA. Jenn Vargas graduated from Cornell with a degree in Information Science and has always been interested in solving the world’s problems with technology. After graduation she worked as a product manager at Yahoo!, Flicker, Etsy, and Birchbox, until she started her own company, Accompl.sh.
Having these four accomplished women of tech in the room gave attendees the opportunity to learn how they get interested in tech, how the world of tech is becoming more welcoming to women, and what still needs to be changed. All four women thoroughly enjoy working in the tech field and most of them were interested in the industry from a young age. While they enjoy their work, they do see a shortage of other women in the industry, an issue with the “pipeline”. Rachel explained the importance of getting young girls interested in technology at an early age, instead of just making it a “thing” for boys. Additionally, Jenn pointed out the necessity of making sure girls are aware of the opportunities that lie in tech. If more women can get interested in technology at an early age, these four women will soon have much more company.
While it is important for more women to join tech firms, it is equally important to make sure the women already working are being treated fairly. For example, Hannah explained how corporations work hard to get women jobs at tech firms, but often don’t spend as much time making sure they move up the corporate ladder. Additionally, as Jennifer explained, because much of the culture at these tech firms is very male-centric, many of the out-of-office activities that take place are catered to men, such as going to smoke cigars. Furthermore, much of the conversation that takes place at these firms are male-centric and can be very uncomfortable for women.
In order to remedy these issues, it is important that women work together to make their accomplishments known. Additionally, it is important that women do not over-assert or under-assert themselves. For example, it is inappropriate for a woman, or anyone for that matter, to call a meeting with the board to complain about something, but it is also detrimental to anyone’s success if she, or he, does not speak up in a meeting. It is also extremely important for women to assert themselves in other ways, such as negotiating their salaries before starting a new job and making sure they get the credit for the work they have done, which often leads to promotions. As the tech world continues to drift in the right direction in terms of equality, women must continue to have themselves heard and work together to balance the tables.
Check out the full panel conversation here!