A few weeks ago I was sitting in a room with hundreds of Silicon Valley’s most powerful and intelligent women, yet the energy was light, the smiles were abundant and the walls we women too often hold were down. We were all gathered together to celebrate the Anita Borg Women of Vision Awards, a banquet held each spring to honor specific women who are making significant contributions to technology. As I was connecting with my female peers over dinner, I couldn’t help but notice that I felt more powerful when I was surrounded by all women and think about how I often feel weaker when I’m surrounded by all men.
Women today make up a small 25 percent of the workforce in computer and mathematical sciences and about 13 percent of the workforce in engineering (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2014). These statistics are quite obvious if you have ever been to any technical conference other than one put on by the Anita Borg Institute. A great way to help raise these numbers is to honor and learn from women that have already been extremely successful. The 2015 Women of Vision Anita Borg Award winners are empowering examples of women who have pushed through the viscous wall of male-dominated power in the technical workforce and have proven to be strong female leaders in the industry.
Julie Larson-Green (left), Chief Experience Officer at Microsoft, won the ABIE Award for Leadership. She has been at Microsoft for over 22 years and has previously served as Vice President for program management, design and planning in Windows. I admired the way Julie held herself; she was fun, bubbly and beautiful. Her creative and feminine demeanor helped show me that woman don’t have to abandon their true identities in order to succeed in technology. In fact, Julie has become well known at Microsoft for her creativity and ability to listen to all ideas and work with a team to get anything done. She gave theCUBE, which is SiliconANGLE’s live interview show covering enterprise technology, a few tips for women working to succeed in the field of technology: be reliable and be deliberate with your time.
Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan (left) is the founder and CEO of Drawbridge, which is a technology company that is changing the way brands connect with people through big data. She won the award for Technology Entrepreneurship and has an extremely inspiring story. Kamakshi received her PHD from Stanford University in a very mathematical field called Information Theory, which deserves an award in itself. Shortly after graduating, Kamakshi became the lead Scientist at AdMob, a mobile advertising company acquired by Google in 2009. “There are very few female successful technical entrepreneurs today,” Kamakshi told theCUBE. “As I moved up in my studies as well as into the field of entrepreneurship, eventually there were fewer than 10 percent of women around me.” Due to the lack of women around her, she is now passionate about helping to bring more women into the field of entrepreneurship and technology. Her demeanor was gentle, yet resolute and she stood out amongst the crowd. I could tell from her CUBE interview and acceptance speech that she has the ability to compute complex problems in her brain and come up with creative solutions quickly. It was immediately obvious why she is a powerful leader in the industry.
Although Julie and Kamakshi are wonderful examples of successful women in technology, I was still interested in why the percentage of female leaders in technology was so low. I didn’t have to wonder for long, because that topic was covered in the Keynote speech by Tiffany Shlain, who is a renowned filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards. According to Tiffany’s research, women just don’t ask for enough. This subtle and perhaps obvious information shocked me! Such insight would force women everywhere to take full responsibility for not moving ahead in their companies or receiving equal compensation compared to their male counterparts. According to a study conducted by The White House, full-time women workers’ earnings are only about 77 percent of their male counterparts’ earnings. I believe women have innate qualities that make them powerful leaders in areas that men struggle. Women have been shown to possess stronger creative and intuitive abilities when it comes to problem solving and multitasking. According to Helen E. Fisher, Ph.D., who has conducted extensive research on gender differences in the brain, “Women integrate more details faster and arrange these bits of data into more complex patterns. As they make decisions, women tend to weigh more variables, consider more options, and see a wider array of possible solutions to a problem.” If more women made their needs heard in the workplace, we might be able to quickly establish a place of equality in fields that once ostracized us!
It’s time we break the gender gap that is vastly apparent in technology both for ourselves and for the future of all women in the workforce. We need to ask for more money and ask more of ourselves too. So, ladies, let’s reach for the stars and here are several great tips on negotiation from Tiffany Shlain to help you along the way:
Ask for More
Know When to Walk Away
Ask Any Male Counterparts What They Think is a Fair Number
When Negotiating, the First Person to Say a Number Looses
Always use the Love Sandwich (Tell the client what they are going to get, then tell them what you want, then end with a positive note). Everything is better when it is surrounded in love.
With those tips in mind; I encourage you to ask for more and know that you are worthy of it. We are wise, we are powerful, we are capable and we are the ones we have been waiting for.