Guiding a seismic shift in tech: For women, it’s an inside job

2018 is on track to be a year of great cultural change—and that change is increasingly being driven by women. The women’s marches of 2017 lit the fire, and #metoo drives awareness and accountability across virtually every industry. The 1970s feminist movement that helped define change in our mothers’ generation is coming back today with an unprecedented power—and it’s time we brought the tech industry aboard.

Forbes reported in 2017 that women today are leaving the tech industry at a 45% higher rate than men. Some of this maps to traditional gender roles and our acceptance that “something’s gotta give” in cases of the logistical needs of young families, our sick and aging parents, etc. For others, the decision to leave the industry may be a temporary but practical one while we complete a graduate degree.

But for many, the choice to leave an industry with so much innovation and opportunity is made due to darker influences. Gender bias, pay inequity, and the explosion of bro startup culture has signaled the death knell for the careers of some of the smartest, most visionary women in the industry. Maybe you or someone you know has already made the decision to leave because of this; or maybe you’ve just been thinking about it. We’ve all been touched by it in some way or another, and it’s clear that the tech industry is ripe for some major shifts.

Taking charge of tech culture

Nobody’s going to hand industry change to us on a silver platter, that’s for sure. We’ve got to take an active role in rethinking systems, processes, and mindsets.

First and foremost, we’ve got to lead. We have to consciously and strategically work to create an environment of diversity as our organizations grow. We must model inclusion as we work with our managers, direct reports, and partners. And we have to remain adaptable, creating flexible situations that allow our colleagues to contribute, thrive, and succeed on their own terms—through job sharing, flextime, virtual teams, or other options.

What you can do today to support change

There are a lot of incremental changes you can help to create every day, starting today. Here are a few to think about:

1.    Speak out – Make your voice heard in the industry. Talk about the effects of discrimination at events, whether as a keynote speaker, panelist, or simply by posing questions from the audience.

2.    Seek male allies – Bias against women is more than just a women’s issue. We need the help and support of our male peers to bring about real, permanent change at all levels of the industry.

3.    Be a role model – Like it or not, we’re all role models. At any given time, we have chances to serve as coaches, mentors, and sponsors, and it’s important to give back. Coach a colleague through something you’ve already lived out; or mentor a bright, bushy-tailed recent grad to help her get a foothold in the industry. And always seek out opportunities to sponsor rising stars with access to programs, organizations, or other groups.

4. Give back – Coach, mentor, and sponsor other women and men. At different points in our career, we need one or more of these to help us get to the next level. Coaches can provide in the moment critical advice and show us the right path and how to reach our potential. Mentors teach us the secrets to getting there and how to navigate hurdles along the way. Sponsors help us get promoted by continually supporting our rising star across the organization and industry and backing our bid for that new title or high-profile project.

EVENT: Building a Growth Culture of Mobility & Inclusion Learn more and register

Thursday, March 29 from 6-8:30pm at Adobe San Francisco

Ready to get started? Women Speak Tech invites you to join us at our free upcoming event, Building a Growth Culture of Mobility & Inclusion, to speak-up and meet inspiring women and men that have built mentoring and networking organizations within their companies from the ground up. We’ll be featuring insight from our guest panelists on how to shift decades-old norms of diversity and inclusion.

To lead with focus and inclusion takes confidence, advocacy, mentorship and sponsorship. Fast growth typically results in knee-jerk responses. Cultivating inclusive leadership affects who we hire and promote, who we mentor or sponsor, and how we speak, listen and act. Join our experts from Adobe, Nest, Visa, Linkedin, Box and Cisco to learn what it takes to swim upstream. Speakers include Shiney Rossi, Engineering Manager at Nest; Varsha Kanavar, Chief of Staff, Go to Market at Cisco; Katie Juran, Sr. Director, Diversity & Inclusion at Adobe;  Suzanne Fletcher, Fund Manager at Stanford Start-X; and Molly Heekin, Sr. Director of IoT Digital Solutions at Visa.

See you there!

 Jill Talvensaari

Never Enough Time?

Time and choices: As women in tech, we can probably all agree that there’s never enough of either. And sometimes (OK, all the time) we feel we’re expected to sacrifice one for the other. “Something’s gotta give,” right?


It’s all about taking charge. When you have control of your time, it actually leads to more choices, not less. For instance, if you had an extra hour a day to use however you’d like, what would you do?

  • Work on that killer startup idea you can never seem to get to?
  • Take your son or daughter out for ice cream after school?
  • Build out a pitch for that new project you want to present to the Board of Directors?
  • Book (and actually show up for) a deep-tissue massage or yoga hour?

Sounds good, right? But since you don’t currently have that extra hour in your schedule, you will have to create one. It’s not as ugly as it sounds.  For me, I don’t subscribe to the early risers club. I relish the idea of ‘me time’ but a 530am work-out is just not in the cards. So, if that works best for you I am a bit jealous. You might ask, how do I squeeze time out of my back-to-back schedule?

Back when I kept an analog calendar, I used the FranklinCovey method to manage priorities and time. The big takeaway from this was the 1) importance of booking meetings with myself and 2) prioritizing my activities based on importance to me. The result was time that was hard-wired into my calendar for my own personal use.

And it’s not just me

Experts like Suzy Welch back me up when it comes to making decisions that will deliver in both time and choices. Her 10-10-10 strategy allows you to match expectations and values based on your priorities.

As with the FranklinCovey method, Suzy’s solution helps you get clarity on what your true priorities are, so you can tackle them more efficiently. It gives you permission to own your truth, and take action.

Another way of looking at taking control of your time comes from Meredith Kraus, Director of HR at Merck Research Laboratories. She suggests tackling today by looking at the future.

Meredith’s process involves weighing options as if you had already made the decision, and you’re looking back on it from the future. Say to yourself:

  • How will I feel in 12 months if I don’t ______________?
    I’ll regret _____________________________________.


  • How will I feel in 12 months if I do________________?
    I’m really glad that ____________________________.


So how am I doing?

Today, I use iCal, and create multiple calendars with colors that dot my screen. One of those colors maps to a self-care calendar began as a way to steal 10 minutes a day just for me. At first, it was nearly impossible to follow through with those 10-minute “meetings;” I could always find a reason that I just didn’t have the time/should keep powering through this report/had to prepare for that meeting tomorrow/whatever.

Yeah, whatever. So how did I eventually make all that happen—and more? I compromised. With myself.

I decided if I took 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week, I was successful. Once I got that mastered (and discovered that the world did not stop turning when I did), I started doing it five days a week. And then I extended those 10 minutes, to 15, 30, 45. . .

Today I take an hour a day minimum, and I still book additional “meetings” with myself to get work done whenever I need to.

So here’s my challenge to you: Start today with 10 minutes, and see where it takes you. Maybe you’ll break a bad habit that’s been holding you back–or even gain a fantastic new one that’ll bring new opportunities to the table. What have you got to lose?

Nothing—except maybe 10 minutes of stress you didn’t need in the first place, right?

What we took away from Watermark 2018


On Februrary 23rd, 6500 women and forward thinking men converged in San Jose for the Watermark Conference for Women. While looking forward to the leadership panels, career changing workshops, and networking—let’s be honest—we were there to see Amal Clooney and Reese Witherspoon!


The energy buzz was amazing. We sat spellbound as we listened to the live interview with Amal Clooney. (She only mentioned George, I think, once). What an intelligent, inspiring, and courageous woman! I wanted to be her, not just be awed. Amal graced the morning stage and shared her transition from corporate law to international law and human rights. “There was no class on Human Rights law at Columbia. Now, I teach that class.” The conversation shifted from her work with political prisoners to the challenges of securing accountability for genocide, sexually enslavement and other horrific acts Yazidi women suffered in Iraq.


Amal draws you into her work, making you look at how you, too, can take a stand. Not only in the world’s courtroom, but also at the individual level of hosting refugees as a guest in her home, and in the streets joining the Parkland march, Amal leads by example.


Following Amal, we ferried through a breathtaking selection of break-out sessions focused on leadership, professional advancement, career and life transitions, and personal development.


The action packed day continued with Maysoon Zayid taking the stage with humor, chutzpah and intelligence. A strong voice for disability, Maysoon rocked the hall starting with how she got her name to what we can do to create inclusion and the many layers of diversity. What a show! If you haven’t seen her, check out her Ted Talk.


And, if you thought you knew Reese Witherspoon, hearing her interviewed at Watermark gives you a new perspective on the trailblazing actor and advocate. Having been accepted, she started attending Stanford but found herself financially strapped. So, Reese made her way to Hollywood—abandoning Palo Alto for Los Angeles—our gain.


Reese spoke candidly about her first production company’s demise and how she pivoted and took ownership to create a venture that worked for her. While talking about Hollywood, all agreed that the system is broken and needs to change. Reese for me represented a professional woman balancing the challenges of work, motherhood, personal well-being, life and success. We look forward to what she will do next, and appreciate her leading voices for Time’s Up.  Tweet: #timesup. More on the Legal Defense fund>>


Watermark takeaways:
  • Use your expertise and time to create positive change
  • It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you and where you excel. Make strong allies.
  • There is a difference between listening and hearing. Pause, and really hear.
  • Balance intuition and analytics to make decisions.
  • Is it a gender lens when making ‘the’ decision? Or is it just technical, financial, and strategic acumen that drives decision making?
  • Do you talk about your strengths? It’s time to start practicing.