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.

Key Takeaways from Past Events

  • Cultural improvement happens when every individual makes a conscious and systemic effort.
  • Want to be a change champion? Organize and be actionable. Need guidance, look what Adobe packaged to help: Adobe Kickbox
  • Being failure-friendly opens the door to learning.
  • Experience and be empathetic.
  • Promote an agile, adaptive culture that embraces change: A fail early, fast attitude.

Share your voice. Engage. Don’t be shy — post an article, a question and/or a topic on Trending Voices!

We want to hear from you. Want to get involved or have a suggestion? Please let us know>>

Who Are Our Expert Panelists?

We are extremely lucky to have so many talented and experienced individuals as part of our community. Join the discussion.

Ghazal Asif, Vice President, WW Channels at AppDynamics, Cisco is a passionate leader who champions diversity within the workplace.
Ghazal recently joined AppDynamics, Cisco’s $3.7B Software acquisition to build and grow AppD’s WW Channels Org. As part of her role, Ghazal has led a number of profitability and enablement programs to drive incremental growth for AppD.
Prior to joining AppDynamics, Ghazal led Cisco Meraki’s Global Channel Sales organization. The team enabled key Cisco partners to build, develop and grow their Meraki practice developing new routes to profitability. Ghazal and her team led the strategy and execution of activities ranging from lead generation campaigns, bespoke partner training, and enablement. The channel was a key contributor in Meraki’s growth from $100M to $1B in four years.

Shiney Rossi, Engr Mgr, Nest Thermostat

 Katie Juran,  Senior Director, Diversity & Inclusion, Adobe

Suzanne Fletcher, Stanford Start-X Fund Manager 

Molly Heekin, Sr. Director of  Internet of Things Product, Digital Solutions, Visa

Karen CatlinAfter spending 25 years building software products, Karen Catlin is now an advocate for women in the tech industry. She’s a leadership coach, a keynote and TEDx speaker, and co-author of “Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking.” She also facilitates a women’s forum at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.  Formerly, Karen was a vice president of engineering at Macromedia and Adobe.
In 2015, the California State Assembly honored her with the Wonder Women Tech Innovator Award for outstanding achievements in business and technology and for being a role model for women. Karen holds a computer science degree from Brown University and serves as an advisor to Brown’s Computer Science Diversity Initiative. She’s also on the Advisory Boards for The Women’s CLUB of Silicon Valley, WEST (Women Entering & Staying in Technology), and Women Serve on Boards. Follow Karen on Twitter: @kecatlin
Nahid Samsami, Senior Product Manager, Heroku/Salesforce,  is a Senior Product Manager at Heroku, a Platform-as-a-Service that is part of Salesforce. Her surface area includes the Elements marketplace, 3rd party integrations, and the command-line interface. She is a recipient of the Salesforce Technology & Product All-Star Award. Previously, Nahid led product management at Keen IO, acquired by Scaleworks, and was a Senior Product Manager at Playdom, acquired by The Walt Disney Company. She started her career as a management consultant at Bain & Company.
Nahid is passionate about the recruiting and retention of women in technology. She’s served as a mentor to women making a career change into product management and has authored a book on finding a first role (“Get a Job as a Product Manager”.)
Vanessa Shaw is founder of Human Side of Tech, through which she advises forward thinking thinking executives and HR leaders to operate their companies with a culture-first approach, so that they can turn challenge into opportunity when facing rapid growth, digital disruption and culture change. She believes that everyone deserves to have a great place to work. Through events, writing and speaking she helps you uncover how to create a company culture where employees are inspired to do their best work and supported to thrive. She writes about company culture and employee experience, showcasing case studies, stories and interviews from leading companies who are driving the future of work. As part of her workplace culture global tour, she has visited several dozen company headquarters such as Facebook, Spotify, Airbnb, IDEO and more.

She is creator and producer of Workplace Lab, a community of professionals and series of events helping the most innovative professionals design workplace cultures their proud to work in. Follow her updates @HumanSideofTech.

Daryn Kelley,  is a Business Development (“BD”) Manager at Box, the Cloud Content Management company that empowers enterprises to revolutionize how they work by securely connecting their people, information and applications. As a BD Manager, Daryn works hand in hand with key leading enterprise SaaS companies to define partnership strategies. In addition, she works cross-functionally across the organization to identify growth opportunities for Box and partners in the cloud technology space. 

Passionate about creating an inclusive workplace culture and advocating for women in the industry, Daryn was also formerly Co-Chair of the Box Women’s Network (BWN). In this role, Daryn lead BWN globally to provide professional and personal development opportunities focused on women empowerment and community development across Box.   

Daryn is a graduate of UC Berkeley where she received her BA in Sociology and Minor in Education. She is a native to the Bay Area and currently lives in the East Bay. 

We have lots to look forward to in 2018!

As we head into Spring, take a moment, to ask yourself what are the 3 things that

  • make you a change champion, a mentor, an advocate?
  • you want to see change in 2018
  • you witnessed or learned about in 2017 that encourages you to have a stronger voice (at work, at home, in the world)

We would love it if you shared your 3 with us!




May 31, 2017: Heroku, Penthouse Suite was at capacity!

Prioritizing People and Culture Through Fast Growth was a topic that needs further conversation! We heard from both panelists and attendees that culture like anything else needs care-taking and has maturation cycles. No matter the type of company, how to prioritize people and create the right kind of culture for success is not a one size solution but does take executive commitment and consistency and employee participation.
More highlights to come. Thank you panelists and attendees for speaking up! For now, some photos from the evening:

Establishing a Values-Driven Culture takes Diversity in the Workplace.

Workplace Diversity Impacts Us All

At our upcoming May event, Women Speak Tech and Culture Summit are joining forces to discuss best practices for putting people first in organizations, establishing a values-driven culture and attracting emotionally intelligent talent.

To truly prioritize people and culture, a more complete support of diversity in the workplace needs to be built across the board. Diversity in the workplace has been proven time and time again to bring invaluable benefits to employees, including: increased creativity, better problem-solving, and greater innovation. Despite these findings, diversity statistics for the technology industry, namely surrounding the inclusion of women, remain dismal. The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), an organization dedicated to spreading awareness of the diversity issue that plagues the industry, reports that women’s representation in tech has been steadily declining from its 1991 peak of 36% to its present day rate of 25%. This statistic is especially troubling given another fact presented in NCWIT’s 2015 – 2016 comprehensive report: 57% of all professional occupations in the U.S. are held by women (2015).

Upending the Unconscious Bias

If we believe in a tech culture that is open, inclusive, and values-driven, we need to address the many contributing factors to the low numbers of women in tech: job retention and attrition, representation in upper management, access to technical training or mentoring, and non-professional career roadblocks (i.e. harsher judgment of personality, questions about family life, unwanted sexual advances, feeling “stalled” in their careers due to lack of advancement opportunities, etc.).

The Atlantic‘s April 2017 issue also explores the unsettling phenomenon of declining women in tech, putting the heavily tech-saturated Silicon Valley under the microscope. In her article “Why is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?” Liza Mundy ambitiously tackles addressing the elephant in the room that most women who work in tech are well-acquainted with: the unconscious bias.

Melinda Gates, prominent industry veteran and advocate of championing women’s contributions to tech, expands on this bias in a related Atlantic article, “The Tech Industry Needs to Fix its Gender Issue – Now.” Gates discusses the dangers consumers, and average citizens, could encounter if the tech industry continued to avoid systemically improving the diversity quotient: “I think we’ll have so much hidden bias coded into the system that we won’t even realize all the places that we have it. If you don’t have a diverse workforce programming artificial intelligence and thinking about the data sets to feed in, and how to look at a particular program, you’re going to have so much bias in the system, you’re going to have a hard time rolling it back later or taking it out.”

Ultimately, the pervasive bias ends up influencing recruitment practices, upper management demographics, company culture, and overall approach to diversity within an organization. It doesn’t simply affect day-to-day interactions in the workplace, or inconsequential aspects of company culture, but has power to significantly affect the decision-maker hierarchy, quality of innovations, and overall culture of the tech industry for decades to come.

The bias may not be able to change overnight, but acknowledging its existence and addressing the resulting challenges head-on will get the ball rolling. Cultural shifts are necessary and constant, paving the way for a more equal, more values-driven culture. However, the responsibility for making these shifts cannot rest solely on the shoulders of one group or gender.

Change Catalysts

Every individual working in the tech industry, regardless of gender, ethnicity or position, needs to make a conscious and systemic effort towards cultural improvement.

Join the conversation with us May 31st to delve deeper into ways you can take action and help facilitate success. Hear best practices organizations are using to establish a values-driven culture and attract/retain emotionally intelligent talent.

Register today:


Author: Amy Drozdiak, Intern at Moxie Marketing

Cited Sources – To view the full statistical reports and articles cited, please visit the following links:

Highlights from the Heroku Office Penthouse Meet and Speak Up!

Human-centered design (HCD) is the not-so-radical idea that technology should be designed for the people using it. As big fans of HCD, Women Speak Tech was excited to arrange our March meetup around the subject. Nearly 50 curious minds gathered in Heroku’s SOMA penthouse for snacks, drinks and a collaborative discussion led by an expert panel: Kathleen Simpson, Product Manager at Heroku; Tatyana Mamut, Head Product Manager at AWS; Mike Talvensaari, VP Product at Wowza Media Systems; and moderator Shyvee Shi, Digital Strategist and Experience Designer at Deloitte Digital.

Mamut kicked off the conversation. “Human-centered design starts with the people who are actually going to be using this thing, interacting with this thing, or a part of this thing,” she  said. “You design from the place of, ‘What is the experience of these people going to be?’ as opposed to ‘What is my business goal? What is my business strategy? What is the competition doing?'”

Simpson agreed, and pointed out that while we’re constantly asking ourselves questions as we create new technologies, we can’t forget the most important question of all: “Are these really the questions the user is thinking of?”

While few industries take pleasure in highlighting their failures, everyone agreed that for HCD to work, organizational structures themselves had to be failure-friendly. After all, if the design process itself doesn’t make allowances for experimentation, weird hunches, new information and different ways of seeing old information, it’s not HCD. “You get into this mindset that every A/B test should be better than the last one, but it’s not always like that,” Talvensaari said, prompting a chorus of knowing laughs. “Every time, every failure, is a learning experience.”

Of course, a design from the greatest, best, most HCD-focused team ever won’t see the light of day without a sign-off from upper management. Shi reminded everyone, “We emphasize empathizing with the customer, but we can’t forget to empathize with stakeholders.” And then, of course, true HCD also finds a way to empathize with the population at large, and to hold true to a notion that these technologies serve a greater good: “We need to be passionate about our users and champion the voice of the customer,” Shi said. “But we also need to lead change and challenge the status quo.”

Jill Talvensaari

Why Human-Centered Design Should Be on Your Radar!

Thanks all for a great event last night (3/30)! Much thanks to our sponsor, Heroku and our panelists.

Our spotlighted guests included:

  • Kathleen Simpson, Product Manager at Heroku
  • Tatyana Mamut, GM & Head of Product at AWS
  • Mike Talvensaari, VP Product and User Experience at Wowza Media
  • Shyvee Shi, Digital Strategist & Experience Designer at Deloitte Digital

“I am the Intrepreneur who is really passionate about incorporating human-centered design elements to actionably transform next-generation change management best practices.” — Shyvee Shi

We talked about :

  • what is human-centered design, and why is it important to you
  • why you want to employ human-centered design in your product/solution development, marketing operations, and technology on-boarding
  • ways to adopt human-centered design in your organization today simply and effectively

3 Ways Human-Centered Design Drives Revenue and the Customer Experience

At tonight’s San Francisco Women Speak Tech Speak-up and Meet-up at the Heroku Penthouse, we’ll explore the impact of human-centered design, and how adopting a user-centered, empathy-driven approach creates an incredible competitive advantage for businesses that are able to reap the rewards of this ideology through-out the customer experience. Everything from the moment a prospective customer considers related products and services through to purchase, support, brand loyalty and advocacy is all part of the customer experience. The customer experience makes or breaks your Net Promoter Score (NPS) and directly impacts revenue growth.

1. Design for Humans

Human-centered design (HCD) is defined by its iterative design process where the cycle both begins and ends with the user experience. The starting point of HCD creation is to develop an understanding of user needs, insights, and behaviors through observation or research. Using this basis, a human-centric design can be generated. Once this design is tested, user feedback can be assessed and incorporated into the next iteration of design. The cycle continues—continually seeking to meet current needs and optimize the user experience.

2. Promote an agile, adaptive culture that embraces change and a fail early, fast attitude.

Adapting program designs to become human-centric is a strategic process as much as any other implementation. It should be acknowledged that implementing human-centered design, where it doesn’t already exist, demands change management. In today’s digital world, design thinking is fraught with complexity, ambiguity, and change. Changes in user design preferences and expectations are inevitable, and should be accepted as such. Organizations need to implement change management strategies to be successful in adapting to human-centered design thinking.

3. Customer Experience Depends on Two-Way Multichannel Communications

Taking actions like creating channels for open dialogue with your users and implementers for feedback will help your organization to embrace the nature of continuous change in its user design endeavors. Build a tolerance for early failure and continual testing into your cultural DNA. Customers decide where and when to engage with your brand so be there: be multichannel and create relationships, not one way blasts of information.

Continue the discussion with us, Thursday, March 30th! Register for this Women Speak Tech event here.

Superpowers Shined at HS DAM


“In my mind, I’ve always been an A-list Hollywood superstar. Y’all just didn’t know yet.” — Will Smith

What great fun it was to meet in Hollywood at the Lost Property Bar, Wednesday night pre-conference and snack on some yummy flatbread pizzas and enjoy libations courtesy of IO Integration.

The conversation was a bit rowdy among the superpowers! We converged with Big Picture Thinkers, Transformers, Listeners, Catalysts, a few Puzzle Solvers and Muses to exchange views on how to

  • use DAM with an existing Social platform Unanimously folks agreed that since DAM is the source of truth of your digital assets your workflows within your information ecosphere would benefit greatly from the continuity of DAM and Socials joined forces. Furthermore bringing insights and analytics back into the DAM from Social and applying to assets provides new reporting opportunities and insights.
  • simplify requirements to motivate content ingest and tag later. So often a new system goes in and there are lots of requirements, restrictions and a perception of adding more work to my day  job. We chatted about the division of creative playgrounds and structure. How to marry the two. No collective decision on one right way was reached. However thoughts and questions were flying about. Following on Day 2 of Henry Stewart, Sharon Davis shared insights on how Pixar empowers creativity garnering positive results. Highlights were her team’s clean up tactics and a nifty script Pixar’s Tool team wrote that identifies like keywords in the system and simlpifyies data clean up efforts keeping the heavy lifting to a few while giving the many power to add value to the platform.
  • pro-actively know your users to create and acknowledge success. An ongoing topic of conversation is about how best to balance pulling requirements versus educating constituents. We continue to hear that user education along with executing pro-active solutions have better results than just taking requirements and handing over what has been asked for.  Knowing what is important to the users gets to understanding what they do, how they do it (not just a process flow. sitting down and watching how they do it, or taking a screen scrape), and what their deliverables are. How do you find the right balance between collecting input and mentoring forward? The folks agreed hiring SMEs, organization commitment and budget are key.  Many stated that acknowledgment of small accomplishments and empathy go a long way. More on this later!

What is your superpower?

Join our conversation(s)>>