In true Salesforce fashion, this year’s Dreamforce includes a strong focus on equality. In addition to keynotes specific to the topic, there an Equality Lounge, co-sponsored by the Female Quotient and Deloitte Digital, with multiple equality-centric panel discussions over the course of three days. Pixlee’s CEO, Kyle Wong, was invited to be a part of today’s inaugural panel, Creating an Equality Culture in STEM. The panel also included these women from diverse professional and personal backgrounds:
- Jan D’Alessandro, President, Blue J Strategies and Advisor, Tribal Planet
- Iba Masood, Co-founder & CEO, TARA.ai
- Michelle Skoor, Director of Programs, Lesbians Who Tech and Tech Jobs Tour
- Tracie Kambies, Partner, Deloitte
Moderator Samantha Parent, Co-author of Geek Girl Rising: inside the Sisterhood Shaking Up Tech, set the stage with few thought-provoking stats:
- In the U.S., Women earn 57% of bachelor’s degrees today, but only 18% of computer science degrees and 19% of engineering degrees.
- Women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, but only 25% of technology jobs and 12% of engineering jobs.
- Women drop out of tech careers mid-career at twice the rate of men.
Here are some key insights that the panel shared:
- “One of the biggest problems is the lack of women in senior positions. There’s a trickle down effect, and younger women coming up through the ranks don’t have models to look to. All the studies have shown that when you have women in leadership positions, it helps others come up.” said Jan, regarding what is holding diversity and inclusion back.
- “Unconscious bias exists, in a lot of times it’s conscious,” added Iba. Her company has done extensive research into how bias holds women back, not only from getting jobs in STEM, but then also from being promoted. They have even developed an algorithm that uses machine learning to attempt to suppress these biases, though she mentioned, “technology can only go so far before the human behavior takes over.”
- “It’s the see me, be me mentality. There’s not a lot of different variety at the leadership level.” – Tracie
The panel also tackled the issue of mentors vs. sponsors.
- “Sponsors are those in a position of leadership at your company who can pull you up and advocate for you. Mentors can come from a variety of sources, not necessarily your company, and can give you guidance and advice along the way.” – Samantha
- “What we’ve found is that confidence doesn’t always equal competence when it comes to who you sponsor and how you sponsor particular individuals. What we try to do is look beyond how someone sells their contributions within the company and look into the actual results.” –Kyle
- “We have a program called Level Up and this about how you transform from mentorship to sponsorship. And then at the sponsorship level, what’s the conversation that is happening. It doesn’t look like it does for men who are moving up to leadership positions.” –Michelle
- Tracie added her advice for finding a mentor, “Just ask! You’ll be amazed at how many people will step up to support you.”
The discussion then turned to the role of men in the equality conversation.
- “I’m a big believer in what you do is ultimately more important than what you say. So I can come and speak on many panels on equality as I want, but if I don’t back it up with action within our organization, talk is cheap.” – Tracie
- “It just takes one male leader to step up and push for more women leaders at the forefront.” – Tracie
Discussing the biggest challenges they’ve faced working in STEM, the panel shared:
- “There was actually a point in time when I considered stepping down as CEO and having a male CEO. As a female founder, I think you have to work 5-10X harder, especially if you don’t come from an Ivy League background.” – Iba
- “There’s a sick irony in our world in that most people are hitting their stride professionally in their 30’s, but for women, if you want to have children you’re also running up against the end your ability to have children. And it’s a real decision that you have to make. Speaking from experience, don’t say no. Don’t mommy track yourself. You can do it. You can be a mother and work.” – Jan
For more on the Equality Lounge, including speakers, quotes, and topics, follow the Female Quotient on Twitter.