I have lived in the Bay Area for most of my life, and have loved tech for even longer. So I know where and when Silicon Valley might need some glasses. I am not talking about Google Glass. At this years TieCon they made the effort to be inclusive of women:
Last year, the TiE Women’s Forum, we launched that very specifically, and we have brought that again this year also, says Vish Mishra, venture director at Clearstone Venture Partners and one of the early organizers of the 19-year-old TiE conference. “The people on the panel were all women. We made sure of that, because you can’t lecture unless you’ve done it yourself. You have earned the right to give people advice because you have been there.”
As someone who has been asked to get lunch and still deliver financial reports on time. I know what it is like to work in an all male environment. You feel alone and at times invalidated:
Neerja Raman, who worked for years at Hewlett-Packard and is now a researcher at Stanford University, recalled how when she was starting out, women in technology, particularly in software, as she was, were pretty much ignored. “They just tolerated you, right,” she says.
In my experience I was not just tolerated I was just not understood. It is one thing to be a girl. It is another thing to be a Latina. Most of the time my supervisors just never did not know what to do we me. I was smart, engaged, hard working but there was no easy fit. So I would become disengage, slack off and be off trying to find a better fit. Rinse and repeat on to my next opportunity.
So what can Silicon Valley do better?
“Take the risk,” says Styles, who’s made a few career changes. “Just being open to things changing and being passionate and asking, ‘Well, why not do those different things?’ I really think being about being open and taking those risks has helped me.”
This advice is not just for women in tech it is for the whole ecosystem. If Silicon Valley really wants to innovate it needs to be looking for talent regardless of the package it comes in.