Changing Course: Fostering a New Culture for Women in Tech

6:09 PM October 8, 2014


Thank you POLITICO,The Tory Burch Foundation and Google for hosting a two part "Women Rule: Cracking the Code" event in the San Francisco Bay Area. A panel which included Jennifer Granholm, former Governor of Michigan, Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California system and former U.S Secretary for Homeland Security, and Vivek Wadhwa, Stanford Law School professor, created an electrifying conversation with several hundred women, and a few men, about Changing the Course: Fostering a New Culture for Women in Tech. The full event may be viewed here

The audience learned from Professor Wadhwa that in order to make change, the tech industry needs to stop blaming the pipeline. There is no pipeline problem in an industry that is hiring male dropouts and even placing them on their board of directors. An overhaul needs to occur with the interviewing process at most tech companies. Today, both the interviewing environment and the questions posed during the interview favor males who spend hours using technology as a toy rather than a tool. And most obvious according to Wadhwa is that women have workplace needs that differ substantially than men, especially women who are seeking work-family balance. Obtaining women friendly policies will be integral to fostering a new culture for women in tech. 

When asked what can the federal government do to make changes for women, Janet Napolitano referenced the government's ability to contract with women owned small businesses (WOSB). Her advice was for women to get into the procurement fight and seek federal contracts. She added, if and when contracts are written not for an entire airplane carrier but for parts of it, then more women and minorities will become winners in the Request for Proposal arena. Breaking an RFP into pieces is key to the dollars being spread across a wider field, one that includes women and men. WIPP attendees were delighted by this message, since it works hard to have WOSBs at the ready to get into the procurement "fight". 

Former Governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm has a new role at the University of California's School of Engineering. She raised concerns about the number of women who drop out of tech along the way to a fulfilled career. She sees culture in the tech workplace as a key factor. In her closing remarks her call to action encouraged audience members to vote for people who will change the world the "right way". Put people in office whom you trust. 

Preceding the "Change the Course" panel was an equally stimulating one on "Rules of the Road: How can women enhance their changes of being heard in tech?". Among the three participants, there was consensus about the need for women to be relentless, authentic, and curious. Advocacy in the Capitol was viewed as being key to having women's voices heard. Done correctly, Congress can be a partner, a leverage point for solutions brought to them by constituencies like WOSBs. The WOSB legislation that WIPP obtained is an excellent example of just that, as is the July 2014 Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing on women owned business issues for which WIPP and other groups created a standing room only audience. Panelists included: Dr.Genevieve Bell, Intel Corporation- Vice President and Intel Fellow, Danae Ringelmann, Indiegogo- Founder and Chief Development Officer, Tina Sharkey, iVillage- CEO, Foundry, Co-Founder. 

Key people: Janet Napolitano, UC California- President,Janet Granholm- Former Governor of Michigan, Viviek Wadhwa, Stanford University Law School Fellow, Dr. Genevieve Bell, Intel Corporation- Vice President and Intel Fellow, Danae Ringelmann, Indiegogo- Founder and Chief Development Officer, Tina Sharkey, iVillage- CEO, Foundry, Co-Founder. 

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