“You can’t be what you can’t see.” This quote is one that I’ve heard attributed to Gloria Steinem, Sheryl Sandberg, Marian Wright Edelman, and many other role models. And the more I ruminate on it, the more I realize how true it is.
Did you know that only about 11 percent of executives in Silicon Valley are women? Until you meet one, work for one, look up to one, you won’t dream of being one. Unless you’re a pioneer. It’s why attending events like Women of Silicon Valley is so important for the future of diversity and inclusion in tech in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. These events bring together the women who have led the way, and the women who have the desire and drive to continue to make change and redefine the path to success.
While attending the Women of Silicon Valley event with eight of my SnapLogic colleagues, I had the opportunity to hear from the likes of Looker CMO Jen Grant, Arianna Huffington, Nutanix CIO Wendy Pfeiffer, and many other technology executives who happen to be women, as they shared their stories and insights about making it to leadership positions. I learned a lot from these brilliant women and these are my takeaways.
We all want to create change to level the playing field but where do you start and where should you focus? The answer is: Culture. In order to create the change we are looking for as women, we need to look at three key areas: society, our companies, and ourselves.
Culture and society
As we’re currently witnessing, society is exposing and slowly working toward correcting some bias and power inequity issues, so while changes are in progress, let’s talk about company culture first (but watch this hilarious SNL clip in any case).
Arianna Huffington said during her session at Women of Silicon Valley, “culture is the immune system of a company.” It’s an interesting way to look at it; if we have a strong set of values as a company, then what doesn’t fit that culture is easily identifiable and can be “eliminated” from the body. The thing is, culture doesn’t change over night and the valley has a history of revering “the brilliant jerk,” which we really need to stop doing.
Let’s say there is a scale of characteristics we see at work that, on one side, includes being aggressive, opinionated, angry, cynical, bullish, and paranoid, and on the other side, includes being kind-hearted, sensitive, overly communicative, studious, and merciful. Ideally, a company culture should revere a harmony of these traits that are inherent to men AND women (all humans) and define success from that. This would create an equal playing ground/starting line for everyone to succeed.
One of the reasons why SnapLogic has an above average female-to-male ratio (at 30-percent female) and in tech roles, is because the company’s values are genuinely in line with being a good human and don’t leave any room for “a brilliant jerk.” See the pillars of SnapLogic’s culture:
Self-care and culture
In Silicon Valley and anywhere that technology exists (so everywhere in the world), there is the shift toward always being available or on. Well, that’s really unhealthy. And not sustainable without severely neglecting some aspect of your life (I basically haven’t gone grocery shopping in two years).
I pulled together a compilation of things that resonated with me during the event that I think we should focus on to be our most effective selves at work and outside of work:
- Eat healthfully (ugh)
- Exercise (fine!)
- LOG OFF YOUR PHONE ONCE IN A WHILE AND STOP BEING SO AVAILABLE
- Embrace the traits you have and use them to your advantage. Alternatively, don’t try to fit a mold that you think will lead to success if the mold doesn’t feel natural to you.
- Have a sense of humor. (I noticed that every single executive keynotes and the chairperson of Women in Technology were genuinely hilarious).
- Support other women. Arianna Huffington joked that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” I’d like to add that we should all support each other, regardless of gender, and notice when someone needs help being lifted up.
Momentum is building toward big change. We can feel it all around us in society, at work, and in our minds and actions. As women, we need to do our part to “be the change we want to see” (thanks Ghandi for that brilliant quote), and do our best to hold men, and anyone else in power, accountable, to see a true cultural shift and a new definition of success. Thank you SnapLogic for encouraging your female employees to take part in events like Women in Silicon Valley, and being a role model for other companies in Silicon Valley – empowering women and valuing inclusion.