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Driving Success through Diversity & Inclusion: Lessons from Leaders in Tech (Google Cloud Next ’17)

NEXT '17
Driving Success through Diversity & Inclusion: Lessons from Leaders in Tech (Google Cloud Next ’17)
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(Video Transcript)
[MUSIC PLAYING] YOLANDA MANGOLINI: My name's Yolanda Mangolini, and I lead the Global Diversity and Inclusion function at Google. I've been at Google for 11 years. And while I started my career in financial services and management consulting, I consider myself a firm part of a technology industry. I'm really proud and excited to be here today. It's a special day, not just because of this amazing panel. But because it's International Women's Day, a day when many women– yes, nice round of applause– but it's a day when my fellow women and men in the tech world are honoring and celebrating the millions of women who came before us in the hope of creating a better world. I want to honor this day by having a discussion with some of the most interesting and trailblazing leaders in tech today. There's been a lot of research on– I've been in the diversity space about seven years. And over that time, I've seen a lot of research around the importance of diverse and inclusive teams.

It affects the degree of innovation that you have, and even affects our bottom line. But while meaningful change is possible , there are a lot of challenges. There are a lot of barriers that we face. So we have assembled an incredible panel of five change-makers here today, to share their stories and advice on some of the ways that the tech industry has been driving success through more heterogeneous work and inclusive environments. And I will let them introduce themselves. We'll start with Bridget. BRIDGET FREY: I'm Bridget Frey, and I'm the CTO at Redfin. JEANETTE CALANDRA: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jeanette Calandra with PricewaterhouseCoopers. I manage our Silicon Valley and San Jose practice, where we have a team of about 1,300 partners and staff providing a variety of professional services and tax accounting, management, and IT consulting to the leading companies in the Bay Area, many of which are tech. So in my role as a managing partner, I work very closely with our national and local diversity leaders really to create that environment of inclusion for the many diverse staff that we have.

I think it's really unique that we have over 65% minorities representing our office in San Jose. So our minorities are truly our majority. So that presents some interesting opportunities as well as challenges. And lastly on the personal front, I'm a mom of two. And I've been working on a part time schedule for the last 10 years, and continue to do so in my various leadership roles. So thank you. I'm really honored to be here today, and be with this wonderful group of women. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: Thank you for coming. Sowmya. SOWMYA SUBRAMANIAN: Hi, I'm Sowmya Subramanian. And I'm at YouTube, Google, Director of Engineering there, running our YouTube music efforts. And have been at Google– this is my 11th year. Never thought I'd be there for this long. But I am there. And partly because I think it's just a great environment. Have been able to do a lot of things within the company. Which almost feel small startups that have grown into bigger efforts. So I was involved in founding YouTube Kids, YouTube Live Streaming, and now I'm fully focused on making YouTube Music and YouTube Red subscription that we launched successful and meaningful.

And I'm really excited to be here. I do a lot with women in media as well, just to change the perception of how women are portrayed. Whether it's in technology roles or just stereotypical roles, both women and men. And it's really fascinating to see how much we can do there. CAROLINE TSAY: Hi, everyone. My name is Caroline Tsay. I recently started a company in the enterprise cloud infrastructure SaaS space. I actually haven't looked back. But prior to my company, I was at HP. I used to run the online channel for software. So anything to do with marketing and selling our enterprise software online was what I was focused on. That was an interesting journey in my career because I was able to start a whole new business, a whole new organization, and a new platform going into HP, which, most people know, is a large enterprise. Prior to that, I was at Yahoo, in search and e-commerce, and had built teams there as well. Now it's just a whole different perspective, starting a company, fundraising going through that process, and thinking about talent and inclusion and diversity.

So I'm really excited to be here to share the different perspectives. AARTHI RAMAMURTHY: Gotcha. Very similar here. So my name is Aarthi Ramamurthy, and I'm the founder and CEO of Lumoid. Lumoid is a Y Combinator backed startup. We have an office here and one in New York. What we do is try before you buy service for consumer electronics. Think of it as Airbnb or Rent the Runway but for gadgets like drones, photography gear, wearable fitness trackers, things like that. And prior to that, I worked at Microsoft, worked on Xbox and Xbox Live, catering to billions of customers there. And then worked at Netflix, millions of customers there. So it's been a really radical shift to start thinking about it as how do you cater to a totally different audience, different scale of audience, and also deal with building your own company from scratch, similar to what Caroline had said. And how do you think about diversity, and how do you scale the team and grow as you think about diversity and inclusion.

So it's been a really fun and interesting ride. And it's great to be here, happy Women's Day to everyone. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: I can see we have an incredible wealth of experience on this panel. But let's get right to the question that's probably on a lot of people's minds when it comes to diversity and inclusion. As women who are leaders in technology, do you think the environment in Silicon Valley has gotten worse or better over the past few years? And are you optimistic about the future for women in our industry? Anyone can respond. BRIDGET FREY: So early in my career, there were a lot of situations where I was the only woman in the room. So for example, when I was an intern at Motorola, I worked on a floor of 150 engineers. And there were only two women, me and the group assistant. So we had an entire bathroom with a lounge and couch all to ourselves. But other than that, there were very few advantages to that situation. And so I think it has really changed. The numbers, I think, are improving.

At Redfin, we now have about 30% of our software engineers are women. And I think even more importantly, the number of women have been able to communicate with each other and compare notes. So back when I was at Motorola, there was no Twitter to hear other people's stories. There was no Google Spreadsheets where you could collect data and compare notes. And so I'm just seeing a lot of increasing advocacy where women are coming together and saying, what's it like for you. Here's what it's like for me. And then use that data to advocate for change. JEANETTE CALANDRA: Yeah, it's funny. I think Silicon Valley gets a pretty bad rap for this. And I would say being out here for the last 10, 12 years is that I really have seen a big shift. And that's whether it's in PWC specific or when we're out at our clients and at the boards. So I remember a similar experience when I first came out here in 2005. Very few females or diverse partners in our San Jose office.

And I remember that they had put together some internal marketing material that was meant to be kind of something beneficial, right? It was like highlighting the women of San Jose. And when you really looked through it, first of all, the number of partners versus other senior managers or other managers was very far and few between. And then in the bios, when they kind of went through and you kind of start looking at the few female partners that there were, one, weren't too diverse, and two, they were either unmarried or they had this little thing about my husband stayed at home at work to take care of the kids. And so this wasn't really inspiring as a career focused a woman, who had a partner at the time who was very focused on his career as well. And so looking kind of what has happened in the last 10 years, now we're really proud to share that if you look at our last couple of incoming partner classes, we're 30% women now. We're 43% minorities. We still have a ways to go.

Because when you kind of match that up to the people who are coming in to the pipeline, who are starting with the firm, we're much more diverse at the in part of the funnel. But we're getting much better. And then even on the client side, I mean, you go into these meetings out here and you'd be the only female in the room. And now I love it, I go into some meetings and all of a sudden, it's all women. And you go, OK, wait. Who– does anyone letting the men in here, right? And you're seeing those same trends at the board as well. So really promising, I think. SOWMYA SUBRAMANIAN: I think mine is very, very similar to Bridget's, actually. When I started, I used to be– it just would be very common to be the only woman in the room as an engineer. And one of the things that I see has changed a lot in the last 15 years in the industry is there are so many more women. And just many more different types of people, not just women. From different backgrounds, different countries, different languages, who are actually there at the engineering level when you look around.

So I think that's been a huge shift, which is really nice to see. I must say, though, I think there's still a lot more we could be doing at the leadership level. It's great to hear stats like yours. But I don't know that that's the norm. Like in technology, for instance, yes, some of us are here. We founded companies and are CTOs. But I do feel that it's again the next phase, where when you get to that leadership level, you many times are the only woman in the room again. And that's where I think there's an opportunity to change. The other good change that has happened, the shift that has happened, is it seems much more open and OK to talk about it. Like we're having a panel like this. Which I don't know such a panel would have happened at the next cloud conference or Oracle OpenWorld. Right? Talking about how do we change culture. And I think that's a huge step forward. CAROLINE TSAY: Yeah, I completely agree with Sowmya on the point that there's a lot of visibility into things, or lots of research studies.

It's a much more open conversation. But I think too many times now, I've still seen that slide that says here's the number of this, this type of demographic, this type of background. And it's talked about, but not much has been done about it. So you know, I think it's drawing that line between what are we seeing progressing and changing in terms of diversity of backgrounds, demographics, skill sets, experiences, thought. This is something that's talked quite a bit at the board level. I sit on two public company boards. Something we talk about all the time. But ultimately, you know, it is up to you, I think each of us, to take some kind of action to make that progress. AARTHI RAMAMURTHY: Speaking from a startup's perspective, I think for a larger company, larger companies, I think there's some pressure to have a specific– diversity is important, inclusions is important. There are standards in place to go meet specific criteria. In the case of startups, there's no such thing.

And I think there's still a long way to go. I think a lot of it comes from just having channels, access to other founders, mentors, availability of board members who are women. Just opening up different channels of communication, I think there's a long way to go there. Any kind of access, supply– conferences like this are great. So I'm very optimistic about how far we've come. There's a long way to go. Counterpoint to what Sowmya was saying was for me it's the fact that we're still here, and we're still talking about diversity, and we're still talking about how much we have to go do tells us that we're still not there. And there's still a long way to go. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: Absolutely. But it's nice that what we see from optimism across the panel, right? That's sort of good news. I spent the past seven years trying to convince leaders that having diverse teams can improve bottom line results, especially with regards to creativity and design.

With mixed degrees of success. Although I say by and large, most leaders get it. So I have a two part question for any taker. Do you personally think this is true, that having heterogeneous teams lead to better results? And the second part of the question, what are your best arguments for building diverse teams? AARTHI RAMAMURTHY: I can go here. For us, the way we look at it is diversity is important because you need to reflect your customer base. We deal with the world of gadgets. And traditionally, we've been told, oh, gadgets, consumer electronics, it's all technophiles, it's predominantly male. When we first launched, we realized that for specific verticals like fitness trackers, it's predominantly female. That's the use case. And so we had to go back to different manufacturers and tell them, you know, you're going to have to design wearables that are meant for a smaller wrist. And we had to come up with these suggestions on who our target base and who our customers were.

And I think having a diverse team for us to understand what was happening and to reflect our customer base was really helpful. Which I don't think these manufacturers and brands necessarily did. Or else they could have caught this a lot sooner. So for me, diversity is about reflecting your customer base is. And making sure that you have a similar kind of percentage or set of people that your target audience would also look like. That's kind of why I think diversity is important. It's not meant to be let's hit this number, let's check a check box. It's not meant for that. It's meant to go solve a specific problem. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: Are there other examples besides to reflect on user base that you all have encountered? JEANETTE CALANDRA: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. I don't think it's– kind of pulling from that point, right– I don't think it's about putting a bunch of diverse people in a room, and that's going to give you the solution. Right?

It's really creating the environment through differentiated leadership and coaching and mentoring. And being able to create that safe environment for them to be able to express their point of view, bring their perspectives. And it was interesting, I think early on in my career, I figured this all out a little bit by default. We were in the middle of one of the earlier financial crises and regulatory reform. And we had a lot of our clients needing big, big projects, with Sarbanes-Oxley, trying to figure out what they're doing with their organization. And somehow, I must have stepped out for the day. But when I came back to try to put together a team, all of our top staff were already assigned to the other leading clients we were serving. So really had to kind of find creative ways to bring other people in from other countries, from other offices, to put together this team. And given the backgrounds, I mean, we hit every dimension of diversity on this team. And no one had the experience of what we were doing.

So it was this interesting experiment that said, look, this is our team, we've got to make it work. And really got to understand each of those individuals to kind of pull out their strengths. And over the two year period, it was just amazing what we saw. And we drove so much value for the clients. And I think when I realized that we were completely validated was when I got the call from HR, and we had gone through the performance cycle, and they said why are you hoarding all the one rated staff. Right? And I said, that's not how I started. Right? Nobody wanted pulling people from different countries and different backgrounds. I mean, people had changed careers and just got into professional services. But it took that team working together. So it was kind of that a-ha moment for me to say, OK, you have to work a little bit differently to bring out the best in everyone. You're not hiding their differences. You're really creating that environment to promote them. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: Absolutely.

BRIDGET FREY: And I really think that high performing teams are teams that are able to get a lot of ideas onto the table, and then figure out what to do with those ideas. There was some interesting research into judges' panels. Where when you have three judges– if you have just one that has a different perspectives of, say, two conservative judges and one liberal judge, the group will make decisions that are more towards the middle. And those two conservative judges, you know, they could outvote everyone else that's on the panel. Why is it that they end up being more moderate? And it seems to be that it's because they considered another point of view. And so having a diverse team is one way to sort of manufacture that concept of having lots of ideas to choose from. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: I love that. I love that. One of the of the moment topics is intersectionality. We're not one dimensional. I'm a black woman. I'm a mother. I'm from the east coast. I'm from a middle class family.

And we all bring our intersectionality in our lives as leaders. What can we learn from the multiple angles and perspectives that we bring to diversity and inclusion? Again, any [INAUDIBLE], any takers for that. CAROLINE TSAY: Yeah. I think one thing that comes to mind for me personally is age as well. Sometimes it's a hard topic to talk about because you get into age discrimination or things like that. But that's another dimension in that there's certain experiences that come out even at the board level of a lot of public companies out there. You typically have average ages of 66 plus there. And you've got so much diversity of thought and experiences coming in from different generations and backgrounds as a result of that. But I think one thing to really keep in mind too is the culture, the values that people have. And it may be very different for someone that comes from another country. Right? At HP, we were very lucky to hire a lot of folks and have an h-1b program that we put them through right away, even if they came in with a visa and had several years into getting through that visa.

And I think what that taught me was that there are so many ways and perspectives and things that people value. Do they value relationships? Do they value technology and hard core experiences and thought around implementation of a product? Versus something else. And those things start to come through as you get that experience, which I've been lucky to have. And then you start realizing that there's so much more in the conversation related to performance management, objectives, goals that people have, that you want to keep in mind. AARTHI RAMAMURTHY: That makes sense. For us, when we look at it, one is the customer base, user base, reflecting on that. You're looking at the immigrant population making up for a huge part of who we work with, who our customers are, who our neighbors are. So it makes sense for us, for our teams and our companies to also reflect that. And having this creative, diverse mix of ideas is– some of these, I would have never thought about it because I didn't go through that.

I didn't study here, I didn't have the same experience as somebody else here. So for me, it's amazing to go work with this diverse set of people. It's very fulfilling, and it's very gratifying to be in that situation. BRIDGET FREY: We have some examples where intersectional teams have really helped us to build better products. So we are working on a feature where if you're trying to buy a home, you could invite other people to help you with the search, so to connect with other people. And in some of the original mocks, they showed something like invite your spouse to this group. And because we had an intersectional team that had women, LGBTQ, that team looked at those mocks and they said, hey, this isn't inclusive language. Instead, we should say searching with someone else. And I think at some point in the product process, maybe our customers would have told us about it. But how amazing is it to find it so early in the design process. And just show that intersectional teams can create better results.

SOWMYA SUBRAMANIAN: Also, like, I think a lot of this discussion on diversity, yes, it's about the team and the team makeup. It's also, I think, largely about your growth strategy for your product. So many times, what we see, look around– and gadgets are a great example. Including the Android Wear. When it first came out, I was like who designed this? Now even if you give it for free, I'm not going to wear this thing. Even I'm from Google, and it's not about our products. It's an awesome product. But why wouldn't you have designed something a little prettier or nicer. Or something like that fits a small wrist. And it did change. And we had those internal discussions when we broadened the team, and started pointing out this kind of feedback. It's when we realized actually we've completely lost one kind of perspective by focusing on maybe the current dominant users. So you go after the current dominant users. And you're a large– most companies are going in and saying, I have these users who are already engaged on my service.

And I'm going to try and see how can I get them hooked even more. And continue to keep moving that further. So a lot of our machine learning algorithms or designs or user research ends up kind of fueling that one dimensional thinking. Which is an OK growth strategy. But then there's this whole pie of people you've unconsciously left out on the table. And if you just pause to say, I unintentionally left these people out, the segment of the population. So why didn't I think about what would it take to bring them in? You actually might have a much larger, a much more accelerated growth plan than going the route that you were going. So for me, the whole discussion about diversity– yes, it's about the funnel and the team and all of that. But at the end of the day, it's not altruism. Right? It could be. But there's actual– and we were talking with us last night at the tech maker's mixer, right– it's about making money and growth. It really does affect your bottom line.

BRIDGET FREY: I mean, there's data out there that demonstrates that. And this is such a data driven community. So many organizations including Catulus, they crunch the numbers when you look at all these public companies and the diversity of their boards and their leadership. And you look at the difference between those companies who are the least diverse in the lower quartile and then those in the highest. And the more diverse they are, I mean whether you look at sales, equity, return on investment capital, the difference is astronomical. So you say, well, how are we still in this conversation. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: Yes, absolutely. So Jeanette, you've been with PWC for 25 years, as you mentioned. So you've probably advised hundreds of companies. What's one of the best examples you've seen of a client where diversity inclusion makes a real impact on their success and bottom line, speaking of bottom line impact? What can we learn from them? JEANETTE CALANDRA: Absolutely.

I can definitely share a story where I think we as PWC learned from when I– when you saw what was going on at the client, and we kind of changed our strategy and approach. So when I first came out here, earlier in my career, I got put on a team. I'm serving one of the largest well-known technology companies out here in the valley. And at that time, we maybe had 20, 30 people service serving this company. And I was probably the most diverse person of this team. And going out there in the meetings with their leadership, there was just a complete mismatch when you looked at the diverse backgrounds that were coming to the table to discuss a business issue or a problem, versus what we were bringing to the table. And for I would say many years, our relationship was fairly stagnant. And then I had the opportunity to step into the lead partner role. And said, OK, strategically, we're going to do this all different. I need to kind of bring in not only the best talent, but think about those diverse views that are going to really resonate with our customer.

And so slowly transitioned our team to bring in a new set of eyes, if you would. And the results were magical. I mean, I love showing the 10 year graph of the success of this account. I mean for so long, it was like this. And all of a sudden when we made that shift in the team and worked differently with our customer, I mean, it went straight up like that. And you say, what happened here? Like, we got more diverse. I love this. All right. So again, I kind of want to tie in to one other point that we haven't touched upon. I love– I don't know if any of you had read Pat Wadors' article in the Harvard Business Review. She is the CHRO of LinkedIn. And so she goes one step further beyond– she calls it dibs. You've got diversity, inclusion, and then belonging. And belonging being that feeling of that part of that team being valued is such a critical part of creating that optimal performing team. And so that has always been a main tenet kind of looking at our clients who've done it really well.

They've created that belonging. And how do we bring that into how we're working with them. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: Absolutely. So Caroline, you've led teams at large enterprises, HP and Yahoo, for example. And at startups and early stage companies. Generally speaking, do you think startups slash early stage companies or more established tech companies are better at putting diversity at the center of their business? And can you contrast your experiences having been at both. CAROLINE TSAY: Well, so it depends on what you mean by startup. Startup could be one person or it could be thousands of people. Startup is a big range. I will say, though, that in general, what I got to see out of HP and Yahoo is that the companies have resources to invest and spend time, through the HR function and organization, through teaching and coaching, the leadership and the management, to invest in building up pipelines of candidates from other places. Whereas, you know, when you're in a startup, it's like go, go, go, go, go.

You just don't think about anything except finding somebody through your connection as quickly as you can, getting that introduction. And then very quickly, you're kind of narrowing the pie of opportunities or way you're thinking about this. Also with a lot of larger enterprises or bigger companies, they can invest in h-1b visas, I mentioned, or visas, and funding that. Or relocating people from other locations, which I think is incredibly powerful. Because you just get so much diversity of thought in the ways that I mentioned, and the values and kind of the thinking. So you know, I think about that. But I highly encourage, even for small companies– I've seen too many kind of smaller companies, startups, maybe a few people who've been working with each other for a long time, who tend to talk or say things that are like, oh my gosh, wait till you go hire that first woman into the organization, or first other person that is very different from you guys. I mean that very generically.

We've got to think about putting in place programs to be more thoughtful about this. So I do see quite a bit of differences when it comes to larger, more established companies, the resources they have to bring to bear, the way they're thinking about this. Versus startups that generally are more into this go, go, go, mentality. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: It's an interesting tension, because you would argue that it's much– particularly from a representation point of view– it's much easier if you start when you're smaller than when you're a 65,000 person company. But it's a really great point about the resources. Bridget. So you got an early start with computer programming. And you programmed an Apple computer, and that brings me back. So it's something that many girls don't get a chance to do. Do you think the tech industry is doing enough to attract girls into our ranks? And is it better or worse now than 10 years ago? BRIDGET FREY: Yeah. So I got my start with computers when I was five.

My dad is an appliance sales and repairmen. And so when I was five, he bought an Apple IIe. And to him it was just like another machine. It was like a dishwasher. You get the manual, you figure out how that thing works. And that's what the two of us did. And so by the time I started getting messages from society that, you know, tech wasn't for girls, I already loved computers. So I was able to get through that phase. But there are so many girls for whom they're not getting those really early experiences. And so I start to shift to those messages that society is giving them. And that's why I appreciate work that Sowmya and her team and others are doing, to look at how the media is portraying things. That it can be funny to talk about the lonely, bedraggled engineer working by themselves. And you know, we're all chuckling about it. Or is it really funny? Or is it actually just kind of a disturbing way to perpetuate these stereotypes that keep people out? YOLANDA MANGOLINI: So related, so Sowmya, you lead a huge part of YouTube's efforts to empower women and girls, and you mentioned that in your intro.

What can everyone here learn about YouTube's efforts here? And what lessons can folks take away and bring back to their companies? SOWMYA SUBRAMANIAN: Yeah I think your point that you brought up, which is once you become big, changing the numbers, even though you have so many resources, it's harder, it's very, very real. I think there are challenges on both sides, whether you're a small or you're resource constrained, and you're just taking what are you get. Right? Not whatever, but what quality bars. Or you're big. And one of the things I think we've done really well in Google and YouTube as a whole is not be afraid to question the status quo. So we really do look at data. And we also look at the processes that we have. And ask whether things are working because they were working in the past, or is there a better way to do it. So an example is– and this is an example outside of Google, but I use it within Google to drive change with our HR and process organizations– Maria Klawe, I don't know how many people have heard of her.

She's the Dean of Harvey Mudd College. And she came from Yale, where she was heading up the computer science department. And several years ago, I think when she took on that role in Harvey Mudd, she decided that it's going to be her mission in life to change the number of girls entering into the computer science program, and women graduating from her program. And she approached it less about is there a funnel problem, do I need to encourage more girls and women. She decoded it as, she just observed that a lot of the entering class women were not even signing up for their introductory computer science classes. Because the way it was structured and the way it was presented was alienating. Many of the incoming men in the class somehow had had computer exposure already by the time they came to college compared to the women, for some reason. And the way the programming assignments and everything is– the way that the course was being pitched was set the bar so high that people were just afraid, saying, this is not for me.

So she redid the whole curriculum. And I think they don't call them by numbers anymore. They do like bronze, gold, silver levels. And she really made the introductory levels fun, and a lot of team activities, and much more of a gentler introduction into the field to build confidence. And what she started seeing is more women actually realize that not only do they enjoy it, they're also really good at it. And they should be considering this more seriously. So did she change the bar of her program? No, she did not. But she just restructured it to make it more appealing. And now, I think, as of last year they have a 50/50 graduating class of men and women for the computer science program. Which is a huge change to bring about in a few year time period. So I think for companies like Google, because we have the resources, the opportunity– and we do use the opportunity, actually, we've done this– is look at how your promotion process works. Look at how performance evaluations are done.

Look at how interviewing is done. And see, are there things that we could be changing to make it more inclusive. So one of the things Google did several years ago is the interview panels, they make sure there's at least one woman on the panel. They make sure it's a diverse group of interviewers. Not just for the female candidates, but all candidates. So you get a diverse perspective on this person, rather than this one kind of, like, I'm just projecting myself on everyone. So yeah, I think there are things we've done that are working. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: They've very powerful. I agree, having been in that space. Aarthi, so you were quoted in Business Insider that your time at Microsoft inspired you to build a business that would cater to millions of people. And your time at Netflix taught you how to create a healthy team dynamic. How did diversity play into those experiences? And what are the most important learnings that you brought to Lumoid? AARTHI RAMAMURTHY: Yeah.

You know how– it might not apply to you on a day to day basis, but every once in a while, you'll have one of those days where you'd be like, if I did this on my own, I would do things differently. If only I could do this my way, I would do it differently. Well, now I can. And it's incredible to have that feeling. And startups are not easy. I don't mean to say that they're simple. They're really hard. This is the hardest thing I've ever done. But with respect to diversity and inclusion, there is so much freedom to go do tests and experiments. And really prove out that you're not doing this just for the sake of it. And it's actually profitable. You're leaving money on the table if you're not considering diversity. And being able to think about it with a very data-centric, result-centric approach has been really great. Even though, you know, ours is a small company, we're about 40 people. So it's nowhere the size of Microsoft or Netflix.

But we're able to think about it in a much more independent way. And that's been incredible for us as we grow and scale the culture of the company. Because in the future, when we have directors and managers within the company, we want them to think about this as I'm not doing this just to go fill out this form and make sure that there's diversity. But I'm doing this because this is the right business decision for the company. This is how I want to think about the future. And similar to Bridget, I think, I started writing code when I was 12. Started getting into Common-Lisp– I don't even know if anyone knows the language here. And started writing my own interpreter. And by the time people started saying, oh, it's not meant for women, it was too late. You already have me. Too bad, can't do anything about it. So it's about getting the right set of people. And for a startup, I think you do whatever it takes to find the right person. It's usually through personal networks.

And it turns out that I'm a diverse person, just a background and where I come from. And so my team is extremely diverse. We have people from all over the world. And it's great. It's working out really well. And we have arguments on how things should go and how things should work. But it's never in the context of I don't really know, let's just do this kind of thing. But it's more like where I come from, this is how we've done it kind of thing. And it's a really nice place to be. There's a long way to go for all of us. But proving to yourself that diversity works is the number one thing, it's the simplest thing that you can do instead of just going with they said we have to have diverse people, so let's focus on diversity. You need to test it out for yourself to make sure that you know that it works. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: So one last question for you all before we open it up to the audience. So start thinking about your questions. Each of you have risen to the top of your industry which is not an easy task for a man, let alone a woman.

When we know all the systemic biases and structural biases that exist. So I'd love to hear, and I'm sure the audience would love to hear a little bit from each of you about your own journey. What barriers have you had to overcome, and specifically as a woman in technology, to succeed. BRIDGET FREY: Well, one thing that Jeanette touched on a little is just how we make tech inclusive for parents. So I have two boys. I think a number of our panelists also have children. And how do you negotiate that part of your career, I think, is something that tech could really get better. When I joined Redfin, I already had two children. And I felt lucky that I had known the CEO for a long time, for many years. And he was willing to sit down with me and have a really direct conversation about what I needed, what types of hours, about how I would preserve that family time in the evening that was so important to me. And we were able to figure out something that worked for both of us. And it was so important during those years.

So for anyone who's a manager out there or someone who's working with people who are going to be parents or have leaves coming up, I would ask you to focus more on what it's going to be like for that person when they come back. There's so much focus on when the person's going to be out for a few weeks or a few months. But that's not the issue. The issue is how are you going to support that employee when they get back, and when their kids' needs are changing over time. JEANETTE CALANDRA: So when I think about the barriers– and they started from even before I embarked on my career– you wonder how sometimes you got you got where you got to. And kind of to share one of the earliest stories, so I was a math and numbers geek when I was a teenager. So very early on, I had a passion for what I wanted to do. And I remember the time very vividly that I was babysitting for this local family. And the dad of the family, he owned his own CPA firm. So when I came to this realization that this is the path of accountancy I wanted to go down, I just remember coming home one night, he was driving me back to my house.

And I was so excited to share, kind of I figured out– you know, everyone asks you, what do you do when you grow up, right. So I finally figured this out. And so I broke the news in the car. I mean, he literally stopped the car, pulled over to the side. And looked at me and he goes, why would you do something stupid like that? Women are not going to be successful in accounting or business. And just like hung there in the car. And so I was kind of one of these pivotal moments. And you could either have taken that and gone down a different path. Or it just created this passion in me, like I'm going to prove him wrong. Let me keep on going down this journey. And I think I had a number of those times throughout my career where there's a lot of support, but other times where you get this reaction from someone, where you're really surprised at that reaction. And I guess the advice I would say is you've got to look past the statistics, and push through it. Because you got to be part of the effort to make that change.

SOWMYA SUBRAMANIAN: Yeah, mine is very different actually. So my mom is a math teacher. And I grew up always kind of enjoying math and the numbers. And I never really defined myself by my gender, that I can do this or not do it. And I think the barriers are more subtle in my world. Because I always had the support of my family to be a computer science engineer. I started out as an engineer too. Had been exposed to computers at a very early age. There was never really a barrier because I was a woman until, I think, I started work. And even at work, it was less about someone's telling you not to do it because you're a woman, to not just seeing people around you who are like you. So I still remember, I was an intern at this company. And one of these really senior engineers, and he was very well respected in the company, and he's a great friend now. But at that time, he happened to run into me at lunch. And he said, he was asking me, oh, you're an intern. And he kept talking to me, all along, assuming I was a marketing intern for some reason.

And then as we were walking back, he saw me go to the floor where all the database engineers were. We were building the database systems. And he was like, why are you coming here? Are you following me? I said no, I'm going to my office. And he said, oh, you code. And the surprise on his face was kind of like– It's many times, you know, I went to undergrad at Mount Holyoke College. And I was an international student there. And the international orientation, they told us, many people might come and tell you you speak really good English. And you should thank them, and use it as an opportunity to correct the ignorance, and say English was my first language growing up. Like why would I not speak good English? So I did the same thing with this guy. Just told him, ha, you know, I am a computer science student like anyone else from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Why shouldn't I code? And then he was like, oh, OK. And he just walked away. He didn't know what to say. And then later he came back and told me, I was looking at all the code you were writing, you know, your CLs and they're pretty good.

They're really good. And that was a shift, right? So I think in my case of barriers– and along the way, even now sometimes you are like the minority voice in the group, kind of shifting people. And knowing not to doubt yourself or your confidence, but use it in a very practical way as to say, if you believe this is the way to go, or if you believe you have the right skills, just push for it, and make it happen. I think that's kind of my barriers story. More than like an explicit barrier that I had to overcome. YOLANDA MANGOLINI: That's powerful. Caroline. CAROLINE TSAY: So since we're talking about a few growing up stories, I was actually told that I had to do electrical engineering or that my tuition wouldn't get paid for. So I tried to look at e. And then I actually thought, OK, well, maybe if I go to CS, that won't be too far of a departure. And I will still get my tuition paid for. So I actually ended up taking my first CS class. I think what was so powerful, so gratifying is that when you're coding, you can see the immediate results of what you're doing.

Versus maybe some hardware initiatives or projects, it takes a little bit longer to get there. So I ended up doing CS in undergrad. I've always stayed in tech in my career. And I think one of the challenges that I've always had to really think about as I've progressed in my career is how much do you decide when you want to fit in, to be like everyone else, so that it feels OK to everybody. You don't stand out in some way. And I mean this in a way that you dress, the way that you communicate, the way that you talk, the way that you present yourself, the way that you put on makeup or not. I mean, seriously, down to that level. I've had to think about that through my career. I think at the end of the day, though, when you can think about your strengths, what you bring to the table, and you've got confidence around that, all of those things don't matter so much anymore. But there is a bit of a fine line in thinking about when you fit in, when you might not, that I've had to really go through in my career.

AARTHI RAMAMURTHY: I feel myself vehemently agreeing and nodding to everyone here. Because I feel like this is a first– like I do a few of these panels. This is the first time I feel like, oh my god, they're speaking my story. And what Sowmya said, what Bridget said, it's just like it's insane that all of us go through this. And you know, these are still pretty serious issues. I mean, I graduated 10 years ago, multiple jobs, and you still see this on a day to day basis. And when I graduated, master's in software engineering, I think my graduating class had 60% women. And for me, honestly, coming from India to here, being in India, it didn't feel like this odd thing. It was like, yeah, that's kind of what you do. You get a job. You write code, great, good for you. And you just move on. But when I came here they were like oh, you write code. Are you sure? And I'm like, yes, I'm sure. What kind of a question is that. How do I tell you if I'm like 100% sure or 80% sure?

It's just this ridiculous sense of what you have to think about, how you have to communicate. You can't really snap at them, you have to be patient with them. And you're like, you go through all of this. In your mind, you just run this whole flowchart of stuff. And you're like, not worth it. You know what, just move on. And I feel like all of us have been through that. And everything from graduation to being in a team where I think I was one of three women. And the weirdest were these happy hours. And you're like, what do you do? Like especially if one or two women don't show up and you're the odd person out. You're just like looking at each other like am I being here, like, this is odd for you people? Or is this the other way around? What do you do? So you have all these like semi funny stories. And semi oh my god, this is really sad. And I get it, this is kind of how it is. There's so few women in computer science and in engineering and tech, and we're working on changing that.

But today, right now, it's 6:00 p.m., and this is where we are, and this is what we're doing. And I think you go through that from there to building your own startup, you see a totally different set of challenges. Which is fundraising. Most investors don't really see female CEOs. And when you go into pitch, they're like, oh, so where's the founder. And you're like, well, you're speaking to her. I'm sorry but it's me, you just have me. And they're like, OK, so where's the coding guy, like, the engineering guy. And you're like uh, me, sorry. And you're constantly apologizing. And you're like, why am I apologizing? I'm just as good as like other people here. But you go through a lot of this in your– it's come to a point where I'm not cynical or jaded. But you just accept that there is going to be this level of people always not really knowing what you really do. So now my job is to clearly go out and establish and communicate what I do, and where I come from, and this is how it is, and this is the reality of what we are doing, this is our startup.

And we get these assumptions made all the time. And it is a challenge. It's not easy. But it's getting a little better. I mean, the more we do stuff like this, the more– you know, you pulled out this piece from Business Insider. And I was like, hey, somebody has read that. It's great. So it's changing. Things are changing. And it's all getting better. But some of these, you're going to hear for a while. You're going to hear these stories, which are like half amusing. And there is– I will tell you, there are groups of women who will sit around and talk about this and be like, do you remember that time when this happened, and we just laugh about it. But it's also kind of sad. And we'll commiserate. And it's nice to have a group of women who do that. And it's nice to see men here, who are a part of this. And you're not ignoring this whole thing. And these are challenges. And we will get through all of them. [MUSIC PLAYING]


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Time and again, research has shown that creating diverse and inclusive work environments can contribute to innovation and vibrant businesses. But while meaningful change is possible, the barriers to combat unconscious bias and stereotypes can be daunting. To learn some of the ways that the tech industry has been driving success through heterogeneous work environments and inclusive thinking, we’ve invited 5 change makers to share their stories. Join Jeanette Calandra (Managing Partner PwC), Bridget Frey, (CTO, Redfin), Aarthi Ramamurthy (Founder, Lumoid), Sowmya Subramanian (Director Engineering, YouTube), Caroline Tsay (CEO, Compute Software), in conversation with Moderator Yolanda Mangolini (Director Global Diversity & Inclusion Google), for lessons on what has (and perhaps has not) worked in driving success via diverse and inclusive tech communities.

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