On the coldest day of October twenty five men and twenty five women working in tech met in Interana’s office, overlooking 101 in Redwood City, to learn and talk about equality and how and why advancing women to leadership in tech matters. It was our first EQ Inspiration, so we went in with open minds and hearts. Our goal was to create an environment where we can address topics that don’t usually come up in the office, or subjects we are more comfortable avoiding to talk about, to encourage and inspire change for the better. As a woman with 20 years experience in tech, I find events for, by and with only women great for empowerment and building our networks, but when it comes to moving the needle toward a more equal and inclusive workplace – with all that matters – salaries, promotions, retention, hiring, training, individual contribution, sponsorship, management and leadership etc., I believe we have include men in the conversation. We want to invite leaders and managers who don’t realize they have the power to make a difference on their team or in their part of the organization to actively participate. We will not exclude anyone. Our attendees spanned three generation; we had two HR representatives, six people offering services for D&I, and the rest from upper management to entry level positions in enterprise to smaller size companies. https://eqinspiration.com/gallery/
Lars Einar Engström, who has written and lectured about sexism for 15 years talked about how society has “normalized” sexism and how it’s everywhere. He discussed how each one of us can take action against it by noticing it and pointing out that it’s wrong. Stepping up and speaking up, rather than accepting situations that are in anyway degrading women. Noni Allwood delivered a strong and genuine message of working for and accepting support from men in the organization to increase visibility of ones work for promotion. She talked about how her manager at Cisco made her work visible all the way up to the top, and why that mattered. Dale Thomas Vaughn who is with the Gender Leadership Group became an advocate for women’s rights at a young age. He presented the new statistics from the McKinsey/LeanIn report. Did you know that 49% of men think we have reached enough diversity when we have one (out of 10) women on our boards, and that more men than women claim to have the answer to how we can improve gender diversity.
Ed Gurowitz (GLG) moderated our all male panel. You might ask what an all male panel was doing talking about this. Their work, support and stories are worth sharing. Bobby Johnson started Interana with a woman CEO five years ago, and she stepped aside just a month ago after 5 years of hard work and fund raising, to make room for a man CEO placed by the VCs. Bobby talked about how VCs need to consider their way of working with female founders. Brian Pawlowski who runs engineering (chief architect) at Pure Storage talked about how many women engineers pass on promotions, and how he took the time to understand why and thereafter changed the way women (and now all) engineers are promoted internally, to better suit work-life balance. Shep Maher who is SVP of Sales at GuideSpark expressed his admiration for his mother who raised him by herself and went through college as an adult to make a career. He shared how the first “very diverse” sales team he took over made him realize that our differences in a group makes the group so much stronger, and turned a team of “not your typical tech sales guys” into the most successful team in the organization. https://eqinspiration.com/gallery/
Next up we had Chris Yeh who has invested in Oneva, the company where Anita Gardyne is the CEO. Chris explained that he’s always looking for candidates that have a track record of not giving up, people who are hard workers, and are often overlooked by other investors because they don’t fall into the “standard” start up mold (two 20-something year old white male Stanford graduates). Anita really took us aback and touched our hearts sharing how she’s the 11th African-American woman in the US to raise more than 1 million dollars. ONE million dollars. Her optimism is truly inspiring and I wish every woman considering starting up would get a chance to listen to Anita, who says that “our time is now!”.
As for me, this is a dream come true. I started planning for this event 22 years ago, when I wrote my paper “Invisible Becomes Visible” about mentorship programs in Swedish organizations, and whether they would impact women’s advancement. I was side tracked for 20 years, but standing in front of our first group of EQ Inspiration friends, allies, and new faces was like coming home.
The cold outside couldn’t reach us. There was so much joy, empathy, truth, and care for one another in the room. Individual inspiration (in combination with process and programs) is how we will rid our organizations of inequalities and harassment. I will organize as many of these events as I can, as I believe in turning the negativity which is consuming us into constructive action. Please consider joining me on this journey. Follow EQ Inspiration.
“Thank you for the great event tonight. You set up quite the event. I felt it was a good balance of feminism but also just being real. I appreciate that.”
“The event was wonderful, and adding in that it was the first one, I’d call it a home run.”
“Great speakers! Noni was wonderful and inspiring. The panel as incredibly interesting. Not enough time for questions.” (We will leave more time for questions and discussion next time!)
“Less data, more advise in the form of shared experiences.” (We will share more stories next time!)
“I liked how different the speakers were. Totally different perspectives and not too long.”
Special thanks to our sponsors: Interana, Skona Advertising, Epiquette, EdcolbyLtd, Gender Leadership Group, and K&L Wine Merchants. And to our volunteers: Parvaneh Eskandrian, Sara Maxence, Doris Pickering, Julia Michailova, Patrik Michailov, Momchil Michailov, and Jacob Brandon-Cox.