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2015 Edge Conference: Women in Technology Recap



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L-R: Maha Pula, Sr. Director, Pre Sales, Americas at Akamai Technologies
Robyn Randell, Vice President IT, Asia Pacific at Burberry
Andrea Shannon, Sr. Director of Business Development at Ooyala
Diana Silva, Global eCommerce Marketing Leader at Cisco WebEx
Megan Meza, Senior Product Manager, Content Delivery at Rackspace Hosting
Sue Thexton, Senior Vice President, EMEA at Brightcove
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Bob Hughes, President, Worldwide Operations at Akamai Technologies
 

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Bhuvana Husain, Director of Programs & Operations at Akamai Technologies
 
I'm pleased to report the Women in Technology Reception & Panel Discussion at the 2015 Edge Conference was very well received. Many thanks to Jennie Leigh for organizing the event and to Maha Pula for moderating the panel discussion. Also thanks to Bob Hughes, the Executive Sponsor of the Akamai Women's Forum, for his help to kick off the event and his continued support of our group.
 
After Bob's kickoff, I spoke for a few minutes about Girls Who Code, the Akamai Foundation, and how we can all help girls & women be successful in technology. I showed some photos from our 2015 Girls Who Code summer immersion program, as well as an Akamai Foundation video that was shown at the August 2015 All Hands.
 
After my talk, Maha introduced the panelists. This group of women included talented  leaders from our partners and customers, as noted above. During the introductions, they revealed a diverse set of backgrounds from computer science to sociology to business to graphic design. One of them even grew up on a dairy farm! They all agreed that having diverse teams enables them to relate better to customers, partners, and other employees. From there, we proceeded to the question & answer portion of the discussion.
 
The first question focused on diversity in processes for recruiting & developing teams: is it conscious or intrinsic? Here are the key takeaways from their answers:
  • Encourage employees to join diversity employee resource groups
  • In team meetings, ensure everyone gets a chance to speak
  • When recruiting, insist on interviewing at least one woman for each opening

The second question focused on how can we bring more women into the high tech workforce even while the number of women with STEM degrees has been decreasing? Key takeaways:
  • Encourage women who have non-technical backgrounds with an interest in technology to learn more; many skills are translatable into technical roles
  • Ensure that women know there are thousands of jobs in IT that don't require technical degrees, but do require the capacity to understand complex topics

The third question focused on how women can break free of supportive roles (e.g. note-taker) into leadership roles: is it possible to do this without being labeled aggressive? Key takeaways:
  • Any time a woman receives feedback that she's too aggressive, ask if we would say that to a man who is using the same behaviors.
  • Any time a woman is asked to take notes or bring lunch, and it's not part of the job description, try to break the pattern.

The fourth question focused on how women (and men) can overcome impostor syndrome and gain confidence. Key takeaways:
  • Encourage young women to speak up and get a seat at the table
  • Bring supporting data and do your homework when you do speak up, and show how much you know in your core strength areas

The fifth question focused on how men can be supportive allies to women in the workplace, especially in high tech. Key takeaways:
  • Never let women sit in the back of the room - make space at the table.
  • Make sure women know the sky's the limit for their careers, and sponsor women even if they don't work for you by talking to others about their abilities.
  • Don't assume a woman won't take an opportunity that includes travel or other commitments, even if she has child care or elder care responsibilities - she could have support systems in place to make this work.

The last question focused on how to help girls to grow up with confidence. Key takeaways:
  • Encourage them, let them fall down, be proud of them, and teach them to tell the truth.
  • Give them the opportunity to be successful, and tell them they can do whatever they set out to do, even if it's not the same jobs as their parents.
 
A big thank you to all our panelists and the great audience for joining us in this terrific discussion!


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