How tech companies can drive innovation and foster women eng

Video Transcription

Well, let's get started. Joyce and I hope again, Valley is going to join us in just a moment. Um So very interesting topic.I think that is on everybody's mind and has been talked um you know, a lot, but there's just so much I think, um you know, you would be able to also share with you from your personal experience. We all know that women are underrepresented um in engineering and especially engineering leadership and High Valley. You made it.

Yes, I did.

Great. Uh We're just starting with our first question. Um And um again, I'll repeat myself. We know that women are underrepresented in engineering and especially engineering leadership when women make up just 29% of the stem workforce. Um And among stem industry, CEO S only 3% only 3% are women. So, can you talk about why is this and how we can address it?

So, uh one thing I want to start with is that women are and men are, are not equal. I, I think that women are much stronger. So I don't feel um and, and I think that, and it's, it's a huge generalization but women always want to do, they want to execute and do the work and be in the background and, and they don't, they don't seem to want to stand out in front. And so, and I, I think that's one of the reasons why you see a lot of male CEO s, it's an ego thing. Women don't tend to have that. And I always like to give this example and I, I told you guys about this the other day. Um I have a kindergarten teacher that had all four of my daughters and one of the little experiments she does at the beginning of each class is she puts all the boys in a group and she gives them a bunch of blocks and she tells them to build something and they build a tower, the tallest tower they can build and she does the same thing to the girls group and the girls build a huge community.

They have a shopping area, they have houses, they have a playground and they build an entire community. And I think in general that's the way women's minds work. We want to build a community, we want to build an inclusive environment and, and, and include everyone and the men want to build the tallest tower they can build and they don't care about anything else. And so what does it take to be a CEO sometimes, sometimes you have to want to build the biggest tower and the people aren't recognized who want to build the community. And so, you know, that could be one reason that's just, you know what I've observed, um girls don't seem to be as confident. And so um when they see, when you see a job description for a CEO, a lot of women would look at that and say, well, I didn't do this, this and this. So I'm not qualified, whereas guys who maybe have done the same amount of uh that, that the girl has done will apply anyway because they feel like yes, I could do that. So, um so I think, you know, there's a lot of reasons why girls aren't CEO S.

Um I don't think that, uh you know, I know even for me, I don't like to be, you know, I don't like to stand out and have to stand behind the podium. And so, I mean, Valley, how do you feel about that?

Um I, I would echo a lot of the things that you're saying, right. I, I just think that the scaffolding for women, uh the support system is, is sort of, I, I don't wanna say missing because now pieces are getting in there, but it's definitely there are big gaps. Um There are gaps in terms of um how we uh mentor girls in schools. And so we all have trouble when we start out doing anything different. So whether it's sports or whether it's math science, it doesn't matter. But we're always encouraged in most of the areas to sue and, you know, you could get tutored, you could, you and will provide the support but somehow when it comes to girls and math and science, uh, the message gets a bit convoluted. Oh, well, if you can't do it well, you could always move on to other things and do other things. Um, yeah. Iii, I have a problem with that meaning we seem to provide support very, um uh very selectively. So certain students get additional support in certain subjects and others are overlooked and are diverted to other areas. Same thing.

Um, you know, women who go on into college and then graduate out, um, come into the workforce, start working for a bit and then, um, take some time out whether it is to raise family, to take care of uh loved ones, whatever when they want to come back into the workforce. Again, the bar is really high and obviously technology moves faster. And so, you know, taking a few years off, you might be a little less prepared. But again, if, if we provide that support, if we're ready to bring in these individuals, because they have a lot of potential in terms of expanding our diversity and the value that they add, we need to offer that support, we need to, uh make it easier for them to achieve that their potential and to re enter the workforce and that it's a win win situation, the company wins because we have diverse candidates.

We have more candidates who bring in a richer experience and the individual themselves, um, win because, you know, they gain their confidence back. And as Joyce mentioned, we have that problem that, that we all know that we sort of are our own worst critics. We shoot ourselves down and we sort of volunteer to get shot down as well. And we, you know, we don't take enough credit for the things we do well, but do take, absorb a lot of the blame. Um, so, yeah,

that's so right valley. And, um, and, and talking about women coming back to the workforce. So I went away from the workforce for a couple of years when I had my, my daughters. Um, but now when I look back when I'm looking at resumes, if I, if I see someone who has that gap and I know that they're a mom, I would hire a mom in a second because a mom can do everything, know what to make for dinner, get the babysitter, get them to soccer. I mean, someone who can, who can do that and, and, um, I just have the highest, you know, praise for moms. So to me to hire a mom to, to come to work, I know they can do everything.

I think you, you both touched on very important topic, right, of the support system, kind of that encouragement and, and really nurturing this, um, you know, women, um, and, and leadership. Um, if I, if I were to add something, I think, um, families also and it, it's kind of this like trickle effect. Right. Once you have more women, it's kind of a snowball and then women who are mothers are supporting their daughters and probably Joyce, you can talk to it. Right. Having four daughters. And, uh, I saw that you, um, I think your, your Twitter handle is, uh, Joyce for girls, right? Which is not, which is not coincidental. Probably. I'm sure that, that you're going to share with us some stories of how you encouraged your girls to at least try themselves and stuff, right? It might have not stuck with them. But, um, it would be interesting to hear. I

do think it is a trickle effect. So, you know, um the more women that are there, the more women that are going to come because they have more role model, right? So I didn't really have a role model. Uh, my dad was an engineer, so he was my role model and all through my career. I never had a woman role model, but I had awesome men who weren't and, and I heard, uh, women speak easier or earlier. They weren't just mentors, they were sponsors. And what, what the, the earlier speaker was, was talking about was it wasn't just someone who mentored me and showed me the way and, you know, the path I should take, but advocated for me when I wasn't there and, and pushed me into jobs that um maybe I wasn't ready for and made me step out of my comfort zone.

And I think women need to find people like that. So I, you know, I have had a terrible boss who was a woman and I, I ended up just quitting because when you're in an environment where someone is not supporting you, you need to just get out. So I mean, and it was hard, I, I basically quit, walked away and, and never looked back and, and then started in the robotics field. So it, it's the best thing that ever happened. But I feel like um there are so many challenges and each of those challenges is really an opportunity to find your next advocate. There are so many wonderful men out there that have always supported me and, and pushed for me. Um And I'll give an example later of, of writing maybe shit and being the only girl. But as far as encouraging the girls, um the biggest thing is exposure early and often. So I would drag them to the science museum. Sometimes I didn't want to go, I would make them play with electric circuits, I would give them blocks instead of dolls. Um And so, you know, we did everything to expose them to science. Um And I think one of the lessons I learned is that girls work better with friends and peers and pairs. So I, um, I forced all of my girls to, to take computer science in high school.

Um, and until I finally got to the last one, which she said, when I said you're gonna take computer science for your elective. She goes well, I know because you, you made all my, my sisters do it but I found some friends who were going to do it with me. She is now majoring in computer science. So I think having a friend to do it with, um, definitely makes a difference. So, and even in the workplace, this is something that I would recommend to, you know, employers when you are going to hire a woman, hire, try to hire two or try to hire one or a group of peers that can kind of someone to have lunch with, you know, uh, someone to go to the bathroom with someone to watch out for you is, is, you know, is my tag sticking out of my dress, like just little things that guys don't think about.

So I, I think the whole working with another peer or another or, or another young girl or a friend makes a huge difference.

And again, that probably goes back to your earlier example about the, the, um, the teacher who is observing the community, right? Community is just so important to us, you know, probably more than, than for men. So, um, that kind of brings us to a question of how you and any leader, you know, at tech companies can reinforce the diversity as a part of probably promotions and career ladders. We can talk a little bit later about the recruiting and kind of that that initial stage, right, of attracting women and um you know, encouraging women to become a part of, of this. But um I think often overlook that that later part, right, the growth, the promotion really uh women are not getting stuck in those initial kind of stages or maybe, you know, you know, entry level positions, you know, and going further. Uh what are, what are maybe the tips you have for, for the

leaders? Um I can, I can take this as Joyce had mentioned, right? I think, you know, being able to find people in Paris. So if you put and most of us have been in this position just because of the lack of number of women in engineering, we end up in teams where we're the only female engineer and we've got like we're working with seven other men. Um And as Joyce mentioned as well, there are very considerate men out there and they've supported me enormously and I think I share that in common uh with Joyce, they've been huge support but still not having additional women definitely does hold us back. And it's, it's just in our nature, we sort of, we do better, we flourish, we are a bit more comfortable, less tongue tied, uh more in the moment. I think when we know that we are in company, like there's an additional person that just having an additional female, I, I think definitely does work. And the other thing that I wanted to also mention is if you're not at the table, I always believe we're on the menu, right? Like if we don't have a seat at the table, I we, we don't have anyone to speak for us a lot of the times.

And so we end up being on the menu, like being eaten. And um it's really important to get that represent, to feel, um feel comfortable and to get there. And so we, we do a great, not, not a great job, but we are trying to hire diverse candidates. We're trying to hire female engineers. But I think the most important part of that equation that while that forms one half of the equation, the other half is actually um growing individuals who we've already hired and enabling them to, to move up, accelerate in their career.

And if they, they are, you know, at, at that middle level, enabling them figuring out what are the right tools in order to get them promoted to a higher level. So as you look, the numbers are anemic to begin with and then get far worse as they get to leadership positions. So there's a huge gap even when we start out low, the numbers get even lower. And you know, why is that the case? Um I, I think we need to focus more on. There is a lot of focus on the hiring part of it. Now, we get a lot of training. We, we're told about the biases to be aware how to mitigate all of that is really good. I think the other half of the equation that we're not paying as much attention to is the attrition is the high rate of drop off of these women. Um And, and the reasons could be as Joyce mentioned, there are very few of them. And so they feel they don't feel as well supported, the tools that we have are not reaching the women or are not in a format that that women can easily absorb um and leverage and, and therefore grow or maybe we, we just haven't figured out um how to fill the gaps or where exactly the gaps are.

I know that there is a huge drop off in that middle management. Um And then of course, if there is no one in middle management, then you're not going to find CEO S with absolutely no experience. So.

Right. And I think it's almost worse to promote a woman who doesn't have the tools because you're setting her up for failure. And so then they can go back and say, well, that's why we don't put them in those positions, right. So it's um it's really a, it's a, like you said, it's a, it's a catch 22. Um So, you know, one of, one of my strategies has always been to be one of the team players to be and so let navy ships, I would never ask for any special treatment because I was a girl. I was part of the team. I didn't want to be called a girl. I wanted to be a teammate. Um And so a lot of times when we would go on navy ships, we would have to displace the officers so that two females could bunk in one room. And so when I would go, I would say, listen, I don't want to displace an officer, put me in sick bay, I'll stay there and I'll only go back to my room at night and, and unless there's an emergency, no one needs to use that room or one time we had uh an overflow bunk area and I just put a curtain up.

And I said, you know, there's a, the shared shower, we would just turn the sign men or women. And so the guys loved that and respected that, but I didn't ask for special privilege. I just said, treat me like a teammate. So, you know, that's, that's one of the strategies I've always used.

Yeah. And Joyce Valley, I would love you to expand on your kind of experience. And um Margo gave, gave an introduction of, of both of you of, of your current kind of positions and, and, and um what are you, what are you up to right now? But please feel free to expand and I know the joys and both Valley have uh you know, wealth to, to share, you know, being a navy and, and being an engineer in her entire life, uh Valley writes, um II, I don't know if you would agree with me, but I also think that women sometimes require a little bit more reassurance.

So like if that boss who is telling you that you're doing great, you know, giving you frequent feedback, we might need to hear that maybe a little bit more often than men do. Um and, and pushing us, you know, and probably, you know, giving us an opportunity to take more um as Joyce, I think you were mentioning earlier, like men, men don't really need an invitation. Right. Right. Well, we, we might be staying on the sidelines and kind of waiting for that to come to us versus proactively going after it. So probably leaders um you know, kids in, in that way do a little bit of a special treatment for women just because we're wired differently. Right? Um

That's 11 thing I, I think that we need to just educate men on. Right. I just think they don't know because they don't know what they don't know. Right. So they don't know that we need to be pushed and asked, you know, to, to, to apply for another position, right? They don't know because they just assume that we're wired like them,

maybe we should have more of a man in this uh in this audience, by the way, trading secrets here for,

you know, one thing I would say to, you know, men, leaders out there and just leaders in general is take a risk. And I, and I, I say this all the time to investors um who don't want to invest in the robotic space because it's a long ro I and it's um it's, it's a tough tech, right? I and I I asked them to take a risk on one robotics company, put one robotics company into your portfolio. It's the only way we're going to advance the industry, right? And so I would say the same thing to, to uh to leadership, take a little risk on, on, on a woman. It's actually not a risk because give her a little and she will, she will make good of it, you know. So, but that's why I, I don't know how else to get um men to understand.

II I think also the other half of the equation is for women, right? Feel empowered. Um And I think this will become a lot more natural when, when we just become 5050 when there are 50% about 50% men and 50% women right now, there are so few women that we feel like, oh my God, what if I make a mistake? I mean, you know, there's a few of us and what if I bring down production and, and we just tend to assume the worst. We tend to. I, I think in, in that way we're a lot more apprehensive of, um, you know, the things of we, we magnify things that could go wrong. Um, while that is true, things can go wrong, but things can also go right and we might be really well prepared. But we, we tend to and that's why I said we are our own worst critics and so we fail to advance ourselves, we absorb blame. We don't take a lot of credit and I want to encourage all female engineers to actually take the risk if you don't take the risk, no one is a better advocate for you than you.

I mean, you, you might be blessed and might be lucky with a good manager, maybe all good managers. But still you, you need to take some ownership and, and it's your path and um you know, a lot of tools will be provided but take the risk and if you make a mistake and you fall, there will be, I hope uh better support. But for now there is some support and figure out if you've gotten this far, you've definitely got it in you. So just power through and you know, you're gonna, you're gonna move forward.

Yeah, I, I totally agree with that. And, and the, the seeking out the, the sponsor for yourself. Right. I mean, anyone would be flattered if you ask them, you know, if anyone asked me to be a mentor for them, that's, that's flattering them. Right. And, you know, men love flattery. So if you find someone who you think could be a good, a good sponsor for you, a mentor, just ask them and ask their advice, right? They got people love giving advice, you know, love sharing their experience and, and helping. So, you know, you have to, like you said, advocate for yourself

and it just doesn't have to be one mentor, right? That's some sometimes that's what people, I mean, women are like, well, I already have a mentor and that's fine. You can have multiple mentors. You can, you can look to different people for various strengths. It doesn't have to all roll up to that one perfect person who you may not have access to or you may not find. So use multiple people leverage their strengths in different ways and uh help them, help you and keep that um keep that feedback loop going. So if you're an active participant, I, I feel like you can get more out of it than just being very passive. I don't know he's telling me this, but I don't see how it applies. Well, when you're talking to him or her, make sure you understand how it applies and, and be really active and push back when it doesn't apply. Um, so that you're not just, you know, sitting there absorbing things that don't really work for you. Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. I would love to hear from you about a situation or two in your career in which you overcame challenges presented by a non, non diverse workplace. Again, wally. I know you've had your entire life in, in engineering, right? Probably beside man Joyce, you know, being in robotics, being in Navy, you know, I don't know, hundreds of men, right? And there were a few female. Um I'm sure you've had those situations and uh would love to hear those stories. Molly. Do you wanna

go first? Um So I guess um you know, I did um I was stuck in middle management. It's very difficult to move up after a point and I'm talking a few years ago. So definitely being a director and uh a female Asian engineer did not look, the profile, didn't fit the profile. And I found that to be a glass ceiling and I would try multiple things and it, and it didn't matter. It's like whether you were trying to apply to a new position or trying to grow within your company. And so I did exactly what Joyce did. I reached out for a sponsor, right? And, and this person was way above, he was like the president of the company, but I've worked with him on a number of high profile projects and I delivered really well. Uh And I reached out to him and I was really surprised that he actually took the time. Um He didn't have all that time to mentor me, but he was definitely my sponsor and, and helped me navigate the path and told me what were the few tweaks like those were precious tweaks of what, you know, how to present a case or how to anticipate questions that I was going to get, how to be prepared for that.

They weren't huge time investments for him. But the, the suggestions that he gave me um helped me incredibly and also knowing that I had his support, his back, uh you know, he had my back that, that gave me that strength. Um So obviously, having uh worked through that, it's much easier for me to talk now, but I can understand the apprehension of people who are on the other side of the equation and I totally get it. I was there um every bit of that way. And so I understand the apprehension, but I just think the risk is definitely worth taking. Um And I took this risk multiple times, a lot of times I fell flat. It did not work. I ended up quitting moving to a different company. But you know, if, if that's what you want to do, if you want to stay in engineering and if you want to do well in your career and keep trying. I, I definitely think there is value in that.

Yeah, I'd say women can definitely try, try, try. Right and persevere. Um my, my example is, is actually riding a navy ship because one of the ships that um I was supposed to ride, um it was for a long transit and um the the crew had not passed their operational test. So we had to go back to what's called developmental test. Um And so we had to, I was a sonar expert and, and we were training the crew, the sonar techs and the, and the crew to um be able to identify um targets coming into their, their sonar, their, their beams. Um And so this long transit from San Diego to Hawaii was when we were going to do the training. And so I was the lead of the team. It was my system, I was the chief engineer. Um but the captain has the final say on who rides his ship, especially if they're civilians. The captain did not want a female on this ship. And so he told my, my sponsor who was my commander at the time.

Um basically said, we do not want females and, and this is where he was an advocate for me and basically said, um you know, it's ok, we understand you have the final say. But if you don't want Joyce, we can get the B string. And if you think that your, your men can be trained with, you know, the 2nd, 2nd string, we're happy to bring them on. But if you really want someone who knows, you know, knows what she's talking about, you want Joyce to be on your ship. And so, um, so basically the captain said I wanna meet with her. So I have to get on the ship in San Diego. Go, go to the, you know, go to the captain's quarters and the navy is very formal. Everything is served. You have to request to speak, you know, e even when you're eating at the um and if there's any navy people out there, now, they know when you sit at the in the war room for, for lunch, you have to, you know, per permission to be excused, you can't eat until he's served all this.

It's, it's like he's king of the ship, but you have to respect that because he has ultimate responsibility. So I did go in and meet with him. Um, and it, it, it worked out and he said, ok, you can, you can board my ship. But um, we do not want you taking any officer quarters. And this is where I stayed in, in Sick Bay, which all worked out until the last night and someone got sick and had to stay in that room. So I had no place to sleep. But again, I, I go back to be a team player So I went back into another area of the ship where, um, I didn't realize this, but it was a, it was an extra like bunk area. So I went to bed and two o'clock in the morning, the lights come on and a bunch of guys come into the room, it was their room where they played cards at night. So, you know, they were all super embarrassed and, and said, oh, we're so sorry, ma'am. You know, we didn't, we didn't know you were in here. I'm like, what are you guys playing? You know, when they were playing, I don't know, rummy or something. I'm like, ok, teach me how to play, who wants me on their team. So again, you just have to be a team player and, and, and kind of uh embrace the, the challenges and, and make good with them, right? You know, so I've always just tried to turn it back around and turn it into something good.

So the captain was very happy at the end of the, the, the cruise and his team, his, his Sonar techs did pass their, their test and I got a beautiful framed picture of the ship with all of the Sonar tech signatures around the outside. It was really nice. So that's one of my uh stories that I am proud of for overcoming that challenge. But again, um you know, I had the advocate I had the sponsor, but then I also had to prove myself. So, you know, another part of that equation is be the best at what you do so that they have to select you, right?


you are not just going to be selected because again, you are a woman, right? We don't want to be selected just because somebody wants to, to bring more diversity, right? We want to be, we want to be equal.

Exactly. And, and often cases that's exactly what you don't want to happen because that post to childhood. See, this is why I tell you not to hire these people or not give, you know, additional responsibilities or whatever the case may be. So it's really important as women that we understand exactly what the challenges are and do a diff of where we are and what is expected and really, you know, get that before we even apply. I don't know that that's sort of my feeling of really be prepared because I don't want to be selected just because I tick a box or I'm part of statistics of, oh, you know, tech companies now have more women in leadership or just more women. I want to be an engineer, I want to be contributing. I want to carry my own weight. I don't want other people to take my responsibilities so that I think is really the key here. Yeah. Yeah, I get the great,

got so much good, good um um advice from you to our women here. Already. But um how again to maybe women here who are not in engineering roles, who are thinking about making a switch, maybe the mothers who are contemplating, like who had uh not an easy career, right? In engineering, they're thinking, do I want to put my daughter through it? Um What, what, how, how can we else encourage, you know, to still pursue careers in engineering? Because I think we all want to see more colleagues uh women, you know, besides us choice.

So I've had, I've had four daughters and the last one is finally going into engineering and computer science. Um She's just graduating actually this week from high school. So she goes next um next fall, I'm actually scared for her. I would never tell her that. So if any of you ever meet my daughter, Julia never say that, but it's not easy. And, and um and I was lucky that I had my father that I don't tell, I can't tell you how many times I wanted to quit. Um, you know, after my freshman year, after my sophomore year, dad, I just can't hack it anymore. I can't do it. And he basically said it's the only thing I'm paying for you to do. You can do anything you want after you're an engineer, but that's all I'm paying for. So I didn't have a choice which now looking back, I am super thankful that he forced me to do it. Um I didn't force my girls. This, this last one. Actually, I just, she got exposed the right way, had her friend with her along the way. But I, I'm scared for her because I know how hard it is. And so my advice to her is get to know your professors, get mentors early, um find study groups. Um Don't fall behind like, you know, you know how it is Valley. If you fall behind a week or two or a lecture or two, you are lost for the rest of the semester. Um And so you really have to stay on it. And so I'm scared.

So, you know

me, all right,

she's gonna fly through with, with spectacular colors, Joyce. She's so

what do we do to encourage girls when we know how hard it is? Kelly. I,

I think um you know how hard to me personally, history was my hardest subject. Like, if I could pass history, I would pass the grade and my parents never understood that they were like, we've never seen someone like this. You, why can't you just get history? Like I think we were all wired in certain ways and, and to me math and science was like, oh, that's so logical. Like you, you start here and steps and you just end. I, I'm not brilliant at all. I am very methodical and history has all of these dates and things that you like everyone, you're good at things naturally and other things you have to work at. And I think it's really important for us to get that straight. If this is an area you want to pursue just like basketball, we're not all born really well coordinate. That takes a lot of practice, a lot of skill. But why do people, you know, obviously you want to excel at it. And so you, you put in that time, just remember to everyone who wants to do this, you have to put in time regardless of whatever you want to do, whether you wanna be a chef or you want to be an engineer, you wanna be whatever. I think that time aspect, the glossier part of it is the job, the career and the benefits that come with it.

But prior to all that is the dirty, the lousy, the hard to stay on task bit of it, which is a lot of years and you've just got to bite the bullet and this is what you want to do, get on with it. OK? It's really difficult but just do it and very good.

I, I think uh one of the biggest things for, for young girls is, is again the encouragement and the exposure and continue to just bring them to museums, bring them to places like mass robotics where we have robots everywhere. Um And we, we have lots of STEM programs, we do a robot block party. Um So I think the more you expose them and get them excited about something so that they, you know, like you were saying val, so they like it. If they like it, they're gonna push through it.

Totally true. Thank you so much, Joyce and Valley and Ana. You were a wonderful panel and I know we missed one of you today, but great job everyone with everything you shared, your stories were really wonderful. Have a great rest of your day. Thank you

ladies. Have a good rest of the conference.