Session: Break into Tech: Insights from Silicon Valley Women Executives
From speaker Alexandra Navarro:
As a Latin-American woman in tech, and as the former chief of staff for the national nonprofit Latinas in Tech, I have consistently noticed how few Latinas advance to authority positions in their careers. In fact, a recent Latinas in Tech annual report suggested that even though many Latinas in their organization held academic degrees with years of experience, only 3% of those surveyed were in executive roles, while 56% were still working entry-level jobs. This statistic needs to change.
In 2021, I took on the executive challenge and acquired a position in the C-suite of a Silicon Valley tech startup, Paystand, one of the few global startups to achieve unicorn status last year.
From speaker Bindu Gakhar:
As Alexandra stated, there are fewer women who make it to the top in tech, and the number of Latinas and African-American women is abysmal!
As an immigrant from India with an engineering degree, it was not hard breaking into tech but growing in the role and getting to a leadership position was not easy.
I believe the challenges that women in general experience breaking through and succeeding in tech are multiplied several times depending on your race, your immigration status and also your personality. My experience has been that “you are never quite right or enough” to easily move through to the next promotion.
In this fireside chat, we want to share with you some of the most important practical steps that women leaders and companies can take to empower our careers.
- We need to acknowledge our strengths and speak with confidence. Culturally especially in certain parts of the world, women are taught to not be demanding.
- Advancing to the C-suite is much easier to do when you have a role model to guide you. Working with a coach can also help you identify areas to work on and get the help you need.
- For years women have been told that if they didn’t get where they wanted to, it was their fault, but it’s time for companies to do their part. The best way to encourage diversity within your company is to hire (or promote) diverse leaders.
Alexandra Navarro is the Chief of Staff at SIlicon Valley Unicorn Paystand, a blockchain-based B2B payments company with offices in both the U.S. and Mexico. Prior to Paystand, Navarro served as chief of staff for the nonprofit 20,000-member organization Latinas in Tech, as well as senior director at Digital NEST, a Bay Area nonprofit that helps match Latin-American youth with corporate tech projects for on-the-job training and career opportunities. An engineer by training and a career consultant, Navarro is the author/co-author of three books on achieving a work-life balance, inner strength, diversity and inclusivity. Originally from Colombia, Navarro lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her three kids and black labrador. She loves to walk on the beach and support her church and community.
Bindu Gakhar is the Head of Products at Silicon Valley Unicorn Paystand, a blockchain-based B2B payments company with offices in both the U.S. and Mexico. With more than two decades of experience, Gakhar excels in overcoming obstacles with data-driven solutions, keeping the customers’ needs at the forefront, and empowering her team members. Prior to Paystand, Gakhar worked in software development and leadership roles for numerous companies, including 14 years at Intuit, Director of Payroll Software Development at Xero, and three years at Boku Mobile Payments as a product leader. Gakhar took a sabbatical in 2020 and volunteered as a product lead at U.S. Digital Response, a nonprofit with 7,000 “pro bono specialists” helping the government and other nonprofits meet critical public needs with the right software solutions. During this time she led several COVID-related projects for the states of Ohio, Rhode Island, Nevada, and the Mayor’s office of Los Angeles, in addition to other smaller projects. This experience sparked her interest in civic tech, and in 2021 she completed a fellowship in tech policy from the Aspen Institute--a paid, full-time residency program for STEM experts.
Moderator Valentina Moreno is a customer success manager at Silicon Valley unicorn Paystand. She is a women’s rights advocate and part of the new generation of Latina women in the tech industry. Her interests also include operations development and establishing strong people connections.