Recently, I had the pleasure and honor to participate in a Women in Tech panel hosted at LinkedIn HQ. I spoke alongside three impressive women leaders: Margaret Gould Stewart (@mags), Facebook’s Head of Product Design, Deborah Conrad (@tweetdeborahc), former CMO of Intel, and Merline Saintil (@msaintil), Intuit’s Head of Operations. Jesse Draper led us through a candid and invigorating conversation as we shared our personal journeys, lessons, and failures along the way.
Here are a few highlights from our discussion:
It’s important to have strong mentors and role models. I spoke to my own experiences and was reminded about the importance of mentors, sponsors, and role models – which can be the same person but often are different people. Basically, someone you can model your careers after and, as Merline pointed out, people who are willing to advocate on your behalf.
Perception of how others see you matters. On the importance of having a personal brand, Deborah realized in one of her past jobs that she was not being taken as seriously in her work projects as she would have liked. She talked about the importance of getting a 360 view of yourself to learn how people are describing you. We also talked about the importance of being who you are and getting stuff done and not worrying about being the ‘nice girl’, as Merline put it. Turns out you don’t have to be someone else to be effective.
Stop beating yourself up. What’s a panel featuring women without the never-ending question on work-life balance? While Margaret says she really dislikes the term – mostly because women are set up for extreme duress and emotional stress because of it – she realizes that the best career move she made was choosing the person she married. She says it has made all the difference in the world in terms of the shared responsibility that comes with it.
I also shared my philosophy on the importance of the environment in which you work, and suggested that pregnancy is scary enough. (Side note: I am proud to say that we have work-friendly policies here at Hearsay Social, such as extended paid pregnancy leave, to help ease some of the burden.)
Following our lively discussion, a pivotal question was asked by a man, no less, speaking on behalf of his seven-year old daughter, whom he says, will never know what it’s like to not have had an African-American president in the White House (referring to the fact that perhaps change does exist):
What if in 10 years we no longer need women-in-tech panels?
I thought this was a great challenge to us all. But women can’t do it alone. We need both men and women to give more young women a chance, to serve as mentors and sponsors, and to encourage our daughters to earn STEM degrees, take risks, and lean in.
I look forward to continuing the #womenintech discussion. Big thanks to LinkedIn and Brand U Events for hosting such a fun and inspiring event!
— bonin (@boughb) February 27, 2015
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