I had the honor and pleasure of speaking twice at last week’s Bloomberg Technology Conference in SF. This year’s theme, Code in the Corner Office, focused on how technology and big data have fundamentally changed the way we live, work, and consume information.
In my afternoon session, “Women Coders Speak Out,” my Stanford classmate Tracy Chou (@triketora), now an engineering lead at Pinterest, and I had an interesting discussion with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang (@emilychangtv). Tracy has played a pivotal role in getting tech companies to measure and publicly share diversity numbers, such as Google beginning to track what percentage of their tech teams are female. We talked about how the next step is to go from transparency to commitment.
— Sarah Frier (@sarahfrier) June 16, 2015
We also discussed the “pipeline problem.” In recent dialogue about women in tech, the pipeline problem has often been dismissed as merely an excuse for why diversity numbers aren’t higher, but the problem is real. Encouraging girls to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curriculum at a young age and continuing to foster their interest and success in STEM throughout their studies and careers are essential to addressing the pipeline problem.
I’m proud that at Stanford, the number of female students majoring in computer science is now larger than sum total of computer science majors in 2008, thanks to concerted efforts by faculty there including Mehran Sahami, Eric Roberts, and department chair Alex Aiken (who by the way was one of the toughest professors I had when I was an undergrad!). Additionally, more than 40 percent of students who take CS106A, Stanford’s introduction to computer science course, is female. Not yet 50/50, but we are making progress.
Earlier in the day, I also hosted a more informal, intimate breakfast session about women in tech alongside Caroline Dowling (@carolineeire), president of Flextronics; Desiree Matel-Anderson, chief wrangler of the Field Innovation Team (@FITreadytogo); and Jana Rich, the all-star tech executive recruiter. We spoke candidly about our own personal experiences – some that are now humorous in hindsight, all with lessons learned – about being awoman in a male-dominated world. (One such anecdote: Being misidentified as a hospitality staffer at an event where all the fellow invited executives were men.) It was wonderful to sit down with a group of women and men who are clearly passionate about bridging the gender divide within their own companies and to hear their stories.
My other favorite talks of the day were with Dick Costolo, outgoing CEO of Twitter (@dickc), Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! (@marissamayer), and Chris Wanstrath, founder and CEO of Github (@defunkt). Dick’s session was especially interesting because he was CEO at the time he accepted Bloomberg’s speaking invitation and was slated to talk on stage about the future of Twitter, but in the days leading up to the conference announced his resignation.
My team and I were thrilled to see predictive analytics as a recurring theme throughout the day, specifically how data is being used to modernize huge, complex industries such as retail and healthcare. This is precisely what we’re doing at Hearsay Social: helping to usher financial services – which represent approximately $1.25 trillion in gross domestic product in the U.S. alone – into the digital world by providing advisors with data-driven insights to be more efficient and relevant in their outreach. Thanks to the Bloomberg team for a fantastic event and for bringing together such a great group of people to share ideas, foster conversation and inspire the tech community in Silicon Valley and beyond.
To see more examples of how out-of-the-box thinking from tech startups is disrupting financial services, insurance, healthcare, and more, read my recap of Hearsay Social’s recent 2015 Social Business Innovation Summit.
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- Tech titans Sheryl Sandberg, Bill Gates, and Clara Shih participating in Code.org’s “Hour of Code”
- Celebrating Technical Women at Facebook’s Tech Women’s Day