Women In Technology: The Male Perspective
A few weeks ago, our VP of Engineering, Charlie Morss, was invited to speak at the ARA’s Women In Technology: The Male Perspective panel. In this talk, male leaders from different facets of the Seattle technology and digital community shared their perspective on what is necessary for women to play a more significant role—both in volume and influence—in the tech industry.
In addition to Charlie, speakers included, guest speaker Mark Britton, Founder & CEO of Avvo, Inc., moderator, Anna Frazzetto, SVP and MD International Technology Solutions of Harvey Nash, and panelists Mark Mader, President & CEO of Smartsheet, Dave Cotter, Co-Founder & Board Member of SquareHub, and Jonathan Sposato, CEO of PicMonkey.
Increasing the number of women leaders in technology is near and dear to Apptentive’s heart, which is one of the reasons I chose to join the company earlier this year. We have worked hard to recruit and groom women leaders, and 50% of our Leadership Team is comprised of women. We were very proud to have Charlie represent Apptentive and further the conversation.
For our community members outside of Seattle and for those who couldn’t make it to the event, I want to share a recap of the discussion. Below are some highlights from the panel conversation and additional thoughts from Charlie, and for snippets on the talk, check out the discussion on #ARASeattle.
Q. Tell us a bit about your background, current role, and experience promoting women in technology.
A. I recently joined Apptentive as the VP of Engineering, and was happy to see that half of our leadership team is women. Before Apptentive, I was the CTO at Urbanspoon. I worked closely with female leaders including our CEO, Keela Robson, our Director of Data Management, Shannon Adams, and our CPO, Mindy Shaw. Prior to Urbanspoon, I was CTO at Audiosocket where our co-founder and COO, Jenn Miller, was on the leadership team of four. Of the four hires I was involved with, we hired three women: the Director of Marketing, a Senior Developer, and a Designer (who also happened to be African American). Prior to Urbanspoon, I held various architect and developer roles where I was often shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of stereotypical male software developers.
Q. We’ve talked a lot about attracting talent to the tech industry, but what about advancement and retention? What advice do you have for women advancing careers?
A. My advice applies to both men and women:
- Talk to your manager regularly, and if you don’t, insist on 1:1’s if they don’t already have them set up.
- Don’t be afraid to ask what you can do be better, and be prepared to not always like the answer.
- Don’t be afraid to remind your manager of your successes, but do this tactfully. E.g. I thought project X went great, Sally did a terrific job getting Y done. Any thoughts on how to best repeat that outcome on project Z?
- Work with your manager to figure out what your career path look like at your company. Some managers aren’t good at this, but work together on what skills you can improve on and how to get there. If you have yearly or quarterly goals, add specific career growth goals.
My personal technique for retaining people is the following:
- I am open and upfront with everyone.
- I have regular one-on-ones.
- I ask my team members what the company, and me personally, can do differently or better to be sure they’ll stick around.
- I also ask them where do they see themselves in six months, a year, etc., and what I can do to help them get there.
Q. There’s a lot of discussion as of late about the importance of gender balance, whether on boards, a management team, or a company in general, and the benefits it brings to organizations. Why is this important?
A. This is important because gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to perform above the national industry median. Racially diverse companies are 35% more likely to perform above the national industry median. And, in the UK gender diversity in the senior executive team corresponded to the highest uptick in performance based in EBITDA. At Apptentive, our whole company is dedicated to diversity.
Q. So about this gender gap in technology, what does it really mean and why should we even be talking about it? In fact, many have asked why an all-male panel on this topic? Why is promoting women in tech so important to you?
A. Because I’m a feminist! I love what I do and think everyone that wants a shot at a great job like mine should get it! No one should be turned down for a position because of their gender, race, or sexual preference. No one should be turned off from pursuing their dream job because of the poor behavior from others. Gender inequality is a huge problem, and if my being here and speaking out about the topic can help even one woman in some small way, then I’ll consider my being here a success.
Q. How can organizations and individuals like those represented here today get involved and help educate tomorrow’s students to create a pipeline of tech talent?
A. I think we need to really understand why teenage women are not enrolling for computer and engineering programs. The AP computer science test in 2013 was only 20% young women. Why? Back in 2013, perhaps these young women already aware of the brogrammer culture they’d likely face, or was it something that already exists in high schools (think what we typically call “the nerds” in my day)? Do they get it from pop culture, like HBO’s Silicon Valley? We need to make tech jobs as attractive to these young women as they are to men, but until we know what’s turning them off at such a young age, we won’t be able to make lasting changes.
Q. What advice would you give to young women when pursuing technical interests and job roles?
A. My advice is the following:
- Do what you love.
- Don’t get into engineering only for the money, or you’ll most likely be disappointed.
- Try not get too discouraged when you run into a few sexist jerks. You will run into them, but try not to let them spoil everything you’re working toward. You’re going places and are a good person, and they most likely aren’t.
- There are good companies out there, and although it may take more time than it should, you’ll find one that’s a good fit where you can be yourself (and hopefully have a much fun as I have in my career).
- Company culture matters, so take the time to find one that works for you.
We’re proud to support women in technology and couldn’t agree with Charlie more. The more we work together to close the gender gap, the better everyone will be.
Also, if you’re interested in joining our awesome team, Apptentive is hiring! Check out our current job openings to see how you can join the Apptentive family.