Jackie Oullet, mentors, UNCON2015, unConference, women, women entrepreneurs

unCon 2015 Session: Women Entrepreneurs – Women in Tech 2.0

By Jackie Ouellet, 2016 MBA Candidate |  LinkedIn  | 
twitter: @weplayshirts

The session began with participants volunteering topics they
wanted to discuss.  Some topics mentioned
included mentorship, networking, and getting men involved.

The conversation started off with some questions about what
gets female employees to the next level. 
Is it golfing, getting beers with people, or networking in the hallway?
How much of this is passive versus the individual making her own decision to
break into something new, to make connections, or to find people who are
inspirational? The group seemed to decide it was a healthy mix of the two, but
that putting oneself out there and actively searching for new connections and
opportunities is especially important.
One of the challenges that women can face in any workplace,
but especially in the male-dominated tech industry is breaking into a group of
men chatting around the proverbial water cooler.  A great networking tip from one participant
was to have a wingman (or woman) and go into those situations with a peer.  The suggestion was to go into those
conversations with something you can talk to them about.  Yes, participants noted, this might be sports,
but it also might be WSJ headlines, travel experiences, or another subject that
many people can relate to.  Ultimately,
women who want to get ahead have to be willing to put themselves out there.  It was noted that this is where the
confidence factor can come into play.  To
build confidence, one suggestion was to actively engage in new experiences that
initially are intimidating – whether a person succeeds or fails in the new
endeavor isn’t necessarily the most important part; it’s overcoming the fear
and recognizing that it (most likely) wasn’t as bad as expected.
The topic of discussion then turned to how some women don’t
want to differentiate themselves as women, but only as data scientists, professionals.  These women may not recognize how important
their decisions are – younger women look up to females in positions of power
and if a female recognizes that part of who she is in a professional setting,
this can provide hope to younger women looking to go into that field or advance
in the industry.  There was a suggestion
to use the fact that there’s a spotlight on women in tech right now.  “Women Only” events are a necessary part of
the process to getting on a level playing field; at this point they still need to
A man in the room noted that when stakes are high, people
need to find a way to manipulate things to their advantage.  He suggested that this might actually be
easier for women as they’ve had to work harder to get what they want in the
past.  There was a suggestion to figure
out how to get what you want with transparency and at the same time by providing
value to the system.  Another male participant
suggested females should be going into meetings or interviews with confidence
because so many companies are hiring female candidates, finally realizing the
value of diversity.  While it is hard to
break into the boys club, many employers are actively searching for female
candidates to elect to higher-level positions – women should be taking
advantage of this right now.
One participant said a great interview questions she’s heard
is “how many women are on your executive team?” This is a new question, and
it’s an awesome one.  Studies show that
teams get smarter with more women (more diversity) on them.  It’s scary that formal studies were
necessary, but it’s good that the data shows what we already knew and now people
are now listening to it.
It was noted that there are issues around gender balance
with women on panels. This might be an issue because only at CEOs or founders are
looked at and there are so many women in other exec positions that should be
considered for speaking opportunities. 
Many women are team players so they very well may be CTOs or COOs, who
can add just as much experience and advice to a panel.
If someone is making an effort to hire more women or promote
women internally, as women, we shouldn’t be knocking them down just for being
late to the party.  An example was given
of  a man who had only one woman in his
company of 130 reaching out to ask about the best way to hire more women.  He realized his company had a serious problem
and was actively working to fix it; women need to encourage this behavior
instead of balking at how backwards it seems to have a workforce of <1%
The conversation then turned to the difference between a
mentor and a sponsor.  Bobbi, one of the
session moderators, gave an example of a circle of women that she knows – she
feels comfortable promoting and talking about these five to ten women; when
opportunities arise she thinks they would be a good fit for she has no
hesitation in promoting them.  One
panelists made the recommendation to look for sponsors that aren’t just the
same gender – women often can benefit from male sponsors/mentors and that
shouldn’t be overlooked. Women sponsors are sometimes also tapped out so it’s
important to have a range of resources.
The group also discussed ways to manage the male/female
perception.  A participant suggested not
going out for drinks with male colleagues, but instead trying to set up
breakfast or lunch meet-ups. As a female, it’s important to work around
schedule that allows you to manage those perceptions so you can have these
The session concluded with a discussion about how to get men
to buy in.  One participant mentioned
that as the Co-President of a Graduate Women in Business Club, she was having a
hard time convincing men to attend events and was looking for suggestions to
make this easier.  One suggestion was to
change the name of the event by removing the reference to a women’s club or
women’s event.  Another suggestion was to
consider exactly what the event or panel is offering.  Is it a discussion on challenges women face
in the workplace that might specifically benefit women more than men?  Or is it a general panel on technology or
asset management that would be of interest to everyone, but just hosted by a
women’s group? 

A final suggestion was to form a ‘man-bassadors group’ as
there is a lot of interest from men to be part of a solution.  Another idea was to encourage event attendees
to invite a man to an event as a guest to have a more representative audience.

Upcoming Events


Related Articles