Women leaders cite two major reasons for issues facing women in tech
As conversations continue to broaden about issues like discrimination, gender equality, and equal pay, tech companies are becoming a big part of the discussion. In order to advance its efforts for women in tech, Salesforce launched the first ever Women’s Leadership Summit at its 2015 Dreamforce conference.
To cap off the summit, Salesforce hosted a panel consisting of Jessica Alba, actress and founder of The Honest Company, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King to discuss women’s leadership and some of the issues women face in the workplace.
(Disclosure: TechRepublic is a part of CBS Interactive, a division of CBS.)
The session began with King, who moderated, asking each woman about her story in her current company.
Wojcicki rented her garage to Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin for $1700 a month to start their company. After finishing her MBA she joined the company and she was leading Google Video before the YouTube acquisition.
Alba is most well known for her acting career, but she started her company, which sells non-toxic household goods and baby products, after she had an allergic reaction to laundry detergent when she was pregnant with her first daughter. When she wanted to start the company, though, people in Hollywood wasn’t very supportive.
“They pretty much just looked at me cross-eyed,” Alba said.
A big part of the conversation dealt with maternity leave, as all three women on stage are mothers themselves.
Wojcicki has five children from 8 months old to 15 years old. When she went on her fifth maternity leave she said she began researching it and found that most women in the US don’t have maternity leave. In the private sector, she said, only 12% have paid leave and 25% of women go back to work after 10 days.
What they’ve found at YouTube, she said, is that having longer maternity leave actually helped them retain women employees. And retention is one of the two major issues Wojcicki said is facing women in tech. By offering more time, women are better healed after delivery and the baby is more independent and settled into routine so it is easier for mothers to return to work.
Currently, Google offers 18 weeks of paid maternity leave and 12 of paid paternity leave. At the session, Alba announced that her company will be offering 16 weeks of both maternity and paternity leave as of January 2016.
Additionally, both Wojcicki and Alba agreed that there are misperceptions about the tech industry that can scare women off, such as that it isn’t creative and there are abnormally long work hours.
The second major problem that is facing the advancement of women in technology is the lack of an available pipeline of talent to hire. Women make up a small percentage of computer science degrees, so that means there are fewer women in the talent pool for tech companies.
Alba and Wojcicki both shared stories of sending their daughters to coding and computer camps and agree that education is needed at an earlier level. Also, both concurred that computer science should be a required course in early education as they feel it would help level the playing for getting women involved with technology.