Gender equality discussion added to BMoE bootcamp for the first time
In a new addition to the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship, or BMoE, bootcamp this year, a panel of executives from Silicon Valley participated in a discussion about achieving gender equality in the workplace — especially in the tech industry.
Moderated by BMoE program director Gigi Wang, the panel consisted of Storm Ventures Principal Pascale Diaine, Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program Director Rhonda Schrader, former GoPro General Counsel Sharon Zezima, Garage Ventures co-founder Bill Reichert, and product management consultant Paolo Lacche.
Wang began by asking how the female panelists had dealt with any insecurity in male-dominated spaces. Diaine said she knew that if she wanted something, she had to put her foot down — courtesy of growing up with two older brothers.
“I think every time I could see there was a blurry line appearing, I would just be very clear, and remove ambiguity,” Diaine said.
She added that as she moved forward with her career, she worked to remove “bad actors” in the technology space, and encouraged women to continue calling out bad actors.
With respect to the national conversation surrounding the #MeToo movement, Wang asked the panelists for their thoughts on having a meal with the other gender. Zezima said it was up to the men to create a more professional culture and attitude towards business meals, as women would decline invitations out of discomfort.
“You end up not having opportunities that way,” Zezima said. “The women ending up getting penalized. Don’t look to the women to fix all the problems.”
Diaine suggested always selecting a public place for dinners and splitting the bill to avoid owing anyone. Reichert and Lacche both advised against getting involved with co-workers, as it could lead to complications in the workplace.
Reichert stressed the importance of having diversity within a workforce, yet warned against instituting quotas to reach that level of diversity.
“In my experience, if you have a group that is overwhelmingly male or female, you’re going to start getting these behaviors that are, at some level, dysfunctional and at some level highly unproductive,” Reichert said. “Everyone should agree that increased diversity is going to help this team.”
The panel also touched on mandatory bias training to foster diversity, although Zezima said she considered such training futile in some respects.
“With unconscious training, if you make it mandatory, it kind of backfires on people,” Zezima said. “For me, it’s all about creating a respective inclusive culture, welcoming people from a variety of genders, races … looking at yourself and where you’re falling off, and why.”
Originally published at UC Berkeley Sutardja Center.