Michelle Obama Just Challenged Silicon Valley to Fix Its Gender Problem

The former first lady urged the tech world to find a place for women.

Image courtesy of DFID via Flickr.

Despite being the global hub for modern technology and some envy-worthy work perks, there’s one thing Silicon Valley is definitely lacking: Women. Former first lady Michelle Obama didn’t shy away from that fact when she spoke at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference yesterday. Though no members of the press were allowed in the WWDC event, an Apple developer spoke to CNN about Obama’s message for the crowd.

After being introduced by Tim Cook, Obama sat down with Lisa Jackson, head of social and environmental initiatives for Apple, to talk about the most prominent issues facing the tech industry. During the conversation Obama urged the mostly male audience to find space for women in Silicon Valley. “And that’s where I look to the fellas in the room and say, ‘Are you ready? Are you really ready to have women at the table? Then make room,’” Obama said.

Equal representation in the workplace still has a long way to go, especially in the world of tech. As Fortune noted in coverage of Obama’s speech, a recent study by National Center for Women and Information Technology found that only 26 percent of jobs in the computer workforce were held by women in 2016 and only 3 percent were held by African American women.

Obama cited this lack of diversity as an issue that starts before women even enter the workforce. “Girls walk away from tech and science. … There’s something about how this subject is being taught. You guys are smarter than that. You’re better than that, let’s figure it out,” Obama said.

Though changing the culture and diversity of Silicon Valley is no small task, Obama reminded the crowd that some of the most important changes begin locally. “Too many of us want to be big influencers … but we don’t want to confront our own families on stuff [we] care about. Don’t underestimate the value of what you can do in your own communities,” Obama said.

Read more about Michelle Obama’s speech at WWDC on CNN .