Tech needs more women

An interview with Nicole Garcia, one of five women Ueno sponsored to attend the 2nd Women in Product conference

To us at Ueno it seems pretty obvious that it would be good for everybody if more women were working and thriving in tech. That’s one of the reasons we were among the sponsors of the second Women in Product conference in San Jose last month. Women in Product is designed to be a place for women to share with other women the lessons they’ve learned for succeeding as leaders in product. Sounds good to us.

Our support came in the form of scholarships for five young women — Nicole Garcia, Magdaline Derosena, Phedra Arthur, Hayley Leibson and Victoria Henry. Nicole is currently a senior at the University of California, Davis. We talked to her about her experiences as a woman in tech, and about her insights and takeaways from the conference. Ready? Here goes.

Nicole Garcia

Hi Nicole. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and what you’re working on these days?

Hello! I’m preparing for graduation and aspiring to enter into a career in social entrepreneurship. In my final year at Davis, I’m leading two organizations, one being a student-run sustainability business and the other being a women in business organization. With my past internships in tech, these experiences have been vital in providing me with the entrepreneurial and leadership skills to prepare me for my career.

And where are you headed? Where do your ambitions lie?

My main ambitions are in entrepreneurship and leadership. My values are tied to sustainability and equity, and so I want to seek out a company where I can pursue these values through my work.

What is it like to be a young woman in tech these days? Is it getting better?

In my own experiences so far, it’s been difficult to pursue tech whether in education or in the corporate world. The lack of women in tech becomes apparent in the educational system, like in many instances where I’m one of few women taking computer classes, or involved in tech-related extracurriculars. Because tech can be such a collaborative environment, the lack of women and others like me can make it difficult to connect. That carries into the professional world where these issues become more pervasive, often deterring women from staying in tech careers. Although I see the situation as improving, especially with the creation of organizations like Women in Product, there is still much work to be done on both the community level and individual level.

Why are there so few women in the tech industry, do you think?

On a more general level, women are earning more higher education degrees than men, but there are still too few women in leadership and executive roles, and in many industries including tech. The problem I see is not as much that women are discouraged from pursuing tech — there are more and more resources available to support women pursuing tech, starting at young ages — but the difficulty often lies with the lack of professional support for women in their careers, once they’re in the industry. Women in Product as an organization is a great example of a community aimed toward providing women with that support in their careers, bringing women together to talk about obstacles we’ve faced and how we can move forward.

What can we do to move things in the right direction?

First, we all should be making more of an effort to incorporate women into these and many other industries and roles — but not only to bring them into these roles, but to provide an equal field for women to thrive and succeed. We should pay more attention to creating an environment where these issues that women face are not taboo, but where we can pioneer solutions as assertively as we’d pursue other obstacles. Second, we as women should be making the effort to reach other women — to support, mentor, and advocate for each other at all ages and all points of our careers. In an environment where we face issues because we’re women, we need to be each others’ best allies in order to improve the situation.

And what do you think we as individuals or, say, a company like Ueno do to move things in the right direction?

Something I think more companies could be doing in order to move things into a better direction is to engage more with students. In working more with students, whether for educational purposes, establishing and/or funding programs, or for recruiting directly from schools, companies can make a positive contribution to the younger generations and even completely change their lives. Not to mention that the company will have a competitive advantage in nurturing potential and acquiring talent directly. A great example of this is my own experience being granted the opportunity from Ueno to attend this conference! The experience was incredibly valuable to me not only as an individual and professional, but also as a student because I can take the knowledge and information I’ve learned and apply that within my own community and similar events to benefit those around me.

So, the Women in Product conference! Was it good?

I loved it, and I especially enjoyed the panel sessions. In the panels I was able to hear from women in a more personable and intimate environment, and they discussed issues that they were most passionate about. It was inspirational to see and hear these accomplished women and how they’ve overcome obstacles in their lives and careers.

What was most surprising to you?

What was most surprising to me was the amount of attendees — there were well over 1,000 women who attended. To me, that speaks about the demand for a community and for events like this conference. Especially because Women in Product as an organization is still fairly new, this being the second-ever conference, seeing the amount of attendees makes me excited that this could create a momentum where more large professional organizations like this can be founded and utilized by women of all ages. Something else that was very surprising to me was that to my knowledge, I was one of the youngest people at the conference! Having attended other similar events, I anticipated that there would be more students attending as to get insight about their future careers, options and issues in the workplace. As a student I found the conference incredibly helpful, and I would want to see more students in attendance in the future.

Any other resources for women in tech that people should know about?

From my own experiences, I believe that women need to consider other women as resources and allies. As women, we can easily get stuck in the mindset that we need to compete with each other because there is not enough room for us all; however, the way we’ll progress as women and as a society is by supporting and empowering each other. Whether that’s through forming a community and organization of women, having these conversations and dialogues with other women about mutual struggles and difficulties, or supporting women through mentorship. These are all important ways we can collectively overcome our challenges of being in an industry or discipline in which we feel alone.

If you’re still reading, you might want to check out a great post that one of the other scholarship attendees, Hayley Leibson, wrote about her experience at the Women in Product conference.

Also, don’t forget that Women in Product is more than just a conference. It’s a lively community that hosts regular events for its members. Check out their upcoming events.

Okay. Not much more to say about that. Rock on!

At Ueno, we’re basically a bunch of lucky people who get to make good things. Bueno is where we give back, and help other people do good things, too. Read about Bueno here.