Adriana Gascoigne is the Founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, a non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco, that was launched in February 2007.
Girls in Tech is devoted to engage, empower, educate, and mentor women in the tech industry across over 52 chapters internationally, through key initiatives to help women reach their professional aspirations. Some of these programs include Lady Pitch Night, Catalyst Conference, GIT M, XChange, GIT Bootcamp, and many more.
What got you into tech?
It all kind of happened organically.
I started my career in consumer brand marketing at JWT/Hill & Knowlton. I was attracted to graphic design, illustrative story telling and being part of a creative team. I ended up in a position that allowed me to manage different campaign strategies for consumer brands such as Disney, Mazda, and Nestlé.
I managed Healthy Families: Partnership for Responsible Parenting, and No Smoking campaigns for the State of California / Governor Gray Davis. I also had the privilege of working with Al Gore’s team during the Democratic National Convention in 2000.
As I grew in my Marketing career, I noticed more professionals incorporating online tools into their mix. Traditional advertising and public relations was evolving into a digitized model, introducing fun new tools for marketers to play with. This piqued my interest in technology.
In the midst of all that was happening I came to two realizations: 1) my true passion was in giving back, becoming a social entrepreneur and making an impact; and 2) I loved technology and the speed in which it was moving.
What is your proudest work accomplishment?
I was working at a start-up that had 35 employees, a Youtube and Netflix hybrid called Guba, and I was the only woman. I would come into work every day, look around the office and say to myself, Where’s the diversity? It’s just a bunch of 25–35 year old men.
As okay as I was with working in that demographic, I still felt that there could be minorities and more women. It pushed my interest in starting an organization to help get more women excited about the tech industry and further expose them to various opportunities.
Building and maintaining Girls in Tech into a global organization has been my proudest accomplishment to date. In eight years, we’ve been able to achieve the following milestones:
● Starting and growing 52 Girls in Tech Chapters in 6 continents across the world
● Attaining a membership of over 25,000+ members globally
● Hosting the largest Women’s Startup Pitch Competition in the World. Our European competition had 288 applicants representing 26 countries in 2015
● Acquiring funding from the US State Department — USAID for Girls in Tech programming in the Middle East
● Recruiting a solid Board of Directors made up of 12 influential and accomplished women and men in tech
I think our biggest challenge is inter-organizational communication. It’s a good problem to have, right?
We’re in 52 cities around the globe, but it’s very important to communicate and make sure that we are all aligned in terms of our messaging, program development, curriculum, and interactions with each other. That way, we can share ideas and collaborate to build a solid base and continuum of our organization.
Time is definitely something we can’t control. However, streamlined processes are within reach and can be managed from anywhere.
Have you ever felt discomfort or discrimination in the workplace or classroom? How did you handle it?
I have, and I’ve learned a few things from those experiences.
In general, women face different challenges due to the fact that the “brogrammer” culture and “old boys network" are alive and well, not only in startup land, but also at large, high-tech corporations and venture capital firms.
The notion that women can feel fully comfortable and assimilate into an environment that is primarily created and orchestrated by men does not exist.
There are unconscious biases present in the fabric of day-to-day interactions in the workplace, including the way people of different genders communicate with one another, recruitment tactics, balance of idea-sharing during meetings, and sponsors (vs. mentors) in the workplace.
The way I’m tackling the biases is through my organization!
Making a global impact that helps to make a clear statement using a 360 degree approach to mentorship/sponsorship, leadership, career development, engagement, and education is how I’m making a difference. At the end of the day, getting a job is still based on merit but at least we are now exposing women to tools and resources to help them succeed in the industry!
What makes being a woman in tech awesome?
- Opportunity to have a voice in the industry
- Opportunity to mentor other women
- Leverage listening skills to absorb feedback and make changes
- Leverage nurturing nature to create a positive and productive culture
- Have influence in creating solid benefits and training programs and policies on compensation parity
- Offer unique talents such as multi-tasking, problem solving, and team building
What advice do you have for any girls pursuing a future in tech?
Maintain confidence! It’s the key to anything you do whether you are in tech or not, so having it while being a part of this industry can only benefit you in the long run.
Also, attain a good sense of self — know what you’re good at and what you love to do. Truly understand what your purpose and passion is in life, then go for it! Above all, continue to follow your moral compass and values in the process.
I would also offer these six recommendations to help solidify your seat in the tech industry:
- Build a personal advisory board
- Find a “sponsor”
- Be proactive about training programs
- Take risks / challenges
- Seize opportunities
- Ask a lot of questions
I think that women can have it all — career, relationship, family, social life — but with help.
It’s very challenging to juggle so many important things and do them all equally well. With help from a husband/partner, nanny, company childcare, a flexible work environment and policies, it becomes a lot easier for women to manage a career and a family successfully.
The common multi-tasking woman also needs to release some of the tasks and responsibilities and delegate to a husband or partner to free up some of the time needed to focus on career or personal activities. A good resource for this is referenced in the book, Getting to 50/50.
No stranger to growing brands and building amazing companies, Adriana has served in Executive roles at RxMatch, (VP of Product Marketing) and QwikCart SPI, (CMO), Ogilvy & Mather (VP of Digital — Intel), and SecondMarket (VP of Marketing) , the largest secondary trading platform, where she was responsible for branding strategy, event production and digital media efforts.
Gascoigne has not only worked in the technology start-up space for companies like, Indiegogo, Roost, Algentis, Democracy.com, Swyft, Vitagene, ImpulseFlyer, Poliwogg, hi5 (Tagged), SocialGamingNetwork (SGN), Jambool’s SocialGold (Google), PressFriendly, and GUBA, but also currently serves as a Strategic Advisor. NexTravel, StartupStockExchange, Involver (Oracle), Numiyo Technologies, Palindrome Advisors, CharityBlossom, DooChoo, and Change.org are some of the organizations she has had her hand in.
In 2009, Adriana launched SmittenWithMittens, which is now The YOUniform Project, a philanthropic program providing fair trade uniforms and educational resources to children in developing countries. She is also the founder of HelpLearn.Asia, an eLearning platform for small and medium-sized businesses in Singapore.
Adriana holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Economics from the University of California at Davis, received a certification from El Tecnologico de Monterrey in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and participated in Semester at Sea, University of Pittsburgh in 1997. Adriana is also fluent in Spanish, and most recently was appointed to the Executive Advisory Board for Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center Young Executives.