What we learned from The Expat Woman’s Women in Tech Panel

By Beca Truong

In recognition of Women’s Month, we are dedicating this post to fellow women in tech and beyond! Blanc & Otus was originally founded by two women, Maureen Blanc and Simone Otus, and remains a gender inclusive workplace in the world of tech. We will continue to #BeBoldForChange and celebrate the achievements of women while striving for a gender equal world.

Last week, a few of the folks here at Blanc & Otus had the opportunity to attend a Women in Tech panel and networking event sponsored by The Expat Woman organization. The women who spoke at the event were expatriates who had taken the plunge and immigrated to the US in order to pursue jobs at the most prestigious tech companies in the world. The panel was moderated by Yelp's Technical Recruiting Manager, Marybeth Stankovits, and featured the following female panelists in both technical and non-technical roles:

  • Sanjeevani Bhardwaj, Software Engineer in Quality at Salesforce 
  • Carolina Andrade, Strategy Lead Google Maps for Work at Google
  • Xun Tang, Software Engineer at Yelp
  • Katherine Sheehan, Software Engineer at WANdisco
  • Namrata Rao, Lead QA Specialist at Comfy

The Q&A-style panel imparted us with pieces of wisdom from women who work in the heart of Silicon Valley tech culture. To give you a quick rundown, here are some of the insights that stood out to us:

  • Diversity measures in large companies vs. startups:
    Large tech players such as Salesforce, Google and Yelp are pursuing active efforts to promote diversity and an open dialogue for women in the workplace. Some initiatives include diversified recruiting efforts (such as the networking event we were attending), employee resource groups (Yelp has one called “Awesome Women in Engineering,” how cool is that?), unconscious bias training and promoting an inclusive culture through events and open discussion. In contrast, startups will have a more barebones operation, so proactive diversity initiatives are less common. Despite this, women remain active within startup companies on their own merit.
  • The challenges women face in male-dominated workplaces, and the wins they’ve experienced:
    Although Silicon Valley has developed a more open-minded culture compared to other locations and industries, some of the panelists related gender-related challenges they continue to face in the workplace. While overt workplace discrimination remains (mostly) in the past, many women still face covert discrimination in the form of a lack of recognition or attention from peers. In the face of such adversity, these women were still able to accomplish much through their own support networks and by exercising their autonomy with talent, perseverance, and strength in the workplace.
  • Tips on getting a technical or non-technical job at a tech company:
    The panelists highlighted networking as one of the best ways to stand out among job applicants. Since large tech companies like Google receive thousands of applications for each job opening, having an internal reference may be the only way to get your foot in the door. Other tips included applying to jobs despite not meeting 100% of the qualifications, being yourself during an interview, and utilizing offline resources such as events and hackathons to expand your skillset and experience new fields. One main theme echoed by each panelist was the systemic nature of gender bias in technology and recognition that society’s perception of gender differences must change before inherent biases can be completely eliminated in the workplace. Regardless, the discussions and recognition beginning to take place within Silicon Valley tech culture make for promising listening.  

All in all, the event was an incredibly insightful and fun opportunity. Listening to the perspectives of other women in technology allowed us to learn, grow and further develop our own perceptions. We from Blanc & Otus enjoyed the opportunity immensely, and would like to thank The Expat Woman for organizing such an informative event!