Women in Tech: A Symposium on Innovation & Entrepreneurship
December 5, 2017
A number of recent studies confirm the increased effectiveness of diverse teams in the workplace. Despite such evidence, representation of women in the tech sector has barely increased. To explore reasons why, find inspiration, and celebrate those who aim to increase the participation of women in tech, 150 women and allies gathered in Santa Clara on November 30 at the Women in Tech symposium, hosted by the University of California’s Women in Technology Initiative.
Keynotes from Poornima Vijayashanker, founder of the advocacy organization Femgineer, and Berkeley Haas professor Laura Kray, an expert on the roots of gender bias, were followed by panels of women in industry and experts on gender equity relating their own paths to success as well as challenges women face in the sector.
Founders of successful startups, representatives from venture capital firms, and executives from tech companies spoke to the symposium’s theme of innovation and entrepreneurship. CNote founder Catherine Berman, now developing her third social enterprise company, cited the statistic that women receive only 2 percent of venture capital, and pointed to a study in the Harvard Business Review on how differently women and men are treated when raising investment funds.
“Women are constantly asked to de-risk their idea,” said Berman, “while men are asked about the market.” She advised the aspiring entrepreneurs in the room, “Flip the question on its head. If you’re asked, ‘Tell me why you won’t fail,’ defend your company and then move on to its high-growth potential. Just that one tip has changed results.”
Many presenters emphasized the importance of networking and mentoring. Technology executive Sophia Velastegui described developing a personal board of directors, saying, “I think of myself as a company. When I face self-doubt and rejection, I’m not going to declare bankruptcy – I just pivot.”
Bringing women together to support one another was a driving force behind the symposium. Introducing the Athena Awards, Women in Tech Initiative executive director Jo Yuen said the Women in Tech Initiative was founded to act “as a bridge between academia and the world our students will graduate into.”
Accepting the Athena Award for Academic Leadership, Stanford computer science professor Fei Fei Li first looked back to acknowledge “so many amazing women who have blazed a trail,” citing computing pioneers such as Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, before forecasting technology’s future.
“We know AI will change the world, but who will change AI? If we want these technologies to serve all of us,” said Li, “we want all of us to be developing this technology, to be leaders driving the direction of its future.”
Date & Time:
Thu, November 30, 2017
11:30 AM – 6:00 PM PST
UC Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Campus
3175 Bowers Avenue
Santa Clara, CA 95054
Demonstrated benefits of a diverse leadership team and workforce include more robust market insights, improved strategic decisions and increased financial success. Yet from tech accelerators and startup companies to venture capital firms and established industries, female technologists, founders, and investors often struggle to marshal support for their ideas. In 2016, companies led by men received 16 times the funding of those run by women, a statistic perhaps influenced by the fact that only 7% of partners at top VC firms are women. How can recent research and inspiring role models contribute to positive momentum for women in technical fields, startup companies, and venture firms?
This public half-day symposium will highlight the experience of women in the tech industry–from established companies to startups and the venture capital firms that support them. The event will also recognize those who have championed the advancement of women in technology through the Women in Tech Initiative at UC Athena Awards. Attendees will come away with actionable suggestions for overcoming gender-based challenges and improving the workplace climate for all. The agenda will offer time for presentations as well as informal discussion to build networks for mentoring and peer support.
Who should attend? Entrepreneurs, investors, students, and leaders from academia or the public and private sectors interested in supporting a more diverse ecosystem for innovation and creating a welcoming environment for new ideas across the spectrum. We welcome the participation of women and their allies.
11:15 Registration, Lunch
12:45 Panel 1: Making Strides
Highlights successes that have contributed to positive momentum for women in technology startup companies and venture firms.
- Catherine Berman, Co-Founder and CEO, CNote
- Sue Carter, Professor, Physics Department, UC Santa Cruz
- Shayna Modaressi, Co-Founder & General Partner, Lodestar Ventures
- Laura Teclemariam, Lead Senior Product Manager, Electronic Arts
- Sophia Velastegui, Executive in Technology
- Caroline Winnett, Executive Director, SkyDeck (Moderator)
1:50 Facilitated conversation regarding workplace climate challenges
2:50 Panel 2: Overcoming Challenges
Explores the current state of research and presents innovative strategies for creating inclusive environments, promoting accountability, and reducing discrimination in the workplace.
- Jessica Ladd, Founder and CEO, Callisto
- Michelle Leahy, Senior Manager, Analytic Programs, AnitaB.org
- Nathalie Mathé, VR Creative Director and Founder, NativeVR
- Heather Metcalf, Director of Research & Analysis, Association for Women in Science
- Kara Sammet, Inclusion & Leadership Strategist, Gender Lenz(Moderator)
- Rebecca Stuart, Attorney, Employment Law Practice, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosati
- Introduced by Tsu-Jae King Liu, Vice Provost for Academic and Space Planning, UC Berkeley
4:30 Women in Tech Initiative at UC Athena Awards Presentations
5:15 Closing remarks
5:30 Networking reception
Sponsored by Facebook, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosati, CITRIS Foundry, The Coleman Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership, UC Berkeley School of Information, Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM), Haas Women in Leadership, Startup@BerkeleyLaw, SkyDeck, UC Berkeley Extension, The International Society of Service Innovation Professionals (ISSIP) and the UC Berkeley Bakar Fellows Program.
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