August 1, 2017

Changing the Narrative: Girls Who Code Today Become Women in Power Tomorrow

As part of the Girls Who Code summer immersion program, I organized a day of activities for 20 Los Angeles area high school girls at BCG Digital Ventures headquarters to learn about various career paths in the digital innovation space. Throughout the day, Girls Who Code participants took a tour of our Global HQ in Manhattan Beach, saw rapid-fire presentations on what each of our cohorts do in their day-to-day jobs, had an informal Q&A with women in leadership over lunch, and participated in a design thinking workshop to help ideate products that help girls figure out “what they want to be when they grow up.” 

In the post below based on my keynote speech, I discuss the importance of women in the workforce–not just in technology, but across all industries.

Programs like Girls Who Code didn’t exist when I was in high school. As one of the few females in my computer science classes, I was used to being an outlier. But it was incredibly difficult to figure out what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” As a result, I ran a lot of experiments in real-time. After working in Silicon Valley for a stint, I pivoted my career and went back to school to study fashion design. I went on to run a number of businesses, including a consultancy in the digital space, which led to product management at BCG Digital Ventures.

The specific set of challenges women in tech face are front and center right now–and for good reason. The number of women graduating with CS degrees now is even less than when I was in school. In order to continue to make progress, we must keep this topic in the forefront.

From my experience, there is no direct path for any individual. You can play many roles in your lifetime and you don’t need to climb any particular ladder in any particular order. I believe that we should continue to introduce opportunities for young girls to explore what they enjoy and discover what they’re naturally good at doing.

As digital becomes part of everything we do, technology and new job growth are becoming synonymous. You don’t have to work at a stereotypical “tech” company if you have tech skills, and you don’t have to be a full-stack engineer to have an amazing career at a “tech” company– building game-changing products requires input from all disciplines. Within the next few years, we will see the demand for skilled workers outpace supply. There will not be enough qualified people to fill the jobs created–let alone enough female talent.

Women are typically the early adopters, accounting for–by far–the majority of spending decisions in the US. If women are the ones using the technology, then shouldn’t we be contributing to its design and development? Recently, a friend of mine working on a women’s health app noticed that every single team member (including him) was male. Something is wrong with this picture! We need balanced viewpoints and actual end-users guiding key product decisions.

When you consider that companies with women founders perform three times better than the S&P 500, and that female-operated, venture-backed companies average higher annual revenues and use less capital, it’s of paramount importance that we increase the amount of women in prominent, influential roles. Ultimately, we need to create an environment where females are securing positions of power not just in the corporate world, but as entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, politicians and beyond.

It is my hope that we will eventually come to a place where gender roles no longer exist–no labeling or discrimination by race, sexual orientation, or otherwise. But the only way we are going to get there is to flood the workplace with diversity, open-mindedness and amazing talent. That’s where organizations like Girls Who Code come in. The more girls we get excited about technology, the more women we will have in the workforce in the coming years.

Published in Events