Lob’s Women in Tech Talk: What I Learned About Fighting the Good Fight

Lob recently hosted a Women in Tech Talk, both in support of Women’s History month and because diversity and inclusion is one of our values. Our 4 speakers and 1 moderator were brilliant women from various backgrounds. Our moderator was Kat Mañalac (Partner at YCombinator), leading a panel consisting of Laura Behrens Wu (Co-Founder & CEO of Shippo), Evie Gillie (Software Engineering Manager at Flexport) , Kira Hernandez (Director of Growth at Rithm School) and Anna-Katrina Shedletsky (Founder & CEO of Instrumental).

The energy and sense of camaraderie was evident this past Thursday night. Kira summed it up perfectly:

It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of Lob’s Women in Tech event. This gathering served as a reminder that when we deliberately create space for women to be honest, open and mighty, we naturally shine and thrive. It’s my hope that all who attended walked away feeling refreshed and motivated as women and allies – I certainly did.

Prioritizing Diversity

As the first People Ops hire and 12th employee at Lob, I started out as our Office & Culture Manager. HR drew me in and has now become my primary focus as HR Manager. A main ingredient of my HR mandate is cultivating an inclusive and open environment at Lob.

We decided to create and host this Women In Tech Talk because we wanted to learn how to diversify our small team and foster an inclusive workplace. We didn’t host this event to showcase Lob as a leader in diversity. Quite the opposite: we are aware of our challenges with diversity.

We hoped to glean information on how to address and fix this massive problem in tech, but we also wanted to share the insights we gained with the rest of the tech community in hopes that we can all work collaboratively toward our goals.

There were so many light bulb moments for me during these powerful women speaking about their experiences. Kat opened the conversation by reminding us that we’ve really only been talking about diversity in tech for the last couple years. So many times during the event, I caught myself thinking, “Wow, I have been in that exact situation but never felt empowered to talk about it.” Before these conversations around inequality started happening, I remember I felt I just had to face gender discrimination on my own.

Lobsters (Men and Women) Swim Together!

These dialogues, events and panels unite us as a community, and make us a stronger force in the battle against inequality. I immediately related to what Laura said about not wanting to be pigeon-holed as a woman. She hated speaking on panels because she felt if she did her job well her gender wouldn’t matter. But she quickly realized that no one is immune to discrimination.

This event really helped me realize that standing up for myself is also standing up for other women. I was inspired to create my own call to action: ALWAYS say something. We have to address these situations right when they happen. When John cuts Cindy off mid-sentence, say something. If Ron gets all the credit for Laura’s work or idea, say something. When someone is telling me my candid and direct email is sassy and bossy, I will be unapologetic because I owe it to not only myself but to women everywhere.

All my male colleagues who engaged with our event made me very proud! I hope they gained insight into what it’s like to be a woman in tech. Inviting everyone to be a part of these conversations is a big first step towards solving issues around unconscious bias. We can’t solve problems that we don’t know we have.

The bias women face in tech is the instinctive “othering” of people who are different than ourselves. I loved when Evie suggested that, when a female engineer joins an all-male team, managers should make sure to introduce her as a person. The first impression shouldn’t just be the label “female”. When making introductions, talk about something her new teammates can relate to. Give them something tangible to associate her with, rather than allowing them to see her as the only woman in the room.

Forward As One

With inspiration from our event, here’s my to-do list to fight bias in tech:

  1. Change our mindset: We can’t throw the towel in before we even start. Diversity and inclusion is not an impossible pipeline problem that no one can solve. We need to think positively and believe that there is a solution. We might be David vs. Goliath but David still triumphed. We need to defeat this particular Goliath.
  2. Treat Diversity and inclusion as we would treat any business initiative: Solve diversity how we solve everything else. Get the proper stakeholders involved and think like a scientist. Set goals, create action items and assign owners. Become data-driven. See what is working and what is not and adapt your plan accordingly.
  3. We can make a difference in the Pipeline problem. Society has painted a picture to young girls that tech is boring, it’s for boys, and that we won’t be good at it. So even though women are earning over 50% of bachelor’s degrees, they only make up 18% of Computer Science grads. To affect the pipeline issue, we need to go to the root, and partner with speakers, coding camps, mentor girls and young women to teach today’s girls that they have it in them to be tomorrow’s engineers.

When we unite in these situations, we gain more insight into the issues other women are facing and feel part of a community. It helps give us the confidence to remember that equality is something everyone deserves and is entitled to. It is our basic human right.

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