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GHC15: Transforming the Culture of Tech

 Fran Berman notes that this is a really hard thing to do – transform a culture. Things are moving so fast – easy for things like diversity to become sidelined.

Clara Shih, CEO and Founder at Hearsay Social

Attended her first GHC 10 years ago in Chicago, with just 800 attendees and wasn’t sure what to do – grad school or business?  She was super inspired. She has since worked at microsoft, written an app that went viral, had a New York Times featured best selling book – then started her own company!

She’s learned a lot of lessons in 10 years. She immigrated here as a kindergartener – she could not speak English, so…  she was a really good listener.  This is important to listen to your customers and your direct reports. A 360 review is hard, but so valuable – you must listen to the feedback, though.

It’s important to accept yourself as you are – it’s okay to be different.  A colleague at MS asked her why she was trying to be one of the guys?  He noted he respected her for her technical prowess and vision. She’s felt more accepted by being authentic.

Relationships are so valuable. Mentors, sponsors, friends.  Remember, mentorship is a two way street – it’s important to give back. And it’s not just women, make and keep relationships.

As an example: at her first tech entrepreneur event, 7 men came up and asked her administrative questions: where is the bathroom? Where do I get water? Where are badges?

Instead of reacting as her 20 something self (crying to her mother), or her 30 something self (tell them to stop being so sexist) – she reacted simply with wonderment: “I’m also looking for the bathroom, I also need water, I also need my badge”.

Later that day, during introductions, when those men all realized their mistake and that she had raised as much money as they had for her start up – they were embarrasssed. They came to her and apologized and they ended up building lasting relationships. They are still making it up to her. 🙂

She realized she was probably the first woman at this conference. They made an honest mistake. they probably will not again. Because she avoided confrontation, they now have a relationship.

The most important lesson: the future is on us.

Every time we take the time to lift up another woman – we are lifting all of us up.

At Hearsay they mentor non technical women into engineering positions.  If we all could just mentor one woman this year, what sort of impact could we make?

Blake Irving , CEO of GoDaddy

Addressing the big question: what is he doing here after the disaster of the male allies panel last year?  He’s here to address our tweets.

Everyone knew that GoDaddy was a terrible company, bashed on their ads.  The sad thing was – those ads brought in a tremendous amount of revenue. That’s why they did not stop until he took over.

People assumed that no women worked there – but, not true. Their numbers were about the same as other tech companies.

Before he took the position, he visited headquarters and found it was full of amazing people – not reflecting their corporate culture.  He wants their brand to match the values of their employees and the customers they serve.

There is empirical evidence that tech built by diverse teams is just better – and he likes better!

If you see a problem and do nothing to fix it, then you really didn’t think it was a problem in the first place.

This means hiring senior women engineers, putting them on your board.  Empower your staff so they can do what is right and know it will be rewarded.

Inspire and speak out.

It’s our job as leaders to shine a light on this industry.  Bad things die in the light.

Then he showed us the improvements in recruitment and retention they have made since last year, since they began publishing numbers.

Then … he showed us how women’s salaries stacked up against men’s! First I’ve seen!

Overall, at GoDaddy, women make .75% more than men… except in management roles, women make nearly 4% less. They are finding that the women they are hiring are inheriting low salaries from their previous company (NOTE: I’ve heard you should never say what your current salary is while job hunting for this reason).

They also saw that the percentage of women in engineering roles diminishes as the role becomes more senior.  They are looking into why this is.

No advice this year for women in tech – but he does have advice for tech CEOs. Shine a light on your issues, publish your data, and fix the issues.

Megan Smith, United States Chief Technical Officer

As tech evangelists, we need to go where we are underrepresented.

Since she last visited us – she has dug up Grace Hopper’s archive and found lots of neat stuff, including Admiral Hopper’s original nansecond.

The CTO Office has to work on things like patent reform, encryption regulations, and “innovation nation”.

Tech jobs pay 50% more than average jobs in US – so we want to get more people into them.

Kathy Pham, US Digital Services – is now working for the US Gov to help veterans. Doing things like working on their digital record systems. VAs treat 8 million veterans.  Use open health care software! And giving back!

Mina Hsiang – democratizing healthcare digitally. 16 million people now have access to healthcare since ACA went into effect. 70% of the people say they could use more information – let’s get it to them!
The ACA is helping people, like Diane, who had to drop out of school even though she had a 4.0, because she could not afford college and health care.

Next speaker: how can we make applying for immigration less painful? Right now process is almost entirely paper – visas, brining loved ones from other countries, marriages, etc.  Have to radically rethink and redesign. The online forms that exist online were impossible to understand and navigate. She has been working on simplfying it  Found a form on the train from someone trying to work out how to bring their family here – so many forms listed, and large costs – and obvious concerns about meeting the poverty income.

Sarah Allen – Open Data by the People for the People. Never thought she’d join the government – she thought that’s where bad ideas went to die. 🙂

They have built a college score card – includes an API, so others can use the data, too. it’s based on how successful your degree with make you – it’s the surest way to enter the middle class.

Cori Zarek – Open Gov for and with the People. She wants a transparent and open government. Transparency and  collaboration are critical. Check out Her office additionally created an analytics site so they can see what sites are getting used.

Join them at

Meg Smith needs more smart people – so consider doing a “tour” in a tech job for the government.

then … a panel of all of the above speakers!

Meg: we need to move diversity up in importance!  Meetings for “important things get on the calendar – other things do not.

Blake: it has to come from leadership, but they need to be held accountable.  Hold your leaders accountable!

Fran: How do you keep diversity on the agenda?  What if you’re not at the top?

Clara: The “runi rule” – must consider a diverse candidate for every position. When she was looking for CFO, she wanted to see two diverse candidates for each white male. It’s work at first, but as many of your employees come from referrals, this will impact change.

Blake: We’ve been observing teams. Watching words – seeing how words turn into action. Need to give rewards and recognition for positive changes. You can bias simply by lack of thought. It’s important to listen to people who have more experience than you.

Meg: we need to learn how to mitigate the bias.Talking to NIST: could there be standards about bias? This is holding us back in the US.

Fran: Culture change is sometimes perception or the environment we operate in. Looking at social media, it can be so toxic for women sometimes.

Meg: Referenced a book – “the Internet is not a thing, it’s us.” How did the web get weaponized?  talking about campus sexual assault – this is not just digital, it’s physical. The web is often a reflector. We need to raise consciousness and develop empathy.

Clara: bullying online is getting out of control. It’s a digital manifestation of an analog problem. we need to teach our kids why they should not do it. If it does happen to them, teach them how they should respond. They should not suffer alone.

Blake: I’ve seen the effect has on both of my sons. they both left facebook.. but then came back. They didn’t like how they were being treated, but missed the good things.  We need to have an empathetic view. To the attacker – it seems anonymous. The the victim, it’s just as real as if it was happening in preson.

Fran: how do we change the culture of our organizations and the culture of our society?

Meg: You’re doing it here! Focusing now on history. Think about a family picture – if you had missed that event, you won’t be in the picture. Everyone knows you had a conflict now… but what about future generations? You’ll disappear from history.

Technical women – their history is missing. When they make movies about Apple, the women are left out. there’s a classic photo of the Apple Pyramid – 7 men, 4 women – but the women are almost always left out of the movies.

“Women have always been annual par of the past. We just haven’t been a part of history.” – Gloria Steinem

“Declaration of Sentiments” – signed July 1848 at Seneca Falls. this is an important document about equal rights. We know it existed because Frederick Douglas brought a copy to the US where it was signed.  But the original is misisng… help Meg #FindTheSentiments