After a phenomenally successful opening day, the momentum at the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration continued into day 2, filled with another exciting lineup of speakers, panels, sessions and workshops.
The morning kicked off with a fireside chat between Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, and Moira Forbes, executive vice president of Forbes Media. Susan left the audience with some great personal stories as well as the realities she sees in a male-dominated technology industry.
“Let me tell you a little secret,” she said. “Men have no special skills that enable them to run tech companies. There are just way more of them.”
She also had some great practical pieces of advice for women to succeed in tech:
“Focus on working smart, hard, do a great job, then go home,” Susan says. “I would advise all of you to work and become an advocate for yourselves and not feel guilty about it.”
Susan’s acknowledgement of the challenging work environment facing women in technology is what Dr. Nadya Fouad, a GHC invited technical speaker, has dedicated her research to at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Fouad spoke in a packed room about why women leave the technology profession.
Her primary message was that popular notions of women suffering from low self confidence aren’t completely true. The biggest challenge facing women in technology is a hostile work environment where they do not feel valued.
“We need to re-examine the reward criteria at organizations,” said Dr. Fouad, explaining that companies must stop rewarding the “cowboy engineers” who will stay up until 3:00 a.m. to solve last minute problems and instead, reward the employees – many of whom are women – who prevent such emergencies in the first place.
These sentiments were reinforced at a session featuring Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation Chelsea Clinton, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Maxine Williams, global director of diversity at Facebook and Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code.
These star panelists dove into issues surrounding hiring practices like referral bonuses that incentivize looking at your own networks for potential talent, but not outside that circle. This perpetuates the cycle of keeping underrepresented groups out of the hiring process, and by default, out of the tech industry.
“When students see recruiters like Jack, people like Jack are more likely to show up [for interviews] than others,” explained Chelsea. “When they see people like Maxine, the ones who look like Jack are still likely to show up, as well as the ones who look like Maxine.”
Finally, day 2 of GHC concluded with a full house for the afternoon plenary session, featuring Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, in a fireside chat with Nora Denzel, Vice Chair of the Anita Borg Institute.
The entire conversation was memorable, but Sheryl’s three pieces of advice to the audience really stood out.
“Be ambitious,” Sheryl said. “Join or start a Lean In Circle. And stay in tech. Tech needs you.”
To see all the main stage sessions, check out the GHC Livestream. Until then, stay tuned for tomorrow’s final recap of the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration.