On March 8th, 46 women and allies from all corners of the world came together to join us in celebrating International Women’s Day. Our online event, “Everyday AI, Extraordinary Women”, delved into the diverse journeys of women in tech, prompted important discussions on the various challenges they face, and provided safe spaces for participants to gather and spark discussions around important issues.
Tackling topics such as intersectional diversity, career opportunities in tech for women with non-technical backgrounds, and work-life balance while raising a family, the scope of the conversation grew with our participants sharing and discussing the biases they face, and how they hope to break them.
Continue reading to discover insights from the event, and meet some of the extraordinary women who animated the main panel!
Coming Together To #BreakTheBias
In line with the theme for 2022, our online event focused on breaking the stereotypes and biases that exist for women in the tech industry. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, participants came together to share the unique challenges they face as well as strategies to overcome them. This resulted in fruitful discussions in which everyone could learn from each other and the experiences of others.
“The diverse background of the audience was very impressive,” says Eleanor Li, one of our valued event participants. “The breakout rooms allowed me to get to know them well.”
“Everybody has a voice to express. The interactive subgroups were superb – they allowed me to express my feelings in a proper way,” adds Bianca Trovò.
Our group of valued participants helping to #BreakTheBias
Despite the differences in countries, culture, professions, education, and more, a great number of common challenges surfaced, including but not limited to:
- An obvious imbalance between genders in the industry.
- A lack of inclusion for women in STEM fields.
- A persistent feeling of imposter syndrome.
- Difficulties returning to the workforce after leaving to raise a family.
- Challenges building strong networks.
Opening the conversation and putting a spotlight on these issues gave the opportunity to others at the event to share their own experiences with them, as well as approaches to fighting against them.
“Sometimes we are too quick to credit external factors for our success and downplay our skills,” says Elizabeth Brondos Fry when reflecting on her own key takeaways from the discussion. “There is nothing wrong with getting help from our professional network and reaching out to people – in fact, these are things we should do because having community and a support system is incredibly important.”
Becoming part of the dialogue is the first step, and we applaud all of our participants for coming together to help empower women in tech. The event was not limited to female participants either, and we welcomed allies such as Nigel Newton to join in on the conversation.
“It was great to hear the strength and resolve of women building and sustaining their careers in technology. The value of personal networks, finding mentors, mentoring themselves, asking for help, and being confident in owning their life experiences. The need to acknowledge and celebrate their superpower of flexibility and adaptability,” he says.
Participants spreading the word on social media using personalized e-badges created for the event
Extraordinary Stories From Our Panelists
A highlight of the event for many participants was undoubtedly the main panel discussion, which tapped into the inspiring individual experiences of @DivyaThomas, @ShobanaM, Simone Larsson, and @gwenadler, and how they came to pursue roles in Product, Customer Success, AI Strategy, and Sales at Dataiku.
Born and raised in a tech environment, Product Manager Divya Thomas was encouraged from a young age to break the barriers surrounding women in the industry and received enthusiastic support from her family when she decided to study computational modeling of the mind at Berkeley.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit to my mother and my aunts who were all the only women in their classes, in their workplaces,” she says. “But it didn’t phase them at all. They were absolutely at the top of their game.”
While working as a behavior planning engineer for autonomous vehicles she discovered her love for product management, which led her to her current role at Dataiku. Of her job, she says: “Sometimes I’m working with data scientists, their use cases, and how they’re building things, and sometimes I’m working with engineers to build new features. Other times, I’m talking to marketing about how we should release new things, or to customers to better understand their goals. I’m never bored, which is great because I can get bored very easily. I love where my path has taken me.”
Customer Success and Enablement Manager Shobana Muthukrishna has always been a lover of numbers, naturally leading her to a career in tech. After completing her studies in information technology and business analytics at Anna University and the Indian School of Business, she began working in infrastructure support, eventually transitioning to analytics and then data science.
“I’m someone who’s very, very passionate about mathematics and numbers,” she says. “That’s how I landed in data science. I’m so happy that I found this field, and I really enjoy my daily work. I think that’s an important example to show to the people around you, as well as to your child – to be passionate about something and to pursue it.”
A mother herself, Shobana says “I want to set a good example for my son, where he gets to see that both his parents split the workload equally and that they share the same responsibilities.”
AI Evangelist Simone Larsson has ridden the wave of tech throughout her career, though the journey wasn’t always linear. Studying information systems and decision sciences at the University of Cambridge, she initially went into consulting where she developed a breadth and depth of non-AI-related expertise. Six years ago, she decided to transition to AI and now works at Dataiku as a subject matter expert, helping companies address challenges around change management in order to embed AI at scale.
While proud to be a woman in tech, Simone looks forward to no longer being defined by her gender: “I would love to see a day where I’m just a person in tech, and not a woman in tech.”
Enterprise Account Executive Gwen Adler believes that those from non-technical backgrounds shouldn’t shy away from entering the tech industry. Originally studying political science at the University of Illinois, she made use of her transferable skills to start a successful career in tech sales.
While she did eventually go back to school to get a technical degree in information systems, “I will say in my day-to-day life that I use that the least, it’s really more of my written skills around messaging, as well as the consulting skills I amassed over the course of my career that I use.”
The mother of three children, she does her best to balance her personal and professional life, though admits it can be challenging with competing priorities that change every day: “I think your greatest superpower as a working mom is flexibility and adaptability because no two days are alike, and your ability to roll with the punches and be malleable is critical.”
“One of the things that I think was most humbling for me to learn was to reach out to the village around you. Nobody gets a gold star at the end for doing everything themselves. You absolutely need to be able to rely on your support system, whether that’s family, friends, or coworkers, and ask for help when you need it,” says Gwen. “As a woman that can be really challenging, but being able to be vulnerable in that way is a critical element to making it all work.”
Want to hear more about the personal journeys of these incredible women? Watch a recording of the panel discussion below!
Did you attend the event? If so, don’t hesitate to share your key takeaway. If not, what bias would you like to break about women in the tech industry? Let us know in the comments below and become part of this important conversation.