Bridging the gender gap in the tech and start-up world

Last month the Dreamforce Women’s Leadership Summit held in San Francisco, showcased influential entrepreneurs who are committed to pushing the conversation towards workplace equality. Two of their featured guests were the CEO of Youtube, Susan Wojcicki and founder of Honest Company, Jessica Alba who spoke on their personal journey to become self-made women.

Tips from Jessica Alba to future women leaders

Jessica Alba, founder of Honest Company, speaks to upcoming female leaders on how to bridge the gender gap in technology and why you should hire moms and dads. Credit: Declare Yourself Inauguration Ball, Wikicommons

When you interview successful women, the conversation inevitably turns towards life-work balance and how women manage to run a successful multi-million dollar global business while still having time to spend with kids and family. A lot of women today think that they need to choose, but if you listen to Wojcicki and Alba, having a family could just give you a leg up on the competition and more companies need to take advantage of moms (and dads) in the workplace.

“I love when we hire people who are parents because they know how to multitask and are very efficient,” said Alba.

But, gender equality is more than just knowing how to multi-task. According to Wojcicki, the tech world needs to become more inclusive of women. Wojcicki is confident that the inclusion has already begun; that technology is so much a part of our mainstream that soon it will be much more natural for more women to become involved in the tech industry.

Both women encourage their young daughters to learn about computers and technology. And Wojcicki has been active in helping to make computer and science camps appeal more to girls in order to close the gender gap before it even begins.

Tips to female entrepreneurs and independent agents

Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, shares ideas to bridging the gender gap in the tech industry.
Photo credit: Tech Crunch Disrupt SF 2013

Both women agreed that for the gender gap to close, coding needs to be integrated into our school’s curriculum, and companies – even startups – need to be much more flexible towards parents. In the case of Honest Company, Alba is planning on giving paternity and maternity leave for 16 weeks. Yes, equal maternity leave for both parents, whether they are the mom or the dad.

Every startup knows that heavy turnover of employees creates an unstable environment, and it stifles growth. Providing maternity leave and encouraging employees to have a family will help retain them, especially the women. It may seem like you can’t afford to have an employee home with their child for three or four months, but you’ll have to spend a lot more money hiring and training a new employee, or several, if the first one doesn’t work out. If you have a valued employee who is going to have a baby, give them the time and the space to take care of their family. And when they are ready, they’ll come back refreshed and with renewed loyalty to you and your company, maybe sooner than you think. 

If your employees feel like you are taking care of them, they will return the favor and take care of you. Building a team of hardworking, loyal employees is the best set-up for a successful company.