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Gender Diversity: How to be Part of the Change

By Tiffany A. Dedeaux

It’s like dog years. One month in a startup is like three everywhere else. That was the revelation that came from Claire Reinert, Release Manager at Snapchat, as she spoke at the Galvanize “Bridging the Gender Gap” fireside chat. Living the startup life is hard work. What can you do to foster success and have an impact on the business? Build a gender-balanced team because they outperform both male- and female-dominated teams.


Understanding the Gap

Bridging the gender gap is not just about getting women into tech roles, it’s about keeping them there so that they can progress into leadership. Without opportunities for advancement or work/life balance, women will walk away from their careers. This can be seen across the industries as women make up 33% of junior roles but only 9% sit in the Executive seat.

Image by CaiHuuThanh / Pixabay

How can we build better, more diverse teams? The answer for our organizations and ourselves can be the same two lessons from the fireside chat:

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Get out of your comfort zone. For a company, getting out of a comfort zone can mean something as simple as realizing “culture fit” is not ‘an excuse to hire more of the same.’ For an individual it can be realizing you have your own biases. Farnaz Azmoodeh, Director of Engineering at Snapchat, tells a story where she caught herself showing prejudice. It was in that moment that she realized bias is not something ‘out there’ but something that is inside all of us.  Now when she is approached before a meeting and it is presumed she is not in charge, rather than correct or admonish the person, Azmoodeh will continue to speak with them until she calls the meeting to order and they realize their error.

Don’t Go it Alone

Azmoodeh didn’t ‘go it alone’ in her career because she found role models that helped her realize how resilient she could be. A significant milestone in the journey was looking back and realizing that each stage of growth in her career was marked by the need for a new mentor Azmoodeh was intentional in looking for female role models but she wasn’t purposefully looking at ‘women in tech,’ Now, at a different stage in her career, she is deliberately taking on mentees so that they can find that same encouragement.

Be Part of the Change

Change happens when we get things done together. Rather than let situations continue that can have her feeling ‘not good enough,’ Reinert has learned to use her voice, be armed with specifics, and take her seat at the table. She calls for us to “be a part of the change,” the part that makes everything better.

What will you do to be part of the change as an individual? As an organization?

Azmoodeh is mentoring others. Reinert sets long-term ‘scary goals.’ Collectively their advice is to realize that having a non-traditional background is okay. Get your foot in the door, work harder, and travel. You will not only have a seat at the table, you will help make for a better team.

Photo by Aditya Saxena on Unsplash

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