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Women Who Tech Are Dangerous: Portraits and Stories in the Age of #metoo

All portraits and interviews by John Davidson

johndavidson-photography.com

Tara Young

Tara Young

 
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Tara Young

Job Title: Account Executive for Google Cloud; Founder of a nonprofit, 2Fold Texas; Owner, Hey Girl Earrings.

Company Website: http://shopheygirl.com

Years working in the tech industry: 9

On the Hey Girl Earrings and 2Fold Texas mission:

Hey Girl Earrings exists to eliminate the gap in digital skills while empowering women, one pair at a time. We use a portion of our profits to partner with women-focused groups to teach coding skills, e-commerce, search engine optimization, digital marketing and more — all critical components to launching ourselves successfully into tomorrow’s job scene.

At 2Fold, we partner with women-focused non profits, businesses, and our friends and neighbors across the Austin community to build bridges between groups. We exist to celebrate sisterhood through generosity and friendship and our events are a way to extend that generosity. We believe we’re all in it together, and that’s why we need to stand by each other with loving kindness.

On working for a woman-owned business:

I’ve never worked for a woman-owned business… though I did work for HP Hewlett-Packard for 5 years, for the majority of which, Meg Whitman was the President and CEO. I always looked up to her. I still have an email she sent to me congratulating me for a deal I brought in, which at the time was the biggest win of my career!

Everything is sweetened by risk. On leading by example:

Now that I have a business of my own in addition to my day job, I hope to use my company to inspire women to take risks. I feel like we often get too caught up in wanting to know how everything will turn out, and the truth is, we don’t get to have that privilege. The best thing we can do is follow our intuition and take one step at a time. The more steps we take, the more we can stretch ourselves to become bigger and better. It’s all a chain reaction and success breeds confidence. But you can’t have it all if you don’t take that first step. And if you fail, you fail. So what. Babe Ruth wasn’t just the home run king, he was also the strike-out king. So if there’s a failure, put your ego aside. Get up and take another step, sister.

On a woman who inspires:

Google Cloud’s COO, Diane Bryant, is truly something else. You know that phrase, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it?” Well, the first time I ever heard her speak I clutched my pearls. She was standing on a stage in front of 5,000 people being introduced as our new leader. This is a woman who went from being homeless to working tirelessly to grow a small business unit into a $17b organization at Intel. As she commanded our attention and respect for her accolades, she also made a joke about her nail polish. The whole crowd, men and women alike, were hanging on her every word. For the first time in my life I saw somebody that I could relate to end aspire to become one day. She is quick and smart and funny and unapologetic about being feminine.

On being passed over for career advancement, based on gender:

It has happened, absolutely. And I’ve been called out (by another woman! In front of my colleagues!) for going after a big role that she thought should go to an older man. It hurt so badly and I believe the good Lord above deliberately erased her name from my memory for good reason.

One challenge that I see new moms or pregnant friends face is when they are passed over for opportunities. It’s terrible, but it’s a real problem that happens.

While opportunities for career advancement still aren’t nearly as available to women as men, I believe the fastest way to move up — and continue to challenge yourself — is to find an incredible female sponsor (not mentor, there’s a difference!) who will fight with you for your seat at the table.

On the current climate , and career advancement opportunities for women:

When I first started in technology, I met a man who, after meeting him for the first time, he gave me one look and told me that I would never succeed because I’m not a man and I’m not old enough to look like I know what I’m doing. That was almost ten years ago and I feel like today if that happened, there are too many BossBabes meetups, and that sort of thing, to allow that guy’s words to penetrate. It’s fun to see women rise up; we are much more supportive of each other now.

While opportunities for career advancement still aren’t nearly as available to women as men, I believe the fastest way to move up — and continue to challenge yourself — is to find an incredible female sponsor (not mentor, there’s a difference!) who will fight with you for your seat at the table.

Speaking of which— on mentors:

I will always have fond memories of working with a real powerhouse of a woman, Jackie McKinley, in my previous role. I admire her still today for being incredibly high achieving and fully embodying the characteristics of a leader: respectability, optimism, courage, high standards, and passion for the work as well as other people.

Most of my mentors have been men, which isn’t a terrible thing as long as that mentor commits to sponsoring me equally (which fortunately, has been the case). Statistically speaking finding a woman in tech whose career has progressed to the point of mentoring others is much slimmer than finding a man to champion me.

On women rising up:

The current conversations that we’re having, culturally, around women, and women in the workplace are integral to impact the mindsets of the crusty and cantankerous. We have to change our mindsets first, to be inclusive of women throughout the ranks, and then, and only then will behavior follow. There have been bigots who’ve gotten a lot of attention in the media for degrading women lately, and even though their opinions are downright disgusting, what they are saying is sparking conversations, albeit uncomfortable ones, that need to be had. Every time someone goes on TV with a disparaging remark about women, there are literally hundreds of women that rise together with the determination of overpowering him. That’s a movement I’m proud to see.

Getting women in management roles and leadership positions are the best way to impact real change real fast, and every time a woman moves up a woman should be the one to back fill her, and that daisy chain should go on until we’re represented equally.

On the quickest way to change:

There’s a dire absence of advocacy from men and women in positions of power. We have to change this. We have to rise up and bring other women along as we go. Inclusive environments lead to diversity of opinion, which creates conversation over complacency. Getting women in management roles and leadership positions are the best way to impact real change real fast, and every time a woman moves up a woman should be the one to back fill her, and that daisy chain should go on until we’re represented equally. I’m committed to the idea of sponsorship rather than mentorship to bridge this gap. It’s astonishing to me that we’re 50% of the population, and while 53% of us are college grads, only 23% of people working in technology are women. No population show be left out of such a rewarding profession as technology!

On recommended reading for every CEO, Senior Executive and entrpreneur in the US:

The Bible. Also, a subscription to Harvard Business Review — the paper version.

 
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Lauren Browning

Lauren Browning

Rena Pacheco-Theard

Rena Pacheco-Theard