Presidio Presents: Women in Tech featured some incredible women panelists, including Yahoo’s Global Director of Energy and Sustainability Strategy, Christina Page, VMWare’s Foundation Director, Nicola Acutt (former Associate Dean and Faculty Member at Presidio), and Citrix’s Startup Accelerator Marketing, Community, and Events Manager, Casey Shultz (C17). They spoke before an audience on Thursday, November 5th at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco about their own experiences in the tech industry, how the industry can change the gender gap and their own company’s sustainability game plan, including cleaner versions of the cloud and all renewable energy by 2050.
Referencing the Presidian staple of systems thinking, Nicola Acutt of VMWare said she takes a systems view on sustainability and the gender gap, “You can change systems of the hearts and minds or you can change the system.” We are working on changing the entire system and these issues are not only happening in the technology sector.
There was a sense from all the panelists that, both in terms of sustainability and the gender gap in the tech industry, things are shifting quickly and for the better. And, as the industry demands, there is plenty of data to back that up. Citrix’s Casey Shultz said it’s been shown statistically you are “60% more likely to get funding with a female founder” and eight times more likely to get an interview at some of the leading accelerator programs like Y-Combinator if a woman is on your team.
After the talk, Divya Srinivasan (C22), Kathleen Wong (C22) and Mariana Flores (C23) were able to attend an exclusive dinner with the speakers by responding first to an offer to all students from president William Shutkin. Two of them shared their experiences with us:
Divya Srinivasan (C22)
I had the opportunity to sit down to a meal with Chris Page, Casey Shultz and Nicola Acutt, thanks to the fact that I’m always staring at my inbox (I knew that would finally pay off).
I have been following Christina Page’s (Yahoo) work for the last three years back in India and so, to sit down to dinner with her was a dream come true for me! I wrote to Christina when I started at PGS in January to thank her for inspiring me all these years and, on an impulsive whim, asked her to come speak to my school. She said yes and the rest is history.
The best part of dinner for me was that the conversation didn’t necessarily circle around business, carbon, solar, diversity or any of the usual suspects. I’ve heard so many stories about women having to ‘lean in’ and work harder than men to give up their personal life to hold high positions. So this was refreshing and an eye opening side of the story for me as an aspiring leader.
Talking to these women, including my role model Christina Page, a woman I’ve been reading incredible articles about for years, about down to earth things like their personal backgrounds, what makes them who they are, where they travel, where they eat, and what they thought about the last movie they saw made me realize that success doesn’t have to mean stress. The dinner helped me identify with these women leaders and realize that it’s possible for me too.
Kathleen Wong (C22)
Dinner conversation with the ladies of Women in Tech allowed me to further connect with the speakers on both personal and professional interests. I was excited to find that Casey Schultz was also involved in Presidio Graduate School’s Outdoors Club during her time at PGS and had some fun stories from past camping trips to share. She is also able to utilize the skills and network gained from her PGS experience to further her personal entrepreneurship goals, which was very inspiring to me!
Nicola Acutt shared more of her insights on women and the need for us to build on our propensity to market our accomplishments, hopes, and desires. Overall, I was thankful for the opportunity to connect with the group and found it much more fruitful than interacting as only an audience-panel participant. It was great to have that space to connect and have the women open up about their experiences.
There is a wealth of information out there saying that it is hard for women to “make it” and be successful in any leadership role, especially in an industry such as technology where women comprise only 10-20 percent of the worker population. The dinner gave PGS students a chance to see first hand that success in the technology industry doesn’t have to always involve 80-hour work weeks; you can maximize productivity and still have a balanced, healthy life as a female sustainable leader.
“I do think that women still have to prove themselves and ‘lean-in’ in order to make it in the workforce,” Divya Srinivasan said, “but it doesn’t have to look like the horror scenarios I’d imagined or faced in the past.”