I attended the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit earlier this year with several coworkers and was exhilarated to see several women as speakers at the conference. It was an awesome summit with great insights from several successful individuals!
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy is the Founder and Chairman of theBoardList and recent President of Stubhub and was one of the speakers at the summit. She provided some beautiful insights at the summit that struck me and continue to have a profound influence on me and my career. There are two insights in particular that were inspiring, refreshing, and motivating to hear.
The first subject Sukhinder spoke to is the myth that more women don’t work in Utah because there is a pipeline problem. There are plenty of smart, educated, talented women capable, and in my opinion, wanting to work. However, Utah culture makes it extremely difficult to continue your career once having children. Sukhinder explained, “When people say ‘I don’t know where the women are that I can promote’ there is a question of how do you make it possible for women to stay in; which is something that goes on in Utah”.
The percent of women who go back to work after having a child is 500% worse in Utah than the national average. Sukhinder states, “As leaders of these companies you need to make it possible for women to stay in. You can’t say ‘I’m all for people staying in and rising in the ranks’ if you don’t make it possible. What does that look like? Well, what do you do for caregiving situations? What’s your parental leave policy? What is your flex leave policy?”
Power of Negotiation
Sukhinder also provided insights on the need to remember to negotiate for everything. Sukhinder found herself pregnant and deciding whether to take a position at Google that required her to travel internationally quite often. She went to Google and explained that in order to do her job effectively she needed to take her child and her nanny with her while traveling. To Google’s credit, they agreed and paid for Sukhinder’s daughter and nanny to accompany her throughout her travels.
Sukhinder highlights, “They only did this because I asked. Otherwise, I would have made a binary decision and said ‘Maybe I need to move to a domestic job’”. Had Sukhinder not negotiated she would have chosen between her career and her family, and she didn’t need to. She was able to be successful in both areas simply by asking and negotiating.
I have grown up in Utah. I grew up with the embedded assumption that my career should be second to my family. To this I say, you don’t have to choose. You can be successful in both areas of your life. Yes, it takes work. But the best things in life are the things that are the hardest, that you work the hardest for.
Luckily, companies are getting better in regards to gender diversity. Companies are realizing that in order to attract and retain the best female talent they need to take care of that talent, which includes childcare, parental leave, maternity and paternity leave, etc. However, companies are only part of the equation. We need to take time to mentor and support other women in their careers. We have to get out there and help others and continue to rise. Girls and women need to see other women so it becomes a norm. Women are half of the talent in this world so let’s use it. 50% is not enough.