The State of Women in Tech

How do you feel about where we're at with women in tech and startups in 2016? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Clara Shih, Founder/CEO of Hearsay Social, Author of The Social Business Imperative, on Quora.

Things are better now than when I first started Hearsay in 2009, but our work is far from done. Women still only make up 30% of the tech workforce, with far fewer numbers among management teams, startup founders, and VCs. This has to change.

As far as what has improved, there is more awareness, dialogue, and resources than a decade ago. When I attended my first Grace Hopper Conference as a grad student, I was one of a few hundred people in the audience. A decade later when I keynoted Grace Hopper last fall, there were 12,000 women in the room. There's been a good effort led by companies like Pinterest and Facebook to be more transparent about their diversity numbers and across the board it's been heartening to see more companies including my own, Hearsay Social, lean in with more generous maternity and paternity leave policies.

As for opportunity areas, I'd love to see more attention paid to the pipeline problem. It's often used as an excuse for why diversity numbers aren't higher, which while true, doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't do something about it. For one, we need to do a better job of fostering STEM education, interest, and confidence among girls as early as possible and throughout their education and careers, such as what Goldieblox, Girls Who Code, and She++ are doing. As employers, we can encourage our people to mentor and volunteer. We can also train up promising tech talent. At Hearsay, we launched a free ten-week coding academy last year, run by an external consultant and staffed by our engineers. Any employee was eligible to participate, provided that they would commit to attending 90% of the workshops and homework assignments. I'm proud to say we have now graduated two customer support reps (both happen to be women) into full-fledged software engineers, which goes to show that we can do things to grow the pipeline.

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