Women of Silicon Valley brought together industry trailblazers last month to share their stories on the importance of female role models within the tech sphere. A significant discussion at the conference centered around creating strategies for addressing the gender gap, measuring the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion policies, and the need to push this topic to the forefront of business cultures. VMware had the opportunity to speak with conference presenter Jennifer Tacheff, vice president of partnerships and growth at Women Who Code, on her career journey and what it means to her to get more women involved in tech. Follow Jennifer on Twitter and learn more about her in the Q&A below.
Can you tell us a little about your career journey? What inspired you to pursue your current role at Women Who Code?
Tacheff: As vice president of partnerships and growth, I’ve helped to scale the company to serve over 137,000 members around the globe. We are the largest and most active of organizations in the world for technical women, and our daily impact is beyond incredible. I’ve worked in the education space in the past, and I understand that girls coming out of high school and college need role models and leadership to aspire to. If over 50 percent of women leave tech at the mid-career level, they’re not getting to the executive levels to bring about change. That’s where Women Who Code comes in.
What has been your most transformative learning experience and your most successful undertaking within your career thus far?
Tacheff: My most transformative learning experience was receiving the YBCA Equity Fellowship award. I met with industry leaders, artists, and activists for over a year to not only plan an exhibition but to essentially attempt to better understand problems surrounding equity, which was simultaneously challenging and humbling. My most successful undertaking was raising $20 million for the Girls Center that offered a beautiful, expansive space for 8,000 families served per year. We also brought in world renowned chefs to teach in the teaching kitchen, programmers and tech leaders to mentor in our coding space, and held a college shower for our graduates.
In your opinion, what’s the single biggest change that needs to happen in order to encourage more women to pursue technical careers?
Tacheff: We need to promote, amplify, champion, and support women leaders. You can have all the beautiful policy and rhetoric in the world, but if you don’t have role models embodying the culture in leadership positions, there is an inherent disconnect.
How do you think society as a whole can move the needle to get more women into leadership positions?
Tacheff: I believe society is ready for women leaders, and the needle is slowly moving. Companies are helping to set standards from a visibility standpoint on leadership. Look at your existing leadership makeup and make conscious decisions to hire more women and underrepresented groups. Learn more about your own biases and gaps in understanding; every person has them. Make actual commitments publicly and boldly to bring more women on your board, executive teams, and director roles. The profits, strategy, and environment will be positively impacted.
If you could only give one piece of advice, what would you tell someone just starting their career journey?
Tacheff: Know your worth. You cannot empower others if you’re coming from an underpowered place—so make sure you get paid at or above industry standard. Lastly, pay it forward!