Event Recap

Event Recap: Taking Over Tech: Empowering Girls & Womxn Everywhere

Aug 19
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: Taking Over Tech: Empowering Girls & Womxn Everywhere

Aug 19
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: Taking Over Tech: Empowering Girls & Womxn Everywhere

Aug 19
Alley Team
Community Over Everything

Event Recap: Taking Over Tech: Empowering Girls & Womxn Everywhere

Event Recap: Taking Over Tech: Empowering Girls & Womxn EverywhereEvent Recap: Taking Over Tech: Empowering Girls & Womxn Everywhere

It’s no secret that womxn only account for a small fraction of the workforce in tech. If all goes according to plan, that won’t be the case for much longer. It’s time for girls & womxn to take up space in tech, but there are a few pieces to that puzzle – early education, professional development, and mentorship are only a few. Studies show that only 19% of computer science majors in the United States are women. How can we change that number? Our panelists are ready to show you.

Join us as we discuss actionable means of empowering girls & womxn wherever they are in their tech journey. We cover the importance of mentorship, opportunities for professional development, and uncover the gaps in early education that prevent womxn from pursuing computer science. Together, we can close those gaps, and create more space for girls and womxn to succeed in tech.

Verizon 5G Labs:

Verizon's 5G Labs works with startups, academia and enterprise teams to build a 5G-powered world. We work on 5G trials, hackathons, industry partnerships, prototyping challenges and more.

Mentioned Resources:

Cynthia Chapple
Black Girls Do STEM
Lesia Harhaj
Fullstack Academy
Bannya Dasrao
Queens College
Michael A. Urbina


I'm currently the Director of Career Success at Fullstack Academy, a top ranked coding and cybersecurity bootcamp with campuses in New York City and Chicago, as well as a presence across the country through our university partnerships program. Fullstack Academy is an immersive bootcamp focused on helping people change their lives and impact their communities by teaching them relevant coding and cybersecurity skills, and then supporting them as they begin their job search. We have a variety of programs for students, including programs that allow students to partner with us in part time and full time capacities. And we're very proud to to also be the home for the Grace Hopper program, the only women's plus JavaScript coding bootcamp in the United States.

And before we begin, I'd like to say thank you to Alley for creating the space to host these events. Alley is a community agency that unites rich and diverse communities around the country, with corporate partners to provide the resources and catalyst to drive positive change in technology and the broader world. We'd also like to thank Verizon 5G Labs for sponsoring this event. For those of you who don't know about 5G Labs, they work with startups, academia and enterprise teams to build a 5G powered world. They work across 5G trials, hackathons, industry partnerships, prototyping challenges, and more.

And without further ado, I want to get to be on people that you are all here to actually see our wonderful panelists. I am joined today by some leaders in in our industry, including Cynthia Chapple who is the Founder of Black Girls Do STEM. Bannya Dasrao who is a student at Queens College. And Michael A. Urbina, Executive Talent Partner at Box. And because I think no one does a better job of introducing themselves than the person themselves, I would love all of our panelists to introduce themselves, and explain why this topic means so much to them. And why you decided to join this panel today. Cynthia, why don't we start with you.

Cynthia Chapple  2:25  
Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for that great introduction. So I am Cynthia Chapple, Founder and Managing Director of Black Girls Do STEM which is a nonprofit operating out of St. Louis, Missouri, with the mission to trigger curiosity through deliberate access, education, and opportunity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, in the minds of black girls in every community. And we do this through our core signature programming. It's just our STEM Saturday Academy, which is a hands on integrated sort of STEM curriculum that we piloted in community with girls. And we've been doing that for the last two years. I myself am a research chemist. And so my background is chemistry and I've been working in industry. And so for me joining this conversation was important, just because I deeply identify being a black woman in STEM with some of the challenges that girls and women face and also see myself as a true advocate in doing the work of advancing women and girls in STEM.

Lesia Harhaj  3:28  
Thanks so much.  Bannya, let's go to you.

Hi, everyone. So I'm currently a junior at the City University of New York's Queens College campus majoring in computer science. I received my certification to be an aircraft mechanic in the US from attending aviation High School. While I was receiving my certification, I fell in love with problem solving. Upon receiving my certification, I decided to get my bachelor's degree in a subject that focused on solving complex problems. Although at the time, I was not sure what degree I wanted to pursue. I always knew I would do something with problem solving. Therefore, I thought to pursue physics or math. It wasn't till my until the summer before my freshman year I did a summer guild program with the women in tech now known as Beak Through Tech, where I was introduced to solving problems through coding then I decided to do my do my bachelor's in computer science.

Lesia Harhaj  4:14  
Okay, thanks  Bannya. Michael, let's go to you.

Michael A. Urbina  4:17  
Hi everybody. My name is Michael Urbina. I use he him his for pronouns. I'm born and raised here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I'm an Executive Talent Partner at Box where I lead, specifically diversity recruiting at the executive level, one of the funnest jobs I have had in my entire life, especially as a hardcore feminist. And all of this work actually led me to also create my own podcast as well called ¡ADELANTE, JUNTOS!, which is essentially a podcast dedicated to highlighting the lived experiences of Latino executives, and essentially packaging these stories and the professional advice from these executives and giving it to the audience which mostly is young, early in career Latino talent. So that's just a little bit about myself. This topic means a lot to me because you know, as I mentioned, I'm I'm, you know, a really passionate feminist I majored in Women's and Gender Studies in college. And as a male ally, this topic really resonates for me, not just because I have family members that, you know, are women, but also because it's for the betterment of our society for gender equity, in addition to overall just the equality. So that's actually why I decided to join the panel today, because I think that representation is important. Male allies need to be represented, and we need to be doing more to hold other men accountable. So that's one of the main reasons why I'm on here as well. Very happy to be here.

Lesia Harhaj  5:46  
Okay, thank you so much, everybody. I'm so excited for this conversation, we we've done a couple of prep calls and kind of connected in ways before we actually decided to go live today. And I think the the backgrounds and the insights that you are all going to get from our panelists today is really going to be second to none. I wish we had more time because I feel like we could go off in a million different tangents depending on on our areas of interest. But I know what we'll be talking about today is as well, and I see Sarah dropping it on in the chat as well. But as we kick things off for our audience members, please make sure you drop your questions in the q&a feature, we will definitely have time at the end for questions that you can direct to our panelists.

So to get started, we just want to set up to the stage a little bit and share some information with all of you. We have seen how girls and women are underrepresented in the workforce. And although there has been a good amount of improvement, there's also substantially more work to be done to give our audience a little bit of background about the workforce in the United States. And this comes to us from a recent article from McKinsey and Company, a leading consulting organization, I want to share the following statistics 47% of girls in K through 12 have indicated an interest in computer science. However, only 23% of girls in K through 12 take advanced placement classes in computer science, female students who received degrees in computing accounted for 19% of the population of the United States. And something that probably is even going to be a little bit more surprising, but maybe not women, while women make up 26% of the computing workforce. Only 3% of those students of people identify as black women and only 1% identify as Latina. So definitely some daunting statistics. But I think probably not unsurprising. I see Michael and Cynthia certainly shaking, shaking and nodding their heads.

So we want to start off with this this kickoff question for all of our panelists, everyone here brings your own unique background and perspective to this conversation, in what ways do you think you might be able to change these statistics, either through your current educational experience or through what you're doing through your professional lens? And Michael, why don't we start with you for this one?

Michael A. Urbina  8:03  
Yeah, of course. So I am contributing to this statistic in a really positive way. Because I'm actually trying to fight it, you know, right now, it's, I'm nodding my head, because yes, I see this 100% in what I do, my job is to hire the next generation of leaders for Box. And I actually take these efforts and expand it outside of my company. You know, I'm a huge networker, so any opportunity that I can to help you know, an underrepresented executive land a role, that's where I'll step in and do something, not sure what it'll be, but I'll take some sort of action. That being said, you know, as an executive recruiter, I know these numbers are not surprising, and I see it and when it comes to the day to day at my job, because when it comes to the talent pool, the talent pool that companies typically go to, are not representative of the actual demographic of the areas that we live in. You know, it's predominantly one race, predominantly one gender, that makeup engineers in Silicon Valley, and what I'm always trying to actively do is to challenge the misconceptions about underrepresented talent and to encourage our hiring managers and to encourage our executives to consider profiles that are outside of the norm. Because the norm in Silicon Valley is essentially this statistic. And one from the McKinsey study that I actually looked at as well is I don't have all women but women of color only hold 6.5% of leadership roles director all the way to C suite. That number is even smaller in engineering. So whenever I have an opportunity as an executive recruiter to advocate for underrepresented talent, you betcha I'm there any day.

Cynthia Chapple  9:48  
Great. Cynthia, let's go to your perspective.

Yeah, just second everything Michael said. You know, and I really see my my work and changing these statistics directly providing program that includes tech that can include the computer science education, specifically zeroing into black girls and girls of color, as we sort of see that 3%, and then even less than 1% for Latinas, but at the same time also for my advocacy lens advocating for computer science coursework as a requirement across k-12. Education, right, like we can do all of this community based work, and it's in the heavy lifting, but until we really, really tackle how we how we value education, I don't think we're going to robustly change those numbers, right. So we have to do both. And in this sense, and make sure that as we advocate that we make sure that that expansion and those resources are going to be allocated in an equitable way to again, make sure we're not leaving out underrepresented minority students, communities, from the conversation and from the funds. And so that's really how I see myself playing a role in tackling some of these statistics.

Lesia Harhaj  11:00  
Great, thank you for sharing that. Bannya, what about you? I know you're coming to us from the very specific lens of a student how how do you think you're going to impact these statistics?

Bannya Dasrao  11:09  
Yeah, so lately, I'm working on informing female students in tech about organizations such as Break Through Tech. And I feel like being part of with me, I met so many, many amazing females who share the same career interest as me. And it has personally inspired me and motivated me. And like, I think educating females about organizations such as Break Through Tech can empower students to continue their education in the technology field.

Lesia Harhaj  11:32  
Great, thank you for that. So kind of now diving down a little bit more, we're going to be talking on some more specific topics. And one of the first ones we wanted to talk about was the education space. In general, I think we've obviously seen and I know I've seen as part of our Fullstack Academy, we traditionally see older students, we see a lot of people who are coming to us, after they've already secured other education and decide to pursue careers as a software engineers and cybersecurity professionals. But I think we also underscore that there are certainly gaps that have been identified in their previous educational pursuits, or the educational pursuits that are available to girls and women in this space. Cynthia, I would love to get your perspective on the gaps that you see specifically in K through 12 education and specifically surrounding STEM education. And if you could highlight some of the reasons why computer science is being kept out of the classroom, I think that would be really interesting for the audience.

Cynthia Chapple 12:29  
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think when I hear the word gaps, it you know, when we think K-12 education, we we go to the achievement gap, right. And recently, we've been hearing a little bit more around this idea of opportunity gaps, which is a little bit better verbiage and language as we talk about this. But I think when we look at outcomes on long, we sort of kind of can miss the big picture, right? And so I want to sort of give a big picture answer to this. And I'm pretty sure we'll dive into some more specifics later. But you know, we sit here now, almost 60 years past sort of Brown versus the Board of Education. And public education in America is still pretty much separate and still unequal. Right. So I think we believe computer science education needs to be offered to every kid. But the reality is, it's just not across the U.S. And so, the state of computer science education report that's posted annually says about only 35% of high schools actually offer a computer science course. And so we see this large sort of widening of inequity in education across socio economics, we really school formula equations that allow for grossly under resourced schools, primarily affecting poor and black and brown youth and communities. Right. And so I think one thing we think about computer science education is these schools are under resourced, so they don't have teachers. They have poor teacher retention. So they have no one to not only teach the computer science course, but they have no funds to do teach your PD. They don't have funds to do continue training for teachers, equipment and software. Right. And so we saw sort of like a lot of public schools scramble to be one to one technology on Chromebooks, when we abruptly had to go virtual this Spring, right, you know, and as recent as 2018, I've walked into high schools and to chemistry labs with no running water, and no gas connections, you know, physics labs, with no equipment. So I think like public education is sort of fundamentally flawed and how we do it in America. And we really need to start reimagining it. And I think it starts with funding, specifically as it relates to technology and software.

Lesia Harhaj  14:40  
Awesome, thank you so much. I think we can definitely Yeah, it's definitely not a specific problem to STEM education. And it's kind of interesting to see how it manifests itself depending on where you're located or the access to education that you that you currently have. Thank you for that. Bannya, what has been kind of looking at now the post K through 12 lens, what has your benefit experienced in life as a student majoring in computer science? How did you decide to go into that field? And if you could share a little bit was accepted by your family? How did they feel when you decided you were going to be a computer science major?

Bannya Dasrao  15:13  
Yeah. So my family moved to the United States in November 2010. My parents left behind their friends, family and lifestyle, and we came to the United States to give me and my sister a better future. And they didn't know the language of the foreign country, and neither did they resonate with the culture. But since then, they have been the most supportive parents like anyone can ask for. And I'm grateful to them and to this country for having endless possibilities for woman. And although there are areas we as a nation can focus on to improve and one of the purpose of today's call is to bring awareness to these areas where we can improve. And as for my experience, as a student majoring in computer science, I would say that it was not always so easy to begin with. I remember getting my first computer was in 2011. And I it was a Dell desktop, which I had to share with my sister. And growing up, I didn't play video games, and I wasn't so tech savvy. So when I went to college, I saw more male students in my classes and saw them forming study groups together. And it was hard for me at times, because I didn't find study buddies and such. But I was very hard worker, and I'm very persistent person. So I, I did it. I don't know at what point but in my journey, but I fell in love with the sensation that came from finding bugs and writing like executable programs. So through women in tech, I also met groups of women who shared the interest on the career paths is me, and who also had similar backgrounds as me. So which has inspired me to continue on my journey. And I'm like the greatest I've ever been with my choice of keeping my degree in computer science.

Lesia Harhaj  16:47  
Good, I know you still have a couple more years to go before you but it sounds like you're already on the on the right track, which is which is great to hear. And and definitely a good example for a lot of the people we have on today's call. So talking actually a little bit about this. Bannya gave me an excellent segue into in kind of our next topic on and talking about some of the challenges that women and girls face. What are some of the roadblocks and obstacles? And I would love to get our panelists perspective on what you believe some of the biases and roadblocks that exist for for girls studying computer science, first and foremost. And then also, what are some of the roadblocks that exist for women working working in tech? Cynthia, I'd love to start with you for this one, kind of from the K through 12 perspective and the education piece.

Cynthia Chapple  17:36  
ou know, when I think about middle schoolers, which is the age we start with an into high school, I think the first thing is confidence. Right? I think the very first thing is we tend to see people have low expectations for girls, you know, and I also think when we think about that middle school and high school, it's you know, I think that the stage gets set that like, oh, middle school girls are, you know, drama queens are like dramatic or like they do this or like this is for girls. And so I think this age gets set that we don't change our, our perspective and raise our expectations for girls to really pursue STEM or to pursue something different than something that's a typical, it's I think it's a little bit about guidance, and sort of that K-12 space, and really sort of having high expectations from girls, and changing how we see them and their capability. And I think that confidence piece plays a role. I think what you see, especially in that middle school, where kids are still sort of like really forming themselves. And that's why I love that middle school age. But you see kids just sort of give up, right? You see them take, you know, one little stab, fail and then just retreat. And so I think the conversation, specifically in that early development stage has to be like, how do we make sure we support them through processes, and help them fail fast fail forward, but understand that they can come back to math, right? It doesn't mean I'm bad at math, because I didn't understand this one concept. So I think a lot of it is that mentor piece, and I think learning is so relational. And so we have to really become better and relationships with our students. We have to think again, how do we become more culturally competent and teaching kids across differences? Whether that be, ability socio economic, you know, raise it and I say I think that is the first bias or the most alarming bias I think that shows up. And specifically girls are just not confident in themselves and in their capabilities. And they kind of give up pretty easy.

Lesia Harhaj  19:37  
Thanks for sharing that. Bannya, what is your perspective any other biases or roadblocks that you potentially see that you see maybe some of your colleagues studying computer science with you?

Bannya Dasrao  19:47
Yeah, I think one of the things I struggle with myself and I have seen other females in tech struggle with as well is like I would echo back on Cynthia is confidence. While I have seen it is easier for guys to be confident themselves even when their skills might not be 100% proficient, like females struggle a lot finding confidence even when they are like 100% proficient. So I would say like there would be like job listings where the requirements like a guy wouldn't meet 100% of the requirements, and they would still apply for that position. Whereas women, they would like probably like 99.99% of it, but they would still be hesitant to apply for the same position. And I feel like another area for struggle for women in college is like finding groups with similar interests, just because in my classes I've seen like some, like, it's dominated so much by men. So it's like, sometimes it's easier for them to find groups or like, even when like they write codes or something. And it's like, when they go through the codes or like debugs them together. It's like forms of mini study groups. But it's, um, it's harder for females to find those study groups in the classes. But then when we move into organizations outside of the classes, such as like Break Through Tech where we find females who share the same interest, as I feel like it's empowering. So I would, I feel like one way we can solve this roadblocks is like, bringing those organizations right, I feel like a lot of female, like, students in tech doesn't really know about those organizations that exists. I feel like if they were to come to know about such organizations, and being part of the organization definitely can help them, empower them. And I'll continue with their journey.

Lesia Harhaj  21:17  
Michael, I'm gonna ask you to combine your perspective with our next question, because I know you come from a specific lens of being the executive talent partner and kind of working in this recruitment and people space. But I know that your personal background speaks to this as well. And the fact that you as you mentioned, pursued Women's and Gender Studies and Sociology in college. As a Latino man in this field, did you come up against much adversity? And also would love to get your perspective on the sexism you have potentially seen across for both men and women? Um, you know, around gender stereotyping in the tech industry? So I'd love to get your thoughts on that.

Michael A. Urbina  21:55  
Yeah, of course, let me start with my personal experiences with adversity. So I, I can't even begin to tell you what the conversation was like when I first told my mom and specifically my dad that I was going to major in Women's and Gender Studies. like Michael, what what the hell are you doing? That's pretty much the reaction that I kept on getting. And it took a lot for me to convince my family, my Latino, specifically family, that this degree is, is going to be a huge value add for my career moving forward. And the adversity that I experienced, it wasn't mostly from my family, it was actually from my peers, specifically, my male peers. Why are you doing this degree? Like, are you gay? What's what's going on? There's so many stereotypes about men who do feminism and for me, you know, I chose to still do it, despite the stereotypes, despite all this adversity that I experienced.

And what's interesting, also, and I think this is a really important piece for ally ship, which is why I'm bringing it up. I also experienced a little bit of hesitancy rightfully so from women in the classes that I was a part of, when I decided to major in these in women's studies. Like, why is this guy here? Like, you know, what's, what's his, what's his hidden agenda, that type of thing. And I think it's important for guys to sit with that uncomfortable feeling. Because for years, countless, countless years, men have done horrible, horrible things, you know, for, you know, it's contributing to sexism in our society, contributing to wars, and all these different things that have resulted in us being to where we are today. So I think it's important for men to realize, yeah, you need to know your place in these classes, you are coming from a place of privilege, where you're belonging to a group where things have happened. And you essentially, you know, are seen as a status symbol for this, like, you know, you can be seen as, you know, let's say, if somebody has had an experience with, like, you know, you know, some sort of harassment, like, you know, I might be a trigger for that. So it's important for me to recognize that.

Now, moving on to the second part of your question. So once I when I graduated college, you know, as I mentioned, having Women's Studies degree was the best thing that ever happened to me, I am in love with my major and I would do it again in a heartbeat because it made me the man that I am today. And it made me also the executive recruiter that I am today. Because and the reason why I say that is because in our society, you know, I see a lot in, you know, in the tech field, and Bannya's experience really resonates with me because I also see Bannya's experience in in my executives that are applying to jobs or executives, you know, at the companies that I've worked at in my past, confidence is still something that does come up even at senior manager director level. And what's interesting is, you know, for I'm thinking of like, you know, a woman who is wanting to pursuing a degree and excuse me Wanting to pursue a career in engineering specifically, let's say a director level position, you know, she's most likely going to face both personal and then also institutional biases. And on the institutional front, one thing that, you know, I always point to is the McKinsey study, the women in the workplace report study, they specifically called out the fact that there is a broken rung in the talent pipeline. And that essentially, is that, you know, women specifically, are, you know, they're not reaching that first people manager position, you know, a lot of women are stuck in independent contributor, roles where they report to somebody, but they're not getting promoted. And if more women are not getting promoted, we're not going to see any progress at the executive level, it's going to be the same thing, you click on to your company's website, and you're going to see predominantly either Indian or white men representative and leadership and engineering. So it's really, really important that we have, you know, more advocacy for, you know, that manager, Senior Manager level and getting more women to managerial positions. And that's where people like myself come in, where we need to advocate and challenge the system to consider more, you know, to consider more different profiles than just what we're typically used to. Sorry, my long winded answer, but I'll get off my soapbox. I think it's, it's really important, just because I know that there are, you know, tons of recruiters that feel the same way, but don't know what to do about it. So I think this is a really good first step.

Lesia Harhaj  26:31  
No, and I think we'll definitely talk a little bit more about from the recruitment and kind of hiring lens as we go through our conversation. But I appreciate you sharing that. And I think as we continue to talk about diversity and inclusion, I mean, I think we we go back to talking about how does that educational opportunity become available to women and girls and people in underrepresented minority groups? Cynthia, in your experience? How do we how do we even start making STEM access education more accessible? To everyone? I know, you have definitely done a lot of work in that already, but are what are some of the challenges you've identified in in getting this in front of different populations of people?

Cynthia Chapple  27:13  
Yeah, I think everything Michael said was, was the gospel. So thank you for that. But when I think about accessibility, it's really about proximity to resources. Right? So the challenge of accessibility, you know, we specifically think like black and low income communities, outside of sort of that funding is really sort of the cultural divide between like low income or black communities as it relates to STEM knowledge, understanding, etc. So I think one thing that we can do is really decrease the distance to resources, whether that's programming, such as the programming that I do, whether that's workforce development, or whether that's jobs, right, like we think about everyone working remotely from home now, like, how do we get black communities or low income communities to a point where they can also understand what type of tech jobs can they do from their living rooms? Because I would say one of the challenges often is knowing the language and fitting into the culture, right? And everyone's not going to necessarily walk into corporate america and fit into that culture and know that language, specifically, if they come from a non traditional educational background, right. And so how do we lower that barrier by taking the jobs and the technology to them? You know, and so then the next thing that I would say is we need to tap into the underutilized resources of parents, right, we need to really become agents that encourage parents to take a more active role in their child's education. Right. And so what does that look like educating the parent as it relates to stem and its importance, at the same time as we're educating their children? Right? I think if you look at most women organizations, I think a lot of white women survey would say that they knew someone who was in STEM, whether it's a parent or relative, a friend and neighbor, but that's not going to be so true for black for black in or maybe low income communities. Like I was the first chemist in my family. Right. So I think like a part of that is like demystifying STEM, and helping people that might not be so close to understand how it shows up and is relevant to their lives on top of sort of taking the resources away to community, you know.

And finally, you know, the last thing is, we just got to continue to again, raise the expectations for girls. You know, I think we think about confidence and self worth. There's a lot of research out there. Dr. Monique Morris is the lead researcher and she talks even about sort of this adult like perception of black girls and how we sort of like view them as Little Women versus like children who are still learning, developing and growing. So I think also as educators, we really need to reframe how we see girls, how we see sort of the behaviors and the cultural characteristics of our students to make sure that we're creating educational spaces that are made for them to thrive. Whether that be STEM and beyond, right?

Lesia Harhaj  30:02  
I love everything, everything about that, I think it goes back to what Bannya was saying earlier that she got into it because she was interested in problem solving. And it has nothing to do. And I know, you know, Cynthia we'll talk a little bit about this a little bit later. But this is when we don't, when we attach different names and different terminology, to these concepts and to these educational path, it often gives people the opportunity to look at things from a different lens than they may have thought of when they're just like, well, I'm going to be a math major, or I'm going to be a philosophy major, or I'm going to be a Women's and Gender Studies major. And what what does that mean, and they think it's, you know, I think the education space, particularly even in the college spaces, there is such a wide berth of what you can do, but in ways it's very narrow because of the terminology we've assigned to it and the connotations that are associated around that. So I think that's, you know, that that is its own barrier that needs to be breaked about how we how we broken about how we think about how we're even calling the topics and things that we're learning in our spaces.

Um, again, another another question we could totally spend an entire session on but to keep us moving, one of the things and to be transparent with our panelists, one of the things that we talked a lot about, on our call was this next question that I'm going to go into, I think over the last few months, we have certainly seen a lot of companies and organizations either begin to focus or refocus on their diversity and inclusion efforts. And I'm sure that we all can acknowledge that these efforts, pose challenges that companies are navigating are going to have to navigate. As we continue to see our society go through, you know, the biggest civil rights movement I think of my generation, and what our role will be around the impact and how that potentially might impact women and girls in the tech space. Michael, I would love to get your specific perspective coming from the Box world, what are your insights into the DEI practices that Box has been implementing in their company? I know when we spoke you, you spoke pretty candidly about what you're trying to do, what your role is meant to do. And how have you communicated those practices with your stakeholders and the public?

Michael A. Urbina  32:11  
Sure. So I'll talk about Box at large. And then I'll talk about my specific role and how DEI factors in. So Box is one of those companies that has released its diversity numbers. If you go to box.com, I believe slash diversity and inclusion, you'll be you'll be able to see our breakdown of employees and what it looks like, in addition to several resources that we have for employees, everything from employee resource groups, to mentorship programs to our box.org arm, which focuses on nonprofits. And in that work, we focus a lot on nonprofits that do work with Black and Brown students. So box is doing a lot of really phenomenal work in that regard. With my specific role, recruiting, let me put it this way, recruiting is a machine that it's a well oiled machine, right. And it really takes somebody to, you know, really just pause and put the brakes on everything in order for you to rethink how the process is done. That being said, with my specific role, I've done essentially one major thing, which is create a checklist for our executive searches. And this checklist is divided into four categories. And these four different things essentially help ensure equity when we do our recruiting process for a new role. So the first piece is, we asked ourselves the question like, Okay, before we check mark it, did we spend two weeks in the beginning of the search looking for underrepresented talent? And if we did, we can check mark that. The second one is, did we have at least two, not one, but two underrepresented executives reached the onsite stage of this search? And if we did, okay, great check mark. Did we also have a diverse interview panel, because it we can bring in as many executives from all these different backgrounds all day, but if our panel is essentially all white men, it's not going to do anything. So if we have a diversity panel, we check that as well. And then also and then lastly, did we achieve a certain percentage of underrepresented executives in the pipeline? Which means did all of our researchers do their homework? Did they go out and really go out of their way to find underrepresented executives, and let's just say a soft goal 40%. If 40% of our pipeline is underrepresented, then we can then check mark that. This checklist has been magical for us because it essentially helps us ensure that as we're running our processes, we can say to ourselves and to our executives and to Aaron Levie, our CEO who cares a lot about diversity, we can tell them with confidence, we did everything that we could given the resources that we have at this specific moment. So that's just a little bit about what we're doing exact specifically. And Box in general, couldn't be more happy to be where I'm working at.

Lesia Harhaj  35:11  
That's great. And Cynthia, I kind of want to bring you in here because I know you and Michael are coming from the professional lens and having worked for many years. But I think one of the things that is always of interest to me simply when we're working with our students, as well, is about how you begin to vet companies, and how you begin to understand where DE&I plays a role in their organizations. What's some advice that you can share for girls and women plus who are seeking jobs and opportunities in tech? How, how do they critically vet these organizations? What are the things they should be looking for? What are some potential red flags? So either Michael or Cynthia which one of you would like to start?

Cynthia Chapple  35:49  
Yeah, I think my my top thing is, the statements are great. Even the new Chief Diversity Officer roles are great, but ask them what their budget is, what is their budget for diversity? Right? Where are they spending their money? Right? It's great to just bring on new staff, staff members, yeah, I'm gonna pay someone a salary and have this position. But like, what type of power does that position actually have to implement changes? And, really interrogate practices. And I also like to access like, how many of your upper level executive team is required to be a part of DEI in your organization? Right? How many of them are are literally the key stakeholders in your design phase, bringing them to the table having the buying in? Because I think that's a red flag. I think if there's a DEI that's under HR, I'm not interested, you know, and this is this is, again, my personal sort of preferences. If there's a DEI, you know, under HR, no executives are attached to it. No executives have any sort of idea of what they're doing. I think that's a red flag. You know, I think that I think if there's, you know, this, this drawn out plan, but there's like pennies attached to how you're going to get it done. I think that's a red flag. And so I think those are really just two things that I like to ask how are you funding this this office this role? And who does it report to who's who's over it? Who are the really the stakeholders? At this DEI juncture within your organization?

Michael A. Urbina  37:26  
Yeah. Wow. Sorry.

Lesia Harhaj  37:29  
Anything left to add?

Michael A. Urbina  37:33  
Mic drop, I really don't have anything else that that was amazing. Um, no, I completely agree. It's, I completely agree, especially somebody that is in a DEI role. And we do roll up into HR. But what's interesting is like, you know, our HR, leader is just like, tight at the hip with our CEO. So I think that's our blessing there. But one last piece of advice that I'll give to people, in addition to what Cynthia said, is, you are interviewing these companies as much as they're interviewing you. So if you are on a call with a recruiter, I strongly encourage you to ask about their diversity practices. Tell me about your employee resource groups. Tell me about, for example, what Cynthia was saying, where DEI sits, which executives are tied to that, if the recruiter is like uh, I don't know, or it gives you very surface level statements, that says a lot about the organization, because the recruiting team has not incorporated diversity and inclusion into the overall employee value proposition, because they haven't essentially educated their recruiters on how to talk about it. So to them, that essentially means it's not as important as other things at the company. So that's my best piece of feedback. And advice to people is interview these companies hard as much as you can, because they're interviewing you just the same way.

Lesia Harhaj  38:51  
Every time I hear an executive recruiter or anybody in the people ops space, say the same things that we say at Fullstack to our students, I'm like 100% snaps and I'm still saying the right thing. So thank you for sharing that. Moving on. A little bit kind of pivoting on would love to talk a little bit about mentorship and professional development, because they think we across the board all believe that that is really an integral part of supporting women plus and girls as they move into tech careers in tech as they pivot into careers in tech, depending on where they're the landscape that they are coming from.

So Bannya, you recently concluded an internship experience with Verizon which is very exciting. Um, how did this how did you come across that opportunity? What did you learn from that opportunity? And then specifically from the mentorship lens, how did you connect with mentors? Do you have mentors at Verizon? What did that experience look like for you?

Bannya Dasrao  39:43  
Yeah, so I first did my first internship with Verizon and was to Break Through Tech So they I know Verizon isn't so much into like inclusion and diversity. So they did partner with Witny and took like, girls from Witny to intern with them. So my first um, you know, like internship with them was throug my winter break of my freshman year. So after I did the internship with them, my recent internship was basically a return offer. So my return offer another return offer that was last Summer where I was in based in Boston. And then from there, they call me for another return offer for this Summer. So then this was supposed to be in New Jersey, but it became unfortunately became virtual. So that was kind of sad, I missed my team and meeting them in person. But I feel like mentorship has played such a huge role in my life. And I have like mentors in every space, and everywhere I go. And I feel like my mentor is at like, I feel like it's so important for me to have mentors, especially as because my parents being immigrants, they don't really understand a lot about like the how the hiring process is about the job market in the United States. And they don't really understand the corporate culture, culture in general. So like mentors who was there for me and who educates me and who like works on like, where look to my resume, because my parents like doesn't really understand the values of them in general. And who reviews them is like, it was such a big important part for me. And I feel like Verizon did such a good job on my internship as well, because I am the manager that I report to him, he was like a mentor to me. And he would, we would always every like week, I would like have like one on ones with him. And then he like he had his team members, my mentor as well. And I feel like it's such it like important specially on this virtual internship for me, is because they were like always there for me even for like, I was in the product development team. So I had so many questions, because this is my first internship in product development. And I would always IM them, and they would always be there for me. And his entire team was such a, like, great example of answering all my questions, concerns and being there for me. I feel like it played such an important role. I feel like everyone like especially who shares a similar background as me should have mentors, I feel like, like, had go to people and ask questions and be open and like how you receive advice and take them and think about them and reflect on the feedback they receive has been like a huge, huge part. And I feel like that's how I grew. And I feel like I've seen other people grew that way as well.

Lesia Harhaj  41:57  
Do you think you'll end up being a mentor for someone soon?

Bannya Dasrao  42:01  
I definitely think I will.

Lesia Harhaj  42:03  
You got it. I think you got the good skills for it already. So thank you for that. Um, Cynthia given to you one of the core values that Black Girls Do STEM is mentorship, you define that as one of your value propositions. What are some of the steps that you all as an organization have for identifying mentors? And how do students gain access to this mentorship? And then we'd love to hear from you why is this such a fundamental part of your organization? Like, why did you ingrain it in the way that you did?

Cynthia Chapple  42:29  
Yeah, and so we really have two main practices. for recruiting mentors. We work with professional organizations here and in our region, whether they be STEM or non STEM, for example, we've been able to recruit a lot of people in healthcare to also be mentors and like, also help them understand how that relates back to STEM and STEM career pathways. And so we also work with some corporate sponsors, where we go in and do presentations of our organization to select the Business Resource Groups. So to again, try to bring out some people from different stem companies here in our region. And so our girls in our K to 12 pipeline, they participate through group mentoring. So we host group, mentoring, networking events, where we ask like professional women in STEM to come and 8 to 10 minute TED style demonstrations, presentations, it can be a hands on activities, we really leave the like, like to leave it open to them to best express their respective career pathway to students, for students and families to engage, ask questions. And we also welcome a keynote speaker who is a woman of color executive to actually come and sort of keynote our networking events. And so that's really how we actually provide it as a programming function within our organization. We recently launched a virtual community for college age girls in the midst of COVID, where we're gonna be working with some black medical school associations to actually have some of their members who are medical students and college, be one on one mentors for some of our students who have answered our collegiate community that really caters to undergrad girls.

Lesia Harhaj  44:12  
Awesome, thank you for sharing that. I'm probably definitely ways if anyone on this call is interested in partnering with Black Girls Do STEM and interested in being a mentor, make sure you reach out to Cynthia!  Um, Michael, from your perspective, how have you identified your own mentors throughout your career? And I know we probably have some professionals on our call with us as well, who may be asking how do I find a mentor? What is what is the best way to do that? So what advice would you would you give them?

Michael A. Urbina  44:40  
Sure. So I for my professional career have intentionally sought out mentors that were women, specifically women of color. And that's what I've led with and you know, I went out of my way when I graduated to buy a LinkedIn license and start mailing people unapologetically. And that would be my best piece of advice to people is, if there's somebody that you look up to and just looks amazing on LinkedIn paper, then reach out to them. And don't be sorry for reaching out. And my only ask there is because I get requests to be people's mentor sometimes. And my only ask is, if you're going to reach out to somebody, make sure that you go with an intention, I would like to schedule a 30 minute call with you to discuss these five or six bullet points, something like that, and then slowly build the relationship. So with me, specifically, you know, I have amazing women of color that are mentors. And then I've actually also gone out of my way to also find mentors. And also, and this is a key difference as well, not just mentors, but champions for myself, that are Caucasian men. And the reason why I've done that is because at the end of the day, we're operating in a system right now, where Unfortunately, there's a lot of racism and sexism, that's institutional, it's not cultural, it's institutional. And because of this institutional racism, sexism, homophobia, I've sought out mentors, that and champions specifically that have privilege that can essentially advocate for myself in a room when I'm not there, and get me a promotion, get me a salary increase, get me whatever it is that I want. And I think it's important that we seek not only mentors, but champions, because those champions are the ones that are really going to, as it says, champion you when you're not in a room. So I think that that difference is important. And we should seek to have both mentors, and then also champions.

Lesia Harhaj  46:39  
I love that definitely, we definitely talk a lot about that with our students. And I know that I've taken that approach in my own career as well. So I appreciate you, you sharing that. I'm switching gears a little bit, I want to be mindful of time and leave, you know, obviously room for audience q&a, but we do want to spend a little bit of time kind of diving in a little deeper on ally ship, and then how that potentially leads into hiring and recruiting practices and making sure that the the tech hiring that does happen remains and continues to be inclusive. Michael, you've obviously mentioned it a couple of times on our on our call already and have spoken very openly about ally ship. Is there anything you'd want to add? I'm on there, I would really love to get your thoughts on job descriptions. I think we have traditionally seen the job descriptions are written in a very masculine type of way. Um, you know, definitely in industry overall. Definitely, specifically in tech, because I think as you said, they are being written by a very specific type of person. What are your thoughts on on all of that? How can how can we start to move away from that?

Michael A. Urbina  47:43  
Yeah, well, for sure don't lead with seeking a extroverted coding ninja don't lead with stuff like that. Because I can't tell you I've seen a lot of job descriptions in my experience and job descriptions, Bannya was speaking to this earlier. And I think it's a really important point to kind of resurface, but men will apply to jobs, even if they don't fit the job description that's listed on the website. Whereas women are statistically more likely not to, I don't know the percentage, but I know it's significantly less than men. So the way that you write a job description talks a lot about not just the position itself, but also the company culture and the company's approach towards hiring and recruiting practices. So the way that you write a job description should be inclusive, you know, you should use language that is not gendered, and essentially try to mitigate bias as much as possible. That being said, no humanbeing is perfect. No tool is perfect. There are some amazing tools out there like textio, which will read your job descriptions for you using AI and try to filter out language that could potentially be gendered. But I think that there's so much more that we can do, just from a philosophical standpoint and how we think about job requirements. Do we need, for example, 10 plus years of experience for the Director of Engineering? Does this person need to come from a four year degree college? Or can it be a two year or do we even need college? Like when we challenge these rigid expectations on the actual job description, that's when people are actually going to open up their talent pools to more underrepresented people. Because the way that it's written right now, Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, you know, four year degree, you know, you graduated computer science top, your classic, it's very rigid. Obviously, I'm just stereotyping right now. But it is very, very rigid as far as what we're looking for. And it needs to be much more open and recruiters need to be doing much more there. And that leads me to my last point, and then I'll stop about ally ship, I always lead with the thought that ally ship specifically male ally ship should never be comfortable. If you're doing it and it's comfortable, you're doing it wrong. That's my honest experience. So I throughout my, my professional career, and then throughout my personal life as well have gone out of my way to put myself into situations where I am uncomfortable, because that is where I'm doing. That means essentially that I'm doing really hard work and work that needs to be done to challenge my male peers, and then also to uplift women, and specifically women of color whenever I have the opportunity to so that's, that's what I would say to, to the question.

Lesia Harhaj  50:44  
Awesome. Thank you so much. Cynthia, stemming off from that, as we talk about what the actual jobs in STEM are. I think we referenced this a little bit earlier today. But what can we do in order to get girls specifically to think about this career path as part of a larger store and moving away from very specific language, I'm moving away from maybe some of the preconceived notions that they've had before, but what it means to be a professional in this space?

Cynthia Chapple  51:11  
You know, I think we gotta value and trust girls. And so we have to ask them, right, they know stuff, they have interest. And so if we actually listen to our girls, we can design engaging fun STEM activities that they enjoy. And that really reinforces what we believe of them as STEM capable. I think the language has to become more about like how to STEM show up in your lives, you know, like, do you understand the science of taste? Which is one of the very first workshops that we piloted with in our program for a Saturday Academy. And so I think this year, we partnered, we did an engineering design lab, it was like design your own musical instrument, right. And most kids like music, and like the idea of making music. And so I think you have to really start designing curriculum that's aligned with the experiences both culturally but also some of the interest of students, and specifically the interest of girls. And I think innovations requires more input from our girls. Some girls were like, they like the cosmetic chemistry one, we made perfumes and lip balms. And one girl was like, can we make nail polishes? Right? And so like, how do we take their feedback and incorporate it into our design into our models? You know, I think about being a research chemist now. And about 50% of my job is chemistry. And about a quarter of it is understanding, um, design specifications, testing protocols, being able to work with engineers, right? And it's more of a STEM mindset, right understanding like how processes and procedures all work together to make sure that I am coming up with a chemical solution that's gonna work in application, right. And so that requires not just this content knowledge, but also that mindset to really think through and problem solve, as Bannya kept saying, you know, and so I think like, what, what we must do is make them more applicable and relevant to girls. And I think that engages them beyond just a project beyond just like one workshop they do on the Saturday, and really helps them start building confidence around seeing themselves in these industries.

Lesia Harhaj  53:23  
That's great. Thank you. And I think that leads in to the question that I have next for Bannya, you've mentioned that you obviously found your internship and Verizon through Kenny's Break Through program, formerly the Witny program, program I've partnered with before have nothing but glowing and positive things to say about what they're doing around the space. We'd love to hear a little bit more briefly about that program. And I think, as both Michael and Cynthia have underscored, it is about interest. And it's about finding those resources I would love to hear, like, what would be advice you would have for other women and girls who are going through this experience about finding these types of programs? What questions should they be asking of their teachers and professors and faculty members? In order to find out about this? And how do they drill down a little bit more?

Bannya Dasrao  54:10  
Yeah, I feel like I was fortunate about to finding this program through my guidance counselor, I remember I was checking my email one day to my school and I received this email about like, applying for a summer job program and then I did the email and then I got it. I feel like the more I feel like for girls in general has to be more open like checking your email, school email, like once a day should be habit by now. I know we were like young adults, and I feel like he like we check more of our social media than our emails. And I, I mean, it's like I was like before high school like I think my senior years I used to be that like that way too. But nowadays, I feel like it's my ritual to check through my emails like at least like more than once a day, but at least once a day. So then I feel like we should check our emails because like a lot of information gets passed through through those emails. And I feel like I'm especially also creating like LinkedIn because I know I'm the women in tech has like LinkedIn. Like page, and then they have like, um, like the students with like other sponsors as well like post about them and creating the connection and as well. And I feel like it's like having like the connecting with students from from your campus as well as a big part. Because I feel like there's just like so when you start seeing like, like, like your campus students doing internship with this, like kids talking about the group such as Witny. And then you should be kind of like interest like, Oh, what is that, like, let me go research that and go to their like page and then like, like, reach out because I know like all the people that from Witny and like Break Through Tech, like Maria, Amy. And they're like, such like role models. And I feel like when you like anyone could reach out to them. And they would be like, with open hands take and take them in to give them advice and stuff like that. I feel like those are like real people and not like robot and even if you like were to like, email them, they would be like, so supportive and so responsive. So I feel like like, like doing your own research and being productive comes a long way. Because I feel like opportunities, I feel like I understand the girls, I feel like we wait for opportunities or more. Especially we are at an age and we keep on thinking that we do have time like ahead of time, we didn't really see the like graduation is like nearby or anything. So it's still taking like life, like kind of likely and stuff you don't think about this stuff. I feel like though is like, at least like once a week or something just like doing research or like going through pages and stuff. And scrolling through LinkedIn like, like, looking at your emails regularly, he like goes a long way.

Lesia Harhaj  56:28  
This is I mean, I think it goes back to what you said in the beginning about being a problem solver. You must be your own problem solver. You must be watching and curious and you've got to go out and and if you're interested in it, ask the questions. You never nobody ever got yelled at for asking questions or hopefully hope. Yeah.

Bannya Dasrao  56:44  
I think like one thing that I do believe in is like the like, if you miss all the chances you don't take those like even if you like, what if you email a person? Like what if you reach out to them? Like what if so what like they don't respond to you like, it's nothing like just like somebody will like at some point will respond. So I'd like like, it's like a long, it went a long way me. So I feel like that's something that I would tell all the youngsters.

Lesia Harhaj  57:06  
I love that I tell I tell everyone that I work with whether they're a college student, or whether they're one of our professional learners at full stack now is that the only thing that you kind of control or the things that you can control, like you can't control somebody else's response, you can't control when they'll get back to you can't control if that job will be open, the only thing you can do is make sure that you are prepared at any given moment to move forward and and have those questions and start those conversations. But thank you all we've got one last final question. And then we'll open it up if there's any q&a. But panelists briefly would love for you to share. Why do you think and how do you think our economy, our country, and essentially, I don't say this lightly, our world is going to benefit from empowering girls and women in the technology space? Bannya, let's start with you.

Bannya Dasrao  57:53  
I would say that, like I was reading an article, I don't remember the stats and when but I do know like all the household products, even the tags that are being bought, were are like being bought by like females in the households, but they're like being programmed and designed by like males in the industry. So I feel like it kind of like doesn't like going hand in hand. So I feel like we should incorporate more females into discussions where there being like, UX discussions like user experience discussions, where they're like, um, discussions about programming, the colors are like, I feel like end to end processes are beginning to an end, there should be a female in every discussion and kind of governing and being included. And it's not like, oh, like a female should be only included in the user experience side and not in the coding. I think they should be like, more inclusive. So

Lesia Harhaj  58:45  
I love that. Thank you, Mike. What about you?

Michael A. Urbina  58:49  
Plus 100 to everything Bannya said I was gonna say that in some way, shape or form? not really that eloquently. Sorry, Bannya did it's so it's such an amazing way. For my lens, I'll just kind of just give my two cents real quick. I always ask, I always ask people this. But basically, if we don't if diversity is not prioritized, how can if we don't have representation, as Bannya was mentioning, how are we going to serve a diverse customer base, if the customer base is diverse, but the people that are writing the code are only have one or two demographics. That's just not going to work? And unfortunately, and unless we do something to mitigate this, the bad side and what's going to happen is if we don't empower girls and women in tech, if we just continue with the existing systems, we're just going to essentially, reciprocate,  not reciprocate, but simply replicate the systems of oppression that exists right now, institutionally and then also culturally, and it's going to move on to that next generation. So I think it's important and it starts with you, you know, you yourself need to see what you can Do to be an ally, and do what you can to empower women and girls. So I think as guys, there's a lot that we can be doing. And I challenge every guy on this call to start thinking about how to how to go about doing that.

Lesia Harhaj  1:00:15  
Great. Thanks so much. And Cynthia, final word to you.

Cynthia Chapple  1:00:19  
Yes, I second everything Michael and Bannya said, you know, I think women in general just make the world more inclusive, by just coming and looking at things from a different lens. I mean, someone recently shared a story with me about a beautiful glass staircase and a corporate office building. And another woman came in and said, oh, I'm pretty sure the people who design this staircase were men, because when women walk in this glass staircase, with skirts on, you can see up their skirts. You know, and so she, you know, something that simple, right, like, we're thinking about how we design a corporate office space, and we sort of leave out that facet of how it's going to be functional for people, you know, and so I think women just make more things inclusive, just by bringing that different lens as these guys have shared, you know, and I think there really is no future with that without technology, right, like technology will exist. And if we do not want to build in, as Michael had said, sort of like the biases within technology, as we continue to move forward, I think we we have to allow women to come to that conversation and their full selves, with that different lens, to make sure that we're creating a more equitable and a just future.

Lesia Harhaj  1:01:41  
Awesome, thank you so much. Um, that was great. Thank you to our panelists for going through all of our questions. And now I just kind of want to see if there any, I don't see any q&a in the Q&A, if it will be recorded. I want to give anybody a minute. If they want to dump a question in there, please feel free to do so. But I think it's been so great to get our panelists insight to, to understand the different perspectives that they bring to the table. And obviously, all of the different opportunities there exists for people to become involved in various ways in your communities, in your jobs in your education programs, whether you're an alum, and being able to partner and really kind of strategic and intentional ways I see.

Question? Coming from Louanne, and thank you to the panelists for sharing your insights and experiences. Not a question, but here to support banya from our campus program as a VC intern. Keep up the great work. Bonnya we're proud of you definitely second that I think superstar.

Bannya Dasrao  1:02:46  
And thank you Louanne!

Lesia Harhaj  1:02:50  
Always nice to get the positive reinforcement. Um, all right. Well, that being said, if there are no questions for our panelists, we want to thank everybody for joining us this afternoon. We hope this conversation spurred you to take some action in this particular space. As it's been reiterated this conversation has been recorded and will be available tomorrow, I would like to share this content with their communities. And for more information about upcoming events, you can always visit Alley's www.alley.com. It has been my pleasure to serve as your moderator for today. And I wish you all a great evening. Take care. Bye bye.

Cynthia Chapple  1:03:25  
Thank you. Bye bye.Lesia Harhaj  0:01  
Hi, everyone, good afternoon. I hope everybody was grooving to those tunes like I were, I think it's a good way to set the stage for today's conversation. I'm definitely again extending my hello and thank you to everyone for joining us on this Wednesday afternoon. My name is Lesia Harhaj  and it is an honor for me to be your host for today's conversation, "Taking Over Tech: Empowering Girls and Womxn Everywhere".

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