Local tech pros help us crack the girl code — and ban the words ‘balance’ and ‘bossy’

Women agree: STEM Sells

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February 15, 2018 (From left) Jamie Morningstar, Qualtrics; Lisa Birch, MTEC; Meredith Bunker, Jive; Kendall Tucker, Polis; Jeanette Bunker, BambooHR; Carine Clark, Banyan; Cydni Tetro, Women Tech Council; Jeanette Bennett, BusinessQ Magazine. (Photo by Dave Blackhurst/UVBizQ)

For our Spring 2018 issue of Utah Valley BusinessQ, we invited the women to sit at the table — more specifically, we invited women in tech. These local tech pros have cracked the code on how to work in a male-dominated industry. 

Jeanette Bennett, BusinessQ: How has your gender affected your career?

Carine Clark, Banyan: I was invited by one of our investors to go to a Jazz game. When we were leaving they said, “Let’s get a picture.” It was this awkward moment where I was like, “Only girl! I won the prize.” And they laughed. Then I thought, “Isn’t that interesting?” It didn’t even occur to me or anybody else until we all stood next to each other that I was the only woman. I didn’t feel isolated or alone. I was talking to investors the whole time, and I ended up closing the deal.

Kendall Tucker, Polis: The first time I came to Utah was two years ago. I walked into an investment meeting with one of my board members, and the investor said to him, “Is this your wife?” Who would bring their wife to an investment meeting? I am the CEO, but I’m often asked if I’m a product manager or in marketing. But being a woman is a great way to stand out. Last week at a conference here in Salt Lake City, there were about 800 participants and eight women. On the one hand, it was tough because you want female peers. But I also had people coming up to me all day because I was immediately recognizable.

Clark, Banyan: And the bathroom is never full.

Jamie Morningstar, Qualtrics: That’s my stock answer — that you stick out. There is good stuff and tough stuff about that. And that’s what the literature tells us, too. Women either get extraordinarily high or low performance reviews because they stick out.

Lisa Birch, MTEC: Sometimes my ideas seem foreign to a group full of men, and it takes them a while to come around. Maybe I’m just ahead of my time.

Clark, Banyan: In tech I often meet with a bunch of men. My hashtags are

#MeAnd20Dudes or #MeAnd30Dudes. I travel so much, and I’m usually the only woman in first class. Only woman in the lounge. The flight attendant will say, “We don’t have a woman in first class very often.”

Cydni Tetro, Women Tech Council: When you’re one of three computer science graduates, you grow up in a career where it doesn’t matter. You want to be evaluated based on performance. But there are definitely disadvantages. When I went to raise money, my mentors said, “Cyd, you’re going to go to 50-plus meetings in order to get two or three of those guys to give you money.” And I did the math. I knew how to play those odds. But it wasn’t until the moment of dealing with the rejection of my investment thesis that I really appreciated the disparity that still exists in that world. We are making good progress, but there are places where it shows up and you have to figure out how to navigate. Thankfully, there is a community of really great women and men who are trying to solve this problem.

Jeanette Martin, BambooHR: I am always the only girl. I just deal with it. I probably push myself harder than the people around me. I always have. In college, if the guys got a C, that was awesome. But I was going to get that A. I know I’m going to stand out, and I want to stand out for good.

Morningstar, Qualtrics: We have chosen tougher paths, which attract people who like a challenge.

Clark, Banyan: There are so many men I work with who have a specific stereotype in their mind. And when I show up, they are expecting something worse. I’m like, “Hey, my brothers.” I feel a responsibility to not fit into the stereotype.

Carine Clark is the mother of two sons and CEO of Banyan, a patient experience company. She also serves on the board of Silicon Slopes, where “it’s me and the dudes.” She’s been in technology for more than 30 years.

Bennett, BusinessQ: What are questions or comments you frequently hear?

Clark, Banyan: Every time I go to an investor meeting reception, the first question I get is, “Who is your husband?” I’m always like, “Brian, but he isn’t here tonight. I’m actually the CEO.” Then the next question slays me. “Oh, did you start that company?” Yeah, cause it would be impossible for anyone to actually hire me. And I’m like, “No. A bunch of men hired me. Don’t tell them.” It’s awkward for a second. But I just start messing with people.

Morningstar, Qualtrics: It’s a coping mechanism! Bossy is a key one. I fall into the trap, too. I remind myself of the rhetoric. Because if my son is exhibiting those traits he is leading, but if my daughter is doing it, she is being bossy. So we have to preach to ourselves. Bossy is a word I’ve tried to eliminate from my vocabulary.

Birch, MTEC: I am bossy, but I would rather be seen as a leader.

Martin, BambooHR: I hate when people say, “How do you do it all?’”

Morningstar, Qualtrics: It’s another one you can flip. We get that extra attention, so it’s our opportunity to lead. You can do it all — if “doing it all” means you can have a family that you love and a career that you love.

Birch, MTEC: How could you not want to do it all?

Tetro, Women Tech Council: You’re always going to make trade-offs. It’s just what life is. We have an entire group of millennials coming into the workforce, and balance is one of their drivers. I hope that question goes away and gets eliminated, because all of us should be creating balance. You get the best-performing teams from people who work well in all parts of their lives. It’s not going to be a perfect equation. Sometimes one side is going to be heavier than the other. It’s about constant conversations surrounding those trade-offs. It’s also the reason I let my kids have cell phones when they are young. I’m fine letting my daughter Facetime when she’s 8 and I’m traveling. I can create the balance I personally need to be successful.

Clark, Banyan: I tell people to get a good education, and then get the top job so you can make a lot of money and outsource the crap you don’t want to do. Outsource everything.

Morningstar, Qualtrics: You can buy a lot of flexibility.

Clark, Banyan: I outsource everything, except for my kids.

Tucker, Polis: I mentor a lot of young women, and the biggest thing I tell them is we aren’t different from men — except that women tend to apologize all of the time. I tell them to walk into a room and command it. Every time we are apologizing, it diminishes our role. If men are late, they don’t apologize. They think their time is more valuable. That is some of the diction I’m trying to take out of the workplace.

Clark, Banyan: Not just apologizing but qualifying everything. “I’ve never done this before … I’m not very good at this …”

Tucker, Polis: I’ve seen men walk into jobs they are not even close to qualified for and kill it because they tried. I mentor a lot of female candidates for political campaigns. Female candidates constantly come to me and say, “I’m running for city council.” And then I tell them to run for Congress — to go one or two steps above what they think they’re qualified for. The only way to get more confidence is to have conversations like this and get the right mentors in place.

Martin, BambooHR: It’s important to have examples, too. My niece is incredibly smart and she said, “I guess I’ll do law school.” I said, “You love computers, your father is a software engineer.” She asked me if tech was good for families, and I said, “Of course it’s good for families!” I showed her that I can have this career and four children. And now she is a software engineer, has a little baby girl and is killing it.

Meredith Bunker, Jive: I get the “who takes care of your kids” question all the time. Nobody asks my husband that. When people encounter me, they are like, “This is so outside of my normal I have to ask you a million questions in order to wrap my head around your normal.” My normal is I have a stay-at-home husband who decided that’s what he wanted to do. He is a rockstar and it works for us. You said women apologize a lot, but I also find the opposite is true. When I’m in meetings and it’s just me and a bunch of dudes, I can’t tell you how many times people apologize to me. “Oh, I’m sorry I said that.” People are really sensitive to the fact that I’m a mom and a woman. It’s been interesting to watch. And it’s not just the millennial guys I work with. It’s all the way up.

Lisa Birch is the director of technology and service programs at Mountainland Technical College. Of her two sons, one is on a university track while the other is on a technical track. “I’m passionate about helping everyone find their way through meaningful education,” she says. MTEC job placement upon completion is 87 percent.

Bennett, BusinessQ: Tell me about the  tech climate for women in Utah.

Tetro, Women Tech Council: The numbers in the state are still 23 percent of people in tech are women and less than 5 percent of those women are in executive positions. However, we have 147 percent growth happening in Utah County, and with all of those tech jobs coming in, there is no better time for young women to enter the workforce. We run SheTech, and we will have 2,500 high school girls coming to that event. The girls tell us before coming in that 85 percent of them don’t know a woman in STEM, and that 90 percent of them are not considering STEM careers. We are starting to see that SheTech has changed and altered their trajectories. All of a sudden you put them in front of a hacking screen and they go, “Wait a second, I got it!” There are so many resources today. It’s not a one-stop solution where a CEO decides to interview women for executive positions. It’s culture, it’s programs, it’s investments, it’s womens’ groups.

Clark, Banyan: It’s still pretty awful inside a lot of companies. Every company talks the talk. “We are working really hard to change things.” We have grown so much in this state, but it should be better. I still hear things come out of people’s mouths and I think, “We are failures.” I need women to step up and apply. I need them to feel the stress and do it anyway. There are times someone will say something to me and I roll back to that 12-year-old girl who ate lunch by herself everyday. Then I push through it. I see too many bright, capable and strong women who don’t want the fight. They don’t want to apply for the job. They don’t want to stand out.

Tetro, Women Tech Council: We have women who come to us looking for jobs through the Women Tech Council, and we hear about what is happening. We consistently find that women know which companies are good for women, and they apply there. Conversely, it is very clear which companies aren’t doing a good job.

Clark, Banyan: We want women to go to those difficult jobs and make changes.

Tetro, Women Tech Council: It’s a hard place to be.

Morningstar, Qualtrics: It takes a lot to say, “I’m going there.”

Tetro, Women Tech Council: I’ve been in positions where it wasn’t a good experience as a woman and where it was a great experience. In those  positions where it wasn’t a good experience, it’s not good to stay.

Clark, Banyan: Stay in those companies.

Tetro, Women Tech Council: You get gold stars. For me, it’s not worth it. If I can find a position where people value my talents and my contribution, I’m a better performer, the environment is better, and my team is better.

Martin, BambooHR: And your impact is larger.

Tetro, Women Tech Council: The culture comes from the top down, so if you’re not sitting in that CEO position, you can’t change the culture enough. What happens is those women get in a position where their confidence takes a hit and they don’t feel successful. They can’t stay there. We need CEOs of every company to embrace them.

Clark, Banyan: See, I’ve gone into those companies as the CEO and that’s where I’ve gotten my confidence. I can change the culture.

As a tech startup in Utah, Polis started in the political space where they built data and software solutions for political campaigns doing community outreach. Now the company has transitioned into corporate door-to-door sales. CEO Kendall Tucker is based on the east coast but joined us for our roundtable in Orem.

Tetro, Women Tech Council: The majority of women will create the best economic impact if they go to a company that leverages them.

Clark, Banyan: I think I’m just so determined to change before I die. Because I know I’m going to die. My father is a combat heavy brigade commander. He taught us you have to go where the biggest war is. And you might die. You get your troops trained, and you go in there. I’ve been raising money for the last few years, and it’s a creepy gig for women.

Tucker, Polis: I don’t meet with investors who don’t invest in women because it’s a waste of my time. It’s interesting that data-wise, the companies that don’t treat women well do substantially worse. So venture capitalists, which is the world I play in, who have female partners tend to see 200 percent higher deal flow. And the more deal flow you’re seeing, the better deals you’re getting. In Utah, our hiring funnels have to be at least 33 percent female and at least 50 percent diverse in some way. If you are a confident woman in tech, we are dying to have you — and so is everyone else.

Tetro, Women Tech Council: You’re right, women have so much opportunity to choose. You don’t have to go to the company you don’t want to go to. You’ve got to look at companies that have female executive sponsorship from the top down.

Morningstar, Qualtrics: A lot of companies are changing their dynamic. Qualtrics has made huge strides. It’s been a hell of a lot of work, and the work is just beginning.

Bennett, BusinessQ: What advice do you give to women in tech?

Birch, MTEC: I talk to so many girls who think they will be a mom and they don’t need to get an education and work. I’m not saying being a stay-at-home mom is a bad thing. But I tell them that the climate right now is for technology. We don’t have many girls in our programs, and when we do, they are asked to work before they are done. Even if they are not the best in the class, they bring a different mindset to technology — and companies know that. As a woman, you’ll have more opportunities, you’ll work less hours and you’ll get more out of life if you educate yourself well. Do what you love, do it well, and you will have a really good life.

Morningstar, Qualtrics: I try to tell everyone how great my life is, because they aren’t hearing those messages. When they look on TV and they see those harried moms who are trying to do it all and are failing at everything, that is the social message. But that’s not my experience. I have an amazing life.

Martin, BambooHR: Girls live with these stereotypes. They think if they are going to do computer science, they are going to be a little nerd at the computer. They don’t understand how many careers and opportunities there are in the world.

Cydni Tetro wears two hats: co-founder of the Women Tech Council and CEO of Forge DX, a software company that does digital transformation integration between IM and mobile. When she’s not inspiring and mentoring girls of all ages, Tetro has spent her career working with world-class brands like Disney and Marvel.

Birch, MTEC: It’s OK for me to show my sons that it’s OK to be strong. I hope they find strong women in their lives, too. My husband has always supported me. There was a time when I supported him and raised kids, and then I went back to work and he supported me. Children and young adults don’t see that message when the women in their lives aren’t being supported. I tell my boys all the time that when they get married, they can’t assume their wife is going to stay at home. If she wants to work, or if she wants to stay at home, support her.

Tucker, Polis: I hate going into things with my eyes closed. So before I started my company, I made 110 expert calls. I reached out to women so far removed from myself that I’d be emailing Carine on LinkedIn like, “Hey, we are third connections on LinkedIn. Can we chat?” People want to help when you ask. So when I mentor women, I go far out of my way to give them tools. We all need role models, and they are not all going to be women. The majority will be men.

Clark, Banyan: I try and get young women to visit their future. A lot of young women tell me they want to be a hairdresser. So I tell them to go spend the next four weekends in a hair salon. You can’t sit down, you’ve got to stand and sweep the hair. They can only get through two weekends.

Birch, MTEC: Plus you’re not making money every hour you’re in there.

Clark, Banyan: I run into a lot of parents who don’t help their kids plan their lives. I have helped my kids visit their futures. If they say they want to be a garbage man, we follow the garbage truck all day. Then my kids would say, “They don’t ever get to play with the garbage.” And I would say, “Nope they don’t.” Suddenly they didn’t want to be a garbage man anymore.

Birch, MTEC: When I grew up, I wasn’t allowed to take woodshop. I had to take home ec, and I hated it. I remember my dad telling me he would pay for me to go to school to become a secretary, and then followed by, “You need to go out and find a husband.” I made sure I went the rest of the way with my education. I hope girls aren’t getting those messages today. Girls can do anything.

Jeanette Martin is a senior software engineer and engineering manager at BambooHR. She’s been in technology for 15 years and has been married for 28 years with four sons. “I love helping my teams get results they didn’t even know they could achieve,” she says.

Bennett, BusinessQ: How can we support each other as women in this community?

Tucker, Polis: Get to the top. You have to be at the top and making the money to leave the ladder down behind you so other women can climb up — and climb higher than you are. Anything else we do is wonderful, but if we aren’t pushing ourselves, it doesn’t matter.

Clark, Banyan: I try to open doors for people and then shove them through.

Morningstar, Qualtrics: The best way to support each other is to push each other and call crap on each other.

Birch, MTEC: Jeanette, you sent out the email and I saw who was on the list for today’s roundtable. I told my husband, “I’m not qualified to sit in that room.”

Clark, Banyan: Shame on you.

Birch, MTEC: My husband said, “They don’t know who you are. Be who you are.” Why do we think we’re not good enough? We need to say, “Wait a minute. I can do this.”

Tetro, Women Tech Council: For a long time, women have been known to not help other women up the ladder. We are only a few years into changing that. We are better when we help each other. As more women get to the top, it’s their job to surround themselves with other women.

Morningstar, Qualtrics: It’s that community investment part. I am grateful to know all of you. Now I know who to contact when I need someone.

Clark, Banyan: I go out of my way to find the hardest cases. The girls who dropped out of high school and have no education, the single mom at 19, the grocery store clerk, or the girl who was a straight-A student, met a boy, and now works at a call center. They are so surprised when I show up.

Bunker, Jive: For me it’s about being happy and successful in what you are doing and then reaching out to others.

Clark, Banyan: Young people need people who aren’t their parents who invite them to a future.

Bunker, Jive: My one son is not super athletic, but he wanted to do track. I told him we would support him and said, “If you are going to do it, there is an investment you are going to have to make.” And he is killing it.

Tucker, Polis: Men need one person to tell them they would be good to run for Congress.

Clark, Banyan: It could be themselves.

Tucker, Polis: Women need seven people to tell them they would be good in a position before they consider running. So we have done a lot of work in politics getting seven separate people to reach out to women to run.

After graduating in English, Meredith Bunker began a career in federal procurement and HR services. Now she is the director of marketing at Jive, which released big news just prior to this roundtable. LogMeIn announced it would acquire Jive Communications for $342 million in cash. Bunker was due to have a baby five weeks after this interview.

Bennett, BusinessQ: Should we focus on perceptions of women, men or both?

Bunker, Jive: A guy sitting next to me at a meeting uncrossed his legs and accidentally touched my leg and said, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.” I’m like, “We are fine.” A lot of dudes, especially here in Utah County, are freaked out. They know culturally and maybe religiously where lines are drawn, but in the workplace it’s different. And some of those things are super unique to Utah County. When I was in D.C., going out to lunch with a male coworker wasn’t a big deal, but here it’s like, “Who else is going?” They want to be respectful. The other day I was in a meeting and I asked my coworkers to stop and think about how they would feel if they were the only man in the meeting. When it comes to hiring, do you like that candidate because he hunts and fishes like you do? Or do you like him because he is a strong candidate for the position?

Tucker, Polis: We are a smaller company, but we have talked a lot about the #MeToo movement. We sat down as a full team and let people air their concerns. One common question was, “Can I ask someone out in the workplace? Is that harassment?” As an organization, we decided our employees are allowed to ask someone out once. If they say no, it’s the end of the discussion. We have a lot of young people working for us who are single. So that’s totally fine. And if someone’s knee hits yours, we aren’t going to freak out.

Martin, BambooHR: We can improve perceptions of both men and women. Companies that have diversity and a balance of strong women leaders do so much better. It’s important to have both voices at the table.

Morningstar, Qualtrics: There’s a systematic bias, and until we understand what a systematic bias looks like, we aren’t going to produce diversified, high performing teams.

Martin, BambooHR: It’s our responsibility to do the hard things. We need to lead on this.

Birch, MTEC: A lot of it comes down to confidence. It’s just the last 10 years I’ve felt like I could stand up and say, “Are you kidding me?” Before, if I did, I wasn’t sure if I was going to have a job or move up. So I just had to play the game. The game was stupid. These days you can call people out on things.

Clark, Banyan: I speak all the time and take questions at the end. All the questions are from men. And when it’s over, all of the women come down and talk to me. Women typically have to form their question completely before they ask it. We have bright, capable, smart girls not helping direct the conversation.

Morningstar, Qualtrics: There is a really cool flip side we are starting to see which is not expecting women to act like men to be successful. For most of us, we were only successful because we acted like men. We need more women to speak up, apologize less and act more like guys. It’s fun to hear the other side of it and that those diverse teams perform better because they have a diverse tone and voice of thinking.

Jamie Morningstar is a product manager at Qualtrics, which provides experience management for employees and customers. “I’ve been here for four years, which is pretty much forever in Qualtrics land,” she says. Morningstar studied computer science and then earned an MBA at BYU before pivoting her focus to product management.

Bennett, BusinessQ: Final thoughts and advice on women in tech here in Utah.

Morningstar, Qualtrics: For so long, most successful women in business, let alone in tech, felt pressure to conform to the prevailing western male stereotypes of success: “act confident” “be louder” “don’t apologize” “be aggressive.” The successful exceptions were the ones who were able to succeed within the prevailing system and biases. But the best benefits of diversity are when we’re not all trying to act like guys, but are able to contribute and lead with our real selves, complete with our unique communication styles, points of view and backgrounds. Does that mean we can learn from masculine stereotypes of being daring and bold? Sure! And it also means we can learn from feminine stereotypes of caring for others, civility, and  being team-centered.

Bunker, Jive: I’m most passionate about building an understanding. We all feel confident about our opinions, but I’m always looking for someone who is going to turn my world paradigm on its end. It may not make sense to me, but it makes sense to you. And I want to understand what makes you tick.

Tucker, Polis: The next time we have this conversation, we should have some male CEOs at the table. That’s the next step to help them buy-off on supporting women.

Martin, BambooHR: Women bring so much to the workplace. I know I can get complacent. I need to push everyone around me to see the benefits of diversity.

Clark, Banyan:  Too many times we let fear determine our fate, instead of us feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I was too afraid to try out for student government. We are not enabling people to be weak but we are pushing them to be stronger.

Bennett, BusinessQ: Thank you for gathering around our table to share your thoughts and solutions for women in technology.

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