Celebrating Women in Tech
In honor of Women’s History Month, 42 Silicon Valley is celebrating all women who work in tech. We want to recognize women engineers, managers, directors, advocates, investors, founders, and executives who are forging their own pathways. In addition, we hope to encourage a new generation of women to go into tech. Below are 15 amazing women in tech who are making a positive impact in their field.
Leanne Pittsford is the CEO and Founder of Lesbians Who Tech & Allies, “the largest LGBTQ community of technologists in the world — committed to visibility, intersectionality, and changing the face of technology, with 50,000 LGBTQ women, non-binary and trans individuals, queer women of color (and our allies) in tech in 40+ city chapters worldwide.” Pittsford is an entrepreneur, investor and thought leader who wants to push the tech sector to be more inclusive. She believes economic power is a driving force for cultural and societal change.
Leanne created a mentoring and recruiting platform for underrepresented technologists and recruiters in 2017 called include.io. She also launched Tech Jobs Tour, which connects the next generation of diverse tech talent to new careers to “bridge the divide between tech companies that will have 1 million open jobs by 2020 and the American workforce.” Earlier in her career, Pittsford founded and led a design and technology agency, and served as the Senior Director at Equality California, the largest statewide LGBTQ organization behind the “No on Prop 8” campaign, which tried to protect the freedom to marry the person you love at the ballot box. Because of activists like Leanne, the proposition was deemed unconstitutional in California.
Regina Wallace-Jones is Vice President, Product Operations at MindBody, Inc. whose mission is to connect the world with beauty, fitness, and wellness. Wallace-Jones previously served as a tech executive at eBay, Yahoo, and Facebook. After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford, she earned a Master’s degree in public policy with an emphasis in technology policy from UCLA in order to better understand how she can use tech for social advancement.
A 16-year resident of East Palo Alto (EPA), Regina has made a big impact as a community advocate, “She is the founding board president of StreetCode Academy, a patron of Black Girls Code, a board member for Women Who Code, and a partner of the Lean In Foundation to advocate for women pursuing professional ambition.” In 2018 Wallace-Jones was voted in as a Councilwoman for EPA before becoming Vice Mayor this past December. Regina has been open about balancing work with motherhood and shared how important it is to support other women, “If we can orient each other to leaning in when we would otherwise make a different choice, then we can start to affect the stagnant growth of women in senior leadership roles.”
Lea Coligado is a software engineer at Google Maps and Founder at Women of Silicon Valley (WoSV). Originally from Dallas, Texas, Coligado’s parents were Vietnamese refugees & Filipino immigrants. Lea calls herself a “public-facing Diversity & Inclusion advocate” and describes WoSV as, “a Humans of New York spin-off that features resilient women and gender queer folks in tech, particularly those of color.”
Coligado shared on her personal website the inspiration behind WoSV, “When I was a Computer Science student at Stanford, after experiencing sexual harassment at a tech company, I started Women of Silicon Valley to celebrate the women who kept me afloat.” She explained on her website how she incorporated WoSV into her work at Google, “ When I joined Google full-time, I integrated WoSV into its 20% program. So, on top of being a full-time software engineer, I also manage a team of eight amazing women who have each volunteered their diverse expertise to the project.” Lea was named one of the BBC’s 100 Inspiring Women list of 2017 for her work on behalf of WoSV.
Amber Zertuche is Regional Director for the San Francisco chapter of IGNITE (Inspiring Girls Now in Technology Evolution). IGNITE’s mission is to, “create opportunities to spark girls’ excitement about technology careers and inspire them to new possibilities.” Originally from Fresno, Amber earned a bachelor’s degree in Optical Science and Engineering from UC Davis. After working at Lawrence Livermore National Lab as one of the few women Metrology Engineers, she saw a need for more diversity in the field of engineering. This inspired her to go back to school to earn her M.S. in Math and Science education at UC Berkeley.
She pursued this path, “with the goal to work at the high school level and directly encourage girls to pursue STEM education and careers. She became a Physics and Engineering teacher at Burton High School in San Francisco Unified School District and opened an IGNITE chapter there.” Amber is currently preparing for the IGNITE Spring Gala which takes place on March 21st and will benefit their efforts to inspire girls to become the future technology leaders and innovators of our world.
Ruchi Sanghvi is the founder of South Park Commons, a unique think tank community in the heart of the San Franciso tech scene. Originally from Pune, India, Ruchi attended Carnegie Mellon University where she earned degrees in electrical computer engineering. Sanghvi worked at Oracle before becoming the first female engineer at Facebook and helped create the news feed. Rising to a product manager at Facebook, she left the social media company after co-founding a startup called Cove which was acquired by Dropbox. This led to her becoming Vice President of Operations at Dropbox, one of their first female executives.
According to the New York Times, Sanghvi left Dropbox before deciding her next move, “She wanted an environment where she could freely explore new ideas among her peers without feeling the pressure to start another project immediately. As the months passed, she never quite found that kind of personal think tank, but she came to realize that many old friends and colleagues felt much the same way.” This led to the creation of South Park Commons with the mission of supporting, “technologists, tinkerers, and entrepreneurs who have come together to freely learn, explore new ideas, and help each other launch our next venture.”
Cierra McDonald is a Senior Program Manager in Xbox’s Advanced Technology Group at Microsoft, where she serves as the game developer education director. An enthusiastic gamer since childhood, “Cierra has spent most of her career in the gaming industry and she loves building platforms to help game developers bring their ideas to life. Originally from the South Side of Chicago, she graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s College of Engineering. Cierra is passionate about encouraging others, especially young women and people of color, to embrace gaming as both a hobby and a career.”
Involved with the organization IGNITE, McDonald shared how her family inspired her to pursue a career in tech, “I am blessed to have been raised by a family that values education and always encouraged my interest in STEM…Although my family didn’t have enough money to buy computers and other technology just for me to tinker & learn on, they enabled me to explore intellectually and creatively. Their support bolstered my confidence, allowing me to challenge myself to pursue a career in technology even when I didn’t feel surefooted.”
Kitty Yeung, also known as “Physicist Kitty,” is a Creative Technologist and Manager of the Garage, Microsoft. She is developing a new type of career path and manages the space of Microsoft’s Garage. Kitty shared her story during a recent visit to 42,. She noted, “The name comes from the fact that in Silicon Valley, all the innovation started in the garage. People have these great ideas and need to find a place to build them.”
Kitty shared more about the unique position that she created, “A creative technologist incorporates science, engineering, design, and art. I want a career where I can combine all of these things and pursue things that haven’t been done before. This is a spectrum, art and science are very similar. They inspire people.” Kitty creates wearable projects that use the knowledge she has of electrical circuits and programming. For more information about Kitty, and the amazing projects she is working on, please visit her blog.
Noramay Cadena is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Make in LA, LA’s only hardware-focused accelerator in the San Fernando Valley. The eldest of three children raised by immigrant parents of Mexican descent, Cadena’s educational, professional and personal journey has made her into the influential leader that she is today. According to Noramay’s LinkedIn bio, “Her professional career has spanned a diverse range of operating and investing environments, from early-stage startups to Fortune 50 companies. Her three degrees from MIT and personal journey as a teen mom turned first generation Ivy League college graduate have earned her recognition as a trailblazer and inspirational leader by Forbes, Mashable and CNET.”
In her role at Make in LA, Cadena is responsible for, “developing principled leaders with solid product and business foundations and on developing partnerships that support Los Angeles’ entrepreneurship ecosystem. Cadena is also an advisor to the Latinas in STEM Foundation, an organization she co-founded in 2013 to inspire and empower Latinas to pursue and thrive in STEM fields.” Cadena has been named one of the top 26 women engineers to watch in 2016 by Business Insider and one of the top 20 Latinos in Tech by CNET in 2014.
Chia-Lin Simmons has more than 20 years of experience in executive positions at tech giants like Amazon’s Audible and Google. She is also the CEO of a new Oakland based startup called LookyLoo, “one of the first real female AI – conceptualized, built and trained by women.” According to Business Insider, “LookyLoo plans to use artificial intelligence to help women identify the proper fit while shopping for clothing, which would let women consult other women on the platform throughout the shopping process.” Chia-Lin had to sell some inherited gold jewelry and Google stock to help fund LookyLoo, she told Business Insider, “This is how women founders move; we don’t get the benefit of the doubt.”
According to Simmons official bio, “I thrive on inventing, initiating, and growing business opportunities from a blank slate, or turning around a business by driving adoption to changing consumer interests. I am a former executive at Google, Amazon, Harman/JBL and series A to series D startups in Silicon Valley. Currently running my own startup ventures and doing some consulting work on the side.” Chia-Lin was named on HuffPo as one of “27 Women In Tech You Need To Follow On Twitter” and “Top 100 Under 50” by Diversity MBA.
Marlayna Tuiasosopo is a wireless applications engineer for Rohde & Schwarz. Tuiasosopo is the only known Samoan female electrical engineer in the U.S. She shared in an interview with her alma mater, Stanford Engineering, “This is something that bothers me and I worry about often. As a result, I’m really active in trying to create awareness around the lack of diversity in this industry.” Originally from the Bay Area, Marlayna is a proud community activist, founding board member of StreetCode Academy, and founder of a literacy event called Reading Bonanza in the Park.
When asked about her personal experiences in tech, Marlayna shared, “Last week, I gave training to over one hundred engineers. There were only a handful of women in attendance. I have a double whammy, as a female engineer of color. It feels like part of my job description is ‘breaking stereotypes every day’. I do sometimes feel the pressure of being one of a few. But I also feel blessed as I thoroughly enjoy the work I do. If I only pursued a career where people look like me, I would never have the life I enjoy now. My advice is to keep your blinders on when it comes to areas you want to pursue; work hard and go for it. This mindset will provide you with limitless opportunities.”
Susan Kimberlin is an Investor & Startup Advisor based in San Francisco and is involved in mentoring and angel investing in technology startups, “I focus on companies that are working on things I know well: search & NLP technology, big data applications for marketing, enterprise software/automation; diversity and inclusion in technology and entrepreneurship; and in consumer verticals that are interesting to me.” We wrote about Venture Capitalist Arlan Hamilton, the founder of Backstage Capital, last month.
Susan was the angel investor who decided to take a chance on Arlan. Arlan wanted to invest exclusively in underestimated founders that were like her (people of color, women, and/or LGBT), and Kimberlin wrote the first check investing in Backstage Capital. Kimberlin believes that diversity is an essential and under-utilized asset to all businesses. Susan had a wealth of experience before becoming an advisor and angel investor, according to CrunchBase, “Her background is in search and natural language processing technology and her operational experience spans product development roles from coding to product management at both startups and Fortune 500 companies like PayPal and Salesforce.”
Karla Monterroso is the CEO of Code 2040 which is, “a nonprofit activating, connecting, and mobilizing the largest racial equity community in tech to dismantle the structural barriers that prevent the full participation and leadership of Black and Latinx technologists in the innovation economy.” Karla is passionate about closing the opportunity gap for Black and Latinx people in the U.S. and believes that Code2040, “sits in the perfect intersection of a skills- and network-building opportunity for Black and Latinx tech talent and a systems-change opportunity for a critical segment of the country’s economy.”
Monterroso’s commitment to equity and social justice started when she was growing up in a low-income community, “with Latinx parents who instilled in her a love for her culture and dedicated their lives to making sure she was the first in her family to go to and graduate college.” Joining Code2040 in 2014, since that time she has grown the number of students the organization serves from 25 to 4,000 as well as, “ushered in several new successful programs, and stewarded critical organizational development practices and policies around values and racial equity. Her success and insights on racial justice and equity have landed her in publications such as Fast Company, NPR, Bloomberg, and more.”
Tracie Rotter is a partner at GV, the venture capital arm of Alphabet. Rotter co-founded GV’s partnerships practice in 2013 and is responsible for managing and expanding the program by connecting the largest corporations around the world with GV’s portfolio. Tracie earned a bachelor’s in economics from Duke University, with minors in Spanish and religion, before working in consulting and non-profits.
According to her bio on GV, Rotter, “works with Fortune 500s and other corporations to understand their priorities, and helps them partner with GV’s portfolio. She coaches startup founders and business-development leads on how to effectively pitch their products. Tracie also works with Google and other strategic partners to get GV companies the tools and help they need to scale.” Tracie is also involved as an angel investor and works with startups through Duke University’s Global Entrepreneurship Network. Wanting to give back to the community, Rotter volunteers her time with local organizations that focus on children’s health and veterans.
Diana Navarro is a Software Engineer at Tumblr and has previously interned at Adobe, Qualcomm and Gilt Groupe. According to Medium, in the 2nd grade, Navarro moved from New Jersey to a wealthy suburb of New York after her mom got a job as a live-in housekeeper. She shared with Women of Silicon Valley, “My life turned upside down…I went from an elementary school in Jersey City where most of the students were Filipino, Black, or Latinx, to Siwanoy Elementary School, where I could count the number of non-white students on one hand. Needless to say, I didn’t fit in. I was bullied and excluded.”
In Navarro’s AP computer science class, she was one of only three girls. After participating in the first summer session of Girls Who Code (GWC), Diana was exposed to the fundamentals of programming and also got to meet women engineers. According to Forbes, her experience with GWC highlighted the gender gap even further, “I went from learning how to code in this room of 19 other girls to literally being one of 19 girls in a class of 150 or 200 students.” Navarro went on to major in CS at Rutgers University and became the first person in her family to graduate from college.
Shellye Archambeau is the former CEO of MetricStream, the world’s largest independent provider of governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) apps and solutions and currently serves on the boards for various companies such as Verizon, Nordstrom, Roper Technologies, Inc., and Okta, Inc. While working on a bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, The Mercury News reported that, “she worked her way through college as a sales assistant for IBM, then took a full-time sales job after learning that CEOs there had worked in sales.”
During Shellye’s 15 year career at IBM, she served as one of the highest-ranking executives and was the first African-American woman at IBM to be sent on an international business trip. According to The Washington Post, Archambeau, “ has amassed more than 20 years of experience as an executive in the technology sector, serving as chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales for Loudcloud, chief marketing officer of NorthPoint Communications and president of e-commerce at Blockbuster.” She has been included on Business Insider’s list of Most Important African-Americans In Technology.
Looking Forward: Increasing the Number of Diverse Women in Tech
A report released by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) shows that out of the 26% of women who work in tech, 5% of the computing workforce in 2017 were Asian women, 3% were African-American women, and only 1% were Latinx women. We have a long way to go when it comes to increasing the number of women working in tech. This is especially true when the goal is to have a diverse number of women in tech. That is why 42 was designed to make programming education accessible to everyone. 18% of our cadets are women and we are slowly growing that number. 22% of women participated in our last piscine. At 42, we are committed to being allies for a new generation of women entering the tech field.