Nora Bieberstein is the Senior Manager of Innovation Partnerships at RBC and Director at Community Builders
There is something about the atmosphere at the stylish, colourful WeWork space in downtown San Francisco. Cheerful and warm, a group of mainly women but also men fill the room with chatter and laughter. I had just arrived to join the networking part of the inaugural #MoveTheDial Stories – San Francisco event.
As I start to mingle and meet people, I notice the diverse mix of attendees of all ages and backgrounds. I meet Kate Byrne , who is the Vice President of a non-profit organization called Watermark , which is dedicated to increasing the number of women in leadership positions in the Bay Area and across North America. Next to a highly successful career in executive leadership roles Fast Company, SF Gate and Inc. and more, Kate decided to join the organization due to her interest in technology and to promote social good.
After some delightful conversations with new and old friends, the event kicks off with Jodi Kovitz , Founder and CEO of Move The Dial , who welcomes the audience and sets the tone for the event. “How can women help women to have successful careers in technology?” she asks. “By supporting each other! Little acts of generosity can really change the status quo and make a difference.” She elaborates, reflecting on her own career and how she’s had incredible mentors and supporters that opened doors for her along the way. I see people in the room look at each other, nodding.
Of course, this is not where Jodi’s story ends. She cites a recent report by #movethedial that confirms that only 5% of Canadian tech companies have a female CEO and other stats that prove that gender equality is still far from being reached. “And that is the reason we are here, in this room. To create change and be part of this movement. To tell our stories, inspire, lift each other up and move the dial together.”
After Jodi’s remarks, an impressive line-up of highly successful women in technology take the stage to share their stories, challenges and hurdles.
Catherine Lacavera , Director of IP Law and Litigation at Google, talks about making tough decisions and changing her career path from computer engineering to law. She talks about her decision to take a pay cut and move from a successful NY law firm to a technology startup in San Francisco. 12 years later, the startup (aka Google) has grown into one of the biggest tech giants and she still works there, leading a team of 150 people.
While some would argue that Catherine is a highly successful woman in tech who has achieved so much, she humbly confesses that she still sometimes struggles to make choices. She often asks herself if she is spending her time with the right people, in the right networks, supporting the right causes. Nevertheless, Catherine ends her talk by highlighting that no matter how hard her career decisions have been, she never doubted spending time coaching and mentoring young talent and startups.
Her talk is followed by Tracie Wagman , a successful tech entrepreneur, and Kirstine Stewart , President & CRO of Tribal Scale. Last but not least, Tenzin Seldon shares her story as a Tibetan refugee living in exile in India before immigrating to the United States. By working hard and believing in herself, she made it from a public high school to obtaining degrees at Stanford and Oxford. Now, Tenzin runs a startup that helps immigrants and refugees to find jobs in the US.
It is fascinating to hear these powerful stories by women with unique backgrounds and career paths. While some of them faced similar challenges along the way, all of them share the same message: They wouldn’t be where they are today without the support of incredible mentors and supporters, be it colleagues, professors or friends in their communities.
That leads me to my biggest takeaway of the night: If you want to move the dial, you have to pay it forward. It’s the multitude of all many small acts of kindness that helped these successful women to be where they are today. They have succeeded because they didn’t compete against one another but helped one another along the way.
So if you read this and you’re frustrated about the status quo, think about paying it forward. The smallest acts of kindness might have the biggest impact!