Take Note: How Five Local Companies Are Battling Gender Inequality

On Women’s Equality Day, take a look at how these Bay Area companies support women at work.

Written by Eva Roethler
Published on Aug. 25, 2022
Take Note: How Five Local Companies Are Battling Gender Inequality
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Gender bias is insidious. It manifests blatantly, through such disparities as the pay gap, but it can also slink by as injustice in sheep’s clothing in ways we rarely notice.

One way that gender bias hides in plain sight at the office: note taking. 

Regardless of their titles, women are generally typecast for altruistic administrative duties such as note taking, and are often burdened with invisible support work on their teams. Studies have found that this altruistic behavior does little to enhance the favorability of women’s performance evaluations. In fact, if women withhold from this work, it impacts their evaluations negatively. The same is not true of men. Frustratingly, these biases can tangibly impact career opportunities. 

Tiffany Sipka had always been the sole woman on her engineering teams, condemned to be the eternal meeting scribe. Then she joined Handshake and everything changed. 

“One place our inclusive culture was evident was in meetings. No longer was I, a woman, the default note-taker. Instead, all participants shared responsibilities equally and each person’s opinion was valued, not interrupted,” said Sipka. “These seem like small things, but they add up to form the foundation of our inclusive company culture.” 

August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, honoring the 1920 ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave white women the power to vote. 

Despite strides made in the century since the 19th amendment passed, the battle for equality continues everywhere from payroll to conference rooms. Women across the board are still working toward equal status, rights and opportunities. 

Workplace progress has slowed during the pandemic, where women bear the brunt of burnout and stress. It still takes longer for women to get promoted, and representation at the top of the ladder is lacking. Women earn 17 percent less than men, and the pay gaps widen for women at various marginalized intersections. Bias still exists, whether it’s conscious or not. 

Tech companies looking to hire and retain talent need to address this bias. Fifty-five percent of professionals say that a company’s DEI initiatives and diversity on its interview panel are very important to them when considering a role, according to the Built In 2022 State of DEI in Tech Report. 

 

Related Reading:2022 State of DEI in Tech Report

 

With the stakes so high, Built In SF asked Sipka and other Bay Area women in tech how their companies have helped lift them up. According to these women, investments in benefits and professional development opportunities are of the utmost importance. Representation at every level is critical. Women leaders can provide mentorship. Resources such as employee resource groups, dedicated inclusion roles, diverse hiring practices, pay transparency and opportunities for visibility are critical for hiring and elevating women in tech.

Read on for more insight into the San Francisco companies putting effort into gender parity. 

 

Julia Perdigueiro
Lead, Software Development, Accessibility • Unity

 

Unity Technologies is a real-time 3D development platform.

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Unity?

I’m a programmer with a degree in computer engineering. Since I love programming, my main goal has always been to have a job with a purpose. The roles I found the most fulfilling throughout my early career were related to developing tools for other developers. When I applied to join Unity, after developing games for a little while and finding that very fulfilling, I realized making a better Unity Editor would join these two things. 

I initially joined the team behind the new UI technology for Unity, UI Toolkit, was involved in decisions that impact game developers, and kept in mind what I wish I could have used when I made games myself. I recently stepped up as the lead developer in accessibility for the Unity Editor. I found this area also adds inclusion to my last goal and couldn’t be happier with my decision.

 

What benefits and professional development resources does Unity offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?

Besides the regular leadership training and materials Unity provides to all employees, we have multiple spaces organized by ERGs and the inclusion team that allow people to exchange experiences and help each other out. I can see women progressing in many different areas within the company, and I’ve moved to a leadership role myself. I can see that there’s a place for women here.

 

How has Unity built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

I started working at Unity when the initial lockdowns for the Covid-19 pandemic started. I noticed really early on that everyone was making an effort to accommodate the changes, and especially to support parents without childcare who were suddenly homeschooling their children. Mothers usually have a heavier load in parenting, and Unity allowing them to figure out what life looked like at that moment was a great sign of an inclusive culture. Moreover, also allowing fathers to be flexible — thus removing pressure from mothers — shows we aim for an equitable culture.

Leadership constantly talks about inclusivity, and it’s noticeable that there’s an effort to hire and retain a diverse workforce. Here, there are people from all around the world, from all different genders and backgrounds. I can see the difference from other companies. 

Leadership constantly talks about inclusivity, and it’s noticeable that there’s an effort to hire and retain a diverse workforce.

 

 

Tiffany Sipka
Engineering Manager • Handshake

 

Handshake is a career platform for college students to connect with employers.

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Handshake?

I took a nontraditional route into software after studying communications and business as an undergrad. Through a mix of self-taught and bootcamp learning, I pivoted to engineering to find a career where I could be continuously challenged and make a tangible impact. 

In each of my roles prior to Handshake, I was the only woman on my team, and I never saw a woman engineering manager within my department. Increasing representation immediately became a goal of mine and has been a motivating factor in my career. My career goals included: working my way to senior engineer, gaining the skills to pivot to people management, and becoming a successful engineering manager. I wanted to achieve these goals for myself and for the benefit of other engineers. I wanted other women to see people like themselves in these roles. 

I’m fortunate to have fulfilled these goals at Handshake, where I’ve benefited from the support of other amazing women engineers and managers. At Handshake, I’m not the only one that looks like me. I have a strong network of peers and leaders to learn from and support my own growth while I work to support the engineers I manage.

 

What benefits and professional development resources does Handshake offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?

I have benefited from strong mentorship and the eagerness of leaders to assist with my career development and exploration. As an individual contributor who had expressed interest in people management, my manager sought out opportunities for me to test out the position — allowing me to implement new team processes, take on more ownership and responsibility and eventually fill the role of intern manager for a summer. Upon becoming an engineering manager, I had access to even more professional development resources through one-on-one coaching as well as management and leadership group training programs Handshake offered. 

Handshake’s learning and development stipend has also enabled me to participate in virtual coaching sessions and conferences to learn from others in the field and find new ways to grow my skills. Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to personally work to support and elevate women and engineers from underrepresented groups through our pilot engineering sponsorship program. While the program’s first iteration is still underway, the enthusiastic support from leadership across the organization has been incredibly encouraging.

 

How has Handshake built an inclusive and equitable culture for women? 

Handshake focuses on equity and inclusion from the sourcing and hiring stage through career development. I believe this, coupled with our company values which celebrate diversity and empathy, creates an inclusive and equitable culture for women. 

My coworkers are highly motivated and encouraged to form employee communities and even some unofficial resource groups to support each other. I love participating in the numerous women and nonbinary engineer Slack channels — they are incredibly special spaces created to support and celebrate the achievements of my peers.

I love participating in the numerous women and nonbinary engineer Slack channels — they are incredibly special spaces.

 

 

Fadwa EZ-ZGHARI
Marketing Associate • Publica LLC

 

Publica is an ad server for streaming platforms.

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Publica?

My current goal is to acquire more knowledge in the connected TV industry which will help me level up my skills and move forward in my career in marketing and comms. 

Joining the team at Publica allowed me to explore different facets of marketing like project management, social media, event planning, PR, communication and more. This ability to work cross-functionally with all departments is helping me fulfill my goals to develop new skillsets, strengthen my management skills and refine my storytelling. It’s also letting me step up and succeed, or fail, and this not only builds my resilience but gives me the energy to move forward and take on new professional challenges. 

Being in such a stimulating environment and working with experienced, talented and inspiring people from different backgrounds will certainly push me to work hard and go that extra mile for my team and to grow on personal and professional levels.

 

What benefits and professional development resources does Publica offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?

Publica provides equal opportunity for women to advance and progress in their careers through leadership development programs as well as tools and resources to actively manage and advance in their careers opening up opportunities for professional and personal progress. 

Publica is constantly ensuring equal representation of women in our industry by providing speaking opportunities for women, paid parental leave, professional development opportunities, and flexible work arrangements.

 

Actions Publica Has Taken to Promote Gender Equality

  • Defining an internal and external diversity and inclusion strategy.
  • Improving women’s opportunities for career growth.
  • Implementing awareness-raising actions for its employees such as internal and external communication campaigns, integration day, professional equality trainings and workshops.
  • Establishing partnerships with women associations to promote diversity and advocate for women’s rights.
  • Evaluating and monitoring results or improvements through testing, reporting or internal analysis.

 

 

Julie Veltman
Head of Finance • Anchorage Digital

 

Anchorage Digital is a crypto platform offering integrated financial services and infrastructure for institutions.

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Anchorage Digital?

As the leader of the finance team at Anchorage Digital, I have the opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done before at a rapidly growing company. Blockchain technology has incredible potential to address the inefficiencies in the financial system. I love playing a part in re-imagining the evolution of the financial system. 

Day to day, I’m focused on scaling Anchorage Digital’s finance and accounting team and supporting our rapidly growing businesses. It’s an exciting challenge because we’re setting so many precedents in this space. Clear accounting guidance does not exist for a lot of what we do, so we are establishing industry norms and standards. It’s impossible to ever be bored!

 

What benefits and professional development resources does Anchorage Digital offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?

One of the things I love about Anchorage is that we offer support to women in a way that is built into our cultural fabric — part of Anchorage’s overall commitment to making sure the team has what we need to thrive. That being said, there are several specific policies and resources that help women on our team grow in their careers with Anchorage.  

The first thing you’ll notice about our team is the number of women in leadership roles and a diverse group of leaders in the C-suite. We also have our former General Counsel Katie Biber, on our board. 

Our policies recognize the blend of challenges unique to women. Anchorage takes pay equity seriously with a transparent compensation philosophy that ensures pay discrimination doesn’t occur. Anchorage is a great combination of fast-paced and family friendly, with a flexible working schedule and a flexible paid time off policy. Anchorage offers generous paid parental leave, and a Snoo smart bassinet for new parents — those in the know swear by them. And we provide community for women, with an internal women’s resource group that helps us connect and network with each other.

Our policies recognize the blend of challenges unique to women.”

 

How has Anchorage Digital built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

Anchorage has a true one-team culture that encourages everyone to be authentic at work by speaking up and asking questions, or safely expressing an opinion that differs from the group. This contributes to an incredibly inclusive environment. The open, collaborative and supportive culture attracts talented women. I believe this is why I’m one of many women leaders here — something I hadn’t necessarily experienced earlier in my career.

Mentorship is fostered in our company-wide meetings each week and demonstrated by our transparent and accessible leaders. Managers are provided with leadership, training and tools to lead inclusive teams. Anchorage pairs everyone for one-on-one meetings to develop working relationships with people at all levels of the company — including the C-suite.

Women are represented in all departments and all levels of our company, from the executive team to new college grads, so there are many examples to follow. Women thrive in the workplace when they feel comfortable disagreeing, when they know they can go to their managers with questions or suggestions at any time and when they see strong, confident women in senior roles.

 

 

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Coco Hermes
Business Intelligence Analyst • Leyton

 

Leyton is a fintech consulting firm specializing in tax credits.

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Leyton?

I started with Leyton as a business development representative. I found the role challenging and rewarding, but I had studied business analytics in university and was finding the facets of the role that interested me the most were analyzing outreach statistics, researching potential market opportunities and streamlining sales processes. Management recognized this in me and allowed me to lead several side projects focused on defining best practices and piloting new processes. From there, I was given the opportunity to transition into a brand new role as business intelligence analyst, aligning my role and growth path with what I am most interested in and can contribute the most value.

 

What professional development resources does Leyton offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?

Leyton offers a wealth of resources for women’s professional development. In addition to supporting certifications, they provide ample opportunity to get involved in other facets of the business to explore your interests and to be involved in initiatives that you believe in. This enables employees to have a voice in areas of the business where they may have otherwise not have had the chance. Through Leyton’s active support and growth of an enterprising culture, I’ve seen many women colleagues transition into new roles they excel at as well as earn promotions.

 

How has Leyton built an inclusive and equitable culture for women? Share an example of what that looks like in action.

Women are very visible and well-represented in every tier of leadership, from executive to non-management, across every department. Seeing women routinely leading large teams, spearheading business-critical strategic initiatives and regularly earning promotions and recognition highlights the truly supportive and equitable culture of our company. A high standard of professionalism among employees ensures this culture is maintained.

Women are very visible and well-represented in every tier of leadership, from executive to non-management, across every department.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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Fintech • HR Tech