Female models in Tech - a conversation with Chenxi Wang

Jane Bond is the female version of the very famous James Bond, a woman standing out in a field dominated by (manly) heroes saving the world. That’s what Chenxi Wang had in mind when she founded the Jane Bond Project -- “to be someone who comes in and saves the world, whatever that world looks like”, as she put it.

Dr. Wang started her career as a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Virginia. She was Vice President of Strategy at Intel Security, Vice President of Research at Forrester, and the Chief Strategy Officer at Twistlock. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors at the Open Web Application Security Project.

This year, she founded Rain Capital, a venture fund that focuses on providing capital, strategy, critical resources and unique insights to early-stage cybersecurity companies in Silicon Valley. It is worth mentioning that this is the first cyber investment firm with an all-female partner team. A major point of interest for the company is to boost funding to women-led organizations.

Last week we had an exciting opportunity to speak to Dr. Wang and find out more about her efforts to support women in cybersecurity and technology. Our guests were leaders from the innovation and IT ecosystems in Romania, including several partners from the Everygirl Everywhere Alliance (such as Codette and Girls who Code), strategic partners like First Tech Challenge, and representatives of IT companies associated with the EE Alliance who focus on digital strategies and gender diversity. We also had the chance to speak to officials from the legal sector who provided insight regarding several of the challenges faced, as well as the need for change with regard to public policies and regulations.

We introduced Dr. Wang to EveryGirl Everywhere, an SEE project with the objective to encourage more women to participate in tech and digital. She appreciated the initiative and revealed that out of the 6 companies that Rain Capital has funded so far, 3 of them have female founders. However, only 11% of people working in cybersecurity are women. The one hour discussion focused on the main challenges that women face in the tech industry, as well as opportunities for action.


What are the challenges women face in cyber security, tech & IT?


Stereotypes (why is the “IT guy” always a guy?)

First of all, there is a certain stereotyped self-image for girls and women working in IT  that is in conflict with what society and pop culture are projecting as successful and desirable. We often perceive the “IT person” as a  “guy” in a hoodie, working alone from a remote dark place. This is a picture that often does not appeal to a woman’s definition of a successful career. But this is actually rarely the case.

So what can we do to change certain stereotypes? We must first understand what software development and hacking really mean. We can support young girls and women, and change some of the stereotype perceptions by switching the spotlight on what they can actually achieve by working in tech and IT. One thing is certain -- there is (more than enough) room in tech for everyone!

The employer’s perspective (are there any benefits for them?)

Secondly, a challenge from the employer’s perspective is motherhood. Although studies suggest that people who have kids are more productive, there is still a false belief that working moms are less involved or less present at work.

How can we change that? The first step is  to (once more) change our perspective. We must all understand that having a child will not slow us down at work, and does not mean that we have to take an (extended) break from the professional life. Still, when the baby is born or is still very young,  we want to have a society that encourages a fine balance between work and personal life, and that encourages parenthood, especially motherhood. Mandatory paternity leave would make it easier for the mother to go back to work, and would also provide the father with precious time with his children. This is becoming more common in Romania and is a profound change in our society. This change is hopefully here to stay, as studies suggest that taking paternity leave is related to fathers becoming more involved with the baby, and in the long run, to the overall wellbeing of the family. Most importantly, the development of children's cognitive skills also seem to benefit from this change.

We could be more active in promoting a part time or job-sharing policy  that would enable women to participate in the job market while being a mother, as well as working certain days remotely. Companies like Google and Facebook encourage this working model.

Another concept is that of kindergartens or daycares within companies, an idea that is becoming more common worldwide. This way, children are well taken care of and can be visited anytime, not to mention the time saved not having to drive and drop-off/pick-up the child up from another location. There are several advantages for both the employee the employer:

  • Increased productivity
  • Emotional security and increased employee happiness
  • Retention of employees and job attractiveness levels
  • Assuring the employees that they are important to the company

First of all, there is the economic factor: companies need skilled employees, and the jobs of the future are mostly automated and rely on techskills. More women participating in the IT workforce would benefit companies and help reduce the skills gap in the job market.

Secondly, productivity and diversity go hand in hand: the shift in perspective brought on by a more balanced team (and a more gender-balanced company, overall) translates into better solutions, higher efficiency, and increased productivity with happier employers, employees, and clients.

Linda Haas & C. Philip Hwang (2008) The Impact of Taking Parental Leave on Fathers’ Participation In Childcare And Relationships With Children: Lessons from Sweden, Community, Work & Family, 11:1, 85-104, DOI: 10.1080/13668800701785346

Sakiko Tanaka & Jane Waldfogel (2007) EFFECTS OF PARENTAL LEAVE AND WORK HOURS ON FATHERS’ INVOLVEMENT WITH THEIR BABIES, Community, Work & Family, 10:4, 409-426, DOI: 10.1080/13668800701575069

Matthias Krapf, Heinrich W. Ursprung, Christian Zimmermann, Parenthood and productivity of highly skilled labor: Evidence from the groves of academe, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Volume 140, 2017, Pages 147-175, ISSN 0167-2681, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2017.05.010.


Join Volunteer Contact