By Cheechee Lin
A full house gathered for the annual UCLA Anderson Women’s Leadership Summit, which convened under the theme Velocity. In quick but thoughtful succession, speakers and panelists took the stage for engaged and interactive programming, including breakout sessions and keynote panels.
Alumna Jane Bove (EMBA ’01), director of partner solutions at Microsoft, moderated a panel addressing gender imbalances in the tech industry. It featured Kira Makagon, EVP of innovation at RingCentral; Kelly Merryman, VP of content partnerships at YouTube; Courtney Montpas, West Coast regional GM of Hired Inc.; and Amanda Reed, founder and partner at Authentic Partners.
With a passion for women in tech, Bove engages in recruiting at universities, mentoring and chairing retention events. She is an active supporter for girls’ education with the Kiran Anjali Project and Hour of Code. All five women have made an impact in the tech industry. They related poignant experiences and cautionary tales, but kept the momentum with upbeat conclusions. Makagon’s summation was: “Tech is fun! You have the opportunity to experience (innovations) ahead of everybody. But only go into tech because you genuinely like it — not because it pays well or because it’s trendy.”
Reed remarked that “Tech is a tremendous opportunity for all people who bring diversity to the industry. In the chaos lies the opportunity — and in an industry that has this much chaos, it leaves the room for you to make your mark.”
Bove posed the panelists a question that triggered extremely subjective responses from the panelists. “We all have had those impostor syndrome moments in our careers,” she said, “where we feel as though we’re in a position we don’t deserve. Can you speak to a personal mistake in your career, and how you overcame it?”
“I used to have two Kellys,” said Merryman, “a professional Kelly and a personal Kelly. I thought that keeping these two segregated made people trust me more. Rather, it kept me from being loved. I needed to be able to not have to carry the baggage from the day into my home. Also, I had to figure out that I shouldn’t be afraid to state my opinion.”
Reed said, “Make sure to make great choices in your life partnership. Is the person willing to support your career? Luckily, we have the chance to have ‘practice marriages,’” she joked. “In all seriousness, though, as a rising exec, I was often the youngest and only woman in the room. It takes a while to come into your sense of feminine power.”
Women occupy somewhere below 30 percent of all tech jobs, a sharp drop from the 1980s and ’90s. Montpas declared, “We need to help each other out. We need sister wives!”