Silicon Valley companies have a reputation for not being diverse and there are more males in leadership roles, according to the Associate Dean of the undergraduate school of business Malu Roldan.
The Women in Leadership League, held in the Student Union Ballroom on Saturday, started as an accident when a few men on the panel couldn’t make it.
“We realized how inspiring [an all woman panel] was for our students,” Roldan said.
Roldan said she wanted to keep the event accessible to any interested student.
“It’s open to all genders. We can all learn from women leaders, and we can learn both how to improve our careers and how to be better allies for each other.”
If more women are trained to lead, the gender gap may shrink.
“It’s an opportunity to hopefully make those connections to make us part of diversifying the workforce in Silicon Valley,” Roldan said.
At 10 a.m., industry leaders spoke about leadership at an executive level, how to be heard, secure a place and effectively lead.
Speakers at the panel discussed what it meant to be a female leader and how to raise one’s voice and speak up to secure a position.
The hosts included Erica Gladden, VP of Market Strategy for Cisco Systems; Kara Long, VP and General Manager Service Providers for HP Enterprise; and Suja Viswesan, Director of Engineering at Linkedin. All spoke on the panel.
The panel was followed by a speed-mentoring session.
From 1 to 2:30 p.m., a networking event titled Birds of a Feather was hosted by Cisco Chief of Staff Varsha Kanwar “My charter is to find opportunities for women in Cisco to connect, share and network with women across the Bay Area,” Kanwar said.
“Networking has a negative connotation, especially for women,” Kanwar said.
She said they could have children at home or other things happening, and networking could be frowned upon as schmoozing.
“It’s not so much about hunting it’s more about farming. It’s about nurturing those relationships and meaningful effective impactful connections for yourself and for business,” Kanwar said.
Many students were able to make useful connections at the conference.
“I’ve really wanted to volunteer at a local hospital and I found a representative from Kaiser Permanente,” biomedical engineering sophomore Hannah Adams said. “I got her information and she was able to get me set up with volunteering there on the weekends,” Adams said.
Some male students attended the event as if it were a normal business conference. Fenil Shukla said he learned,“the power of voice, initiative, and being a good negotiator.”
Shukla is an engineering graduate student who said the conference was helpful for him. “Go explore opportunity, be patient, and don’t give up,” Shukla said.
The leadership conference included a LinkedIn executive panelist.
“If I’m okay, you’ll be okay too,” Viswesan said.
Viswesan recalls when she was a student at a networking event looking for a job like many attendees.
“I was in San Jose State working on my master’s degree looking for a job, and then the economy collapsed in 2001 and I was totally down,” Viswesan said.
Viswesan worked at IBM while she was a teacher’s assistant at San Jose State. When she graduated she found herself being helped by contacts she had made in the past.
“All of my career decisions were taken when I was not in a role, and that could have happened only because I was building these networks as I went through that,” Viswesan said.
Her advice to students who are searching for a job was, “You have to balance between ‘I’m so cocky’ and ‘I’m so desperate.’”