Inspirational Woman April 2015: Adriana Gascoigne

AdrianaGascoigne-copyAdriana Gascoigne is the Founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, a non-profit organization, launched in February 2007 devoted to empower, educate, and mentor women in the tech industry across over 47 chapters internationally.

No stranger to growing brands and building amazing companies, Adriana has also served in Executive roles at RxMatch, (VP of Product Marketing)  and QwikCart, (CMO), Ogilvy & Mather (VP of Digital – Intel), and SecondMarket (VP of Marketing) , the largest secondary trading platform, where she was responsible for branding strategy, event production and digital media efforts.

Gascoigne has not only worked in the technology start-up space for companies like, Indiegogo, Roost, Algentis,, Swyft, ImpulseFlyer, Vitagene, Poliwogg, hi5 (Tagged), SocialGamingNetwork (SGN), Jambool’s SocialGold (Google) and GUBA, but also serves as a Strategic Advisor. Jetway, StartupStockExchange, Involver (Oracle), Numiyo Technologies, Palindrome Advisors, CharityBlossom, DooChoo, and are some of the organizations she has had her hand in.

In 2009, Adriana launched SmittenWithMittens, which is now The YOUniform Project, a philanthropic program providing fair trade uniforms and educational resources to children in developing countries. She is also the founder of HelpLearn.Asia, an eLearning platform for small and medium-sized businesses in Singapore.

Adriana holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Economics from the University of California at Davis, received a certification from El Tecnologico de Monterrey in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and participated in Semester at Sea, University of Pittsburgh in 1997. Adriana is also fluent in Spanish.

Girls in Tech, The state of women in technology

1) Girls in Tech your brain child. Why did we need such an entity today?

Reinvesting in the community which fosters STEM education for young girls is fundamental in helping build confidence, provide exposure and excitement around an industry that is traditionally very male dominated. Teaching fun, interactive workshops that inspire girls to ask questions and drive interest in technical fields is the key – Girls in Tech has created several programs such as the Global Classroom, which teaches girls how to code and design websites, iPhone/Android app building workshops, Microsoft 101, which provides an overview on how to use basic Office programs, business plan building/product launch workshops, GIT Tech-Shadowing giving girls an opportunity to hang out at a high-tech company or a start up for a day or our Girls in Tech Summer Camp, offering field trips to tech museums, workshops, tech companies, etc.

2) Why do you think there is a new wave of awareness for women in technology?

Now that we have the data, analytic and psychological studies surrounding the inequality that women versus men face in the workplace – pay, promotions, how they are treated, etc. – we need to do something about it! We actually have to hold companies, executives and employees accountable with policies that encourage respect and friendly, productive, and supportive work environments. Companies should be encouraged and rewarded when they publish data surrounding diversity and promote the programs that they are launching as a result of that data. For instance, Facebook and LinkedIn just implemented a program to encourage more female developers and engineers to apply for jobs. They are instituting a process which is focused on creating an environment and training programs where women can thrive and climb up the ladder if they choose to do so.

Another huge change is the number of profit and non-profit organizations that have been launched specifically focused on empowering and educating women to become leaders. Universities rarely teach EQ or soft skills, including leadership skills so this, in addition to confidence-building, is very important for women who are just as smart or smarter than men, but tend to be more timid or less likely to tout their accomplishments and speak up during meetings.

Joining and organization like Girls in Tech will enable like-minded, powerful women in the tech industry to learn and grow with each other and provide role models and specific skills that can help them excel both professionally and personally.

3) Technology is how we live. Would you agree that women cannot afford to be out of the loop? Do you think women have the same advantage as men or face different challenges?

Women face different challenges due to the fact that the “brogrammer” culture is present not only at start ups but also at large, high-tech corporations and venture capital firms (old boys club). The notion that women can feel fully comfortable, productive and assimilate in an environment that is primarily created and orchestrated by men does not exist (there are exceptions, however). There are unconscious biases that are present in the fabric of day-to-day interactions in the workplace, including the way people of different genders communicate with one another, recruitment tactics, balance of idea- sharing during meetings, sponsors (vs. mentors) in the workplace. Some initiatives that can help level the playing field include:

• Training programs
• Pipeline and Company Culture
• Diversity reporting and datatracking
• Flexible work-life environments and politics
• Leadership support and accountability
• Managerial/Executive training
• Productive team environments where all members can contribute

4) Can women have it all?

I think that women can have it all – career, relationship, family, social life – but “with help.”

It’s very challenging to juggle so many important things in ones life and do them all equally well. With help from a husband/partner, nanny, the company (childcare, etc.), a flexible work environment and policies makes it lot easier for women to manage a career and a family, successfully. The common multi-tasking woman also needs to release some of the tasks and responsibilities – not always feel obligated to take control of all of the domestic duties, childcare, etc. Delegating to a husband or partner can free up some of the time needed to focus on career or personal activities.

Check out the book “Getting to 50/50″

5) Tell us about the Global Classroom.

Girls in Tech’s online learning platform addresses the current and future representation of women in technology, entrepreneurship and STEM by providing learning communities in an environment with the attributes and technologies that females gravitate toward. Courses provided through Global Classroom (GC) will be delivered to women and girls around the world, across devices. It’s through the strength of socialization, networking, engagement and mentorship within a conducive environment that learners will obtain exceptional skills and knowledge in the technology, entrepreneurship and STEM fields. GC puts technology and entrepreneurship in context with project-based social learning in a global community. This is a holistic approach to inviting women and girls to take and define their roles in these fields. Of equal importance, by networking women and girls globally, we create diverse learning environments and outcomes crucial to understanding different cultural and political dynamics, which is key in preparing a future headed toward globalization.

Professional Journey

1) What are solutions to solving [gender] equality in the technology workforce?

a. Company culture consulting & Management training

b. Develop a series of training sessions and “culture consulting” to integrate activities, protocols, processes and elements into the workplace to help create a comfortable work environment fostering productive, creative and confident employees. Also, in a very male-dominated industry, it’s crucial to hold all management/executives accountable for their actions, words, and prioritize an ‘employee-first’ mentality, which means, the person comes before the business. This will teach executives how to act and respond in certain situations and invest time in fostering the personal and professional goals of each employee. This investment will increase company loyalty and productivity overall.

c. Minorities recruitment & education

d. Focusing on different methods, mediums and channels to recruit minorities, which does not only mean ‘women’ rather women of all races and people of all races. It’s a fundamental flaw in Silicon Valley’s infrastructure – white men building products for white men. Reinforcing diversity in the tech workforce is crucial in terms of comprehensive product development, creating a corporate culture that encourages equality, creativity and balance.

c. Others:

• Technical training programs for women and minorities interested in entering in to the tech workforce
• Programs that focus on exposing and engaging youth to STEM-related fields
• Upper Management, HR and Executive training programs to help in establishing a fair, equal, supportive and collaborative culture while focusing on creative hiring ! tactics to not only increase workplace diversity but also retain it.

Personal Journey

1) You are a born leader. Who instilled this in you?

My Mom and Dad. They supported every activity, new skill, new adventure that I wanted to go on, or random place that I wanted to travel to. I believe that this exposure help fulfill my social curiosity, build my EQ and socialize me in a way that I didn’t realize at the time. As entrepreneurs, they taught me that starting a company, leading a team of people is hard work and one needs to earn their team’s respect by leading by example. They instilled a risk-takers mentality in me. ‘If you don’t try then you’ll never know how far you can go; stretch your boundaries to become a better person professionally and personally.’; ’Fail, fail fast and learn from your mistakes.’

The most important part of being a leader is integrity.

2) What motivates you?

a. Making a sustainable impact in the world by educating and empowering girls and women

b. Inspiring other people to think big,take risks and use their unique talents to achieve successful results

c. Extremely positive and happy people filled with gratitude while living simply

3) What is your advice for women who want to move up in the careers?

One word. Confidence. Also, a good sense of self (self-awareness) – knowing what you’re good at, what you love to do, what you’re passion about; really truly understanding what your purpose and passion is in life and fully embracing it – going for it! Understanding your ‘true north’ – following your moral compass, values.

• Build a personal advisory board
• Find a sponsor
• Proactive about training programs
• Take risks, challenges and opportunities
• Ask a LOT of questions

4) Finally, who has been your biggest role model?

Other than my Mom, Aung San Suu Kyi, opposition leader of Myanmar, has been the most important role model in my life.

Aung San Suu Kyi is an opposition leader in her home country of Myanmar and the winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Peace.

Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988, after years living and studying abroad, only to find widespread slaughter of protesters rallying against the brutal rule of dictator U Ne Win. She spoke out against him and initiated a nonviolent movement toward achieving democracy and human rights. In 1989, the government placed Suu Kyi under house arrest, and she spent 15 of the next 21 years in custody. In 1991, her ongoing efforts won her the Nobel Prize for Peace, and she was finally released from house arrest in November 2010.

Aung San Suu Kyi has become a model for many women since she represents the perfect example of an empowered woman. She uses her power to lead a movement to obtain freedom and human rights for her people. Moreover, she has proven many times that whatever threats are against her, she still stands for her country.

Source: san-suu-kyi-9192617#synopsis

Despite all the challenges she has faced, Aung San Suu Kyi has kept fighting for what is right. For this reason, she has become an international symbol of resistance against oppression and such a powerful woman worldwide. She has used this power, and still does, to rally men and women to make our world a better place, as she did rallying different ethnic groups in Burma, despite differences that kept them divided historically. The key to her success is the fearlessness that she expresses when she says: “It is not power that corrupts, but fear.”