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Women Heroes in Tech: The Best Kept Secrets of Silicon Valley

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If you Google "women in tech," it's likely that the same 5-10 women will pop up in your search results. These hyper-visible women (Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Susan Wojcicki, to name a few) have become the poster girls of women leaders in Silicon Valley. They're great at what they do, and they certainly act as role models for women interested in breaking into tech. While creating a group of superstars serves its purpose, I fear that seeing the same faces repeatedly gives the impression that they're the only women succeeding in Silicon Valley, when in reality, exceptional women leaders are not as hard to find as one might think!

As CEO of Watermark, I'm constantly surrounded by powerful, razor-sharp women who support one another as well as the women within their organizations by encouraging them to advance, take advantage of opportunities, and make the right career choices.

In highlighting the women below, I seek to widen the pool of female heroes in tech. They might not have a huge PR machine behind them, but these women have truly made their mark on the professional landscape in Silicon Valley. They're role models in terms of what they've achieved for their businesses, themselves and in terms of their support for other women. Each of these women has a unique approach to championing women in their industry, but they all share something in common: the ability to contribute and foster positive, inclusive cultures in the companies they work for.

Kimberly DeCarlis, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Citrix Systems

"The Citrix culture is one based on inclusion and opportunity for everyone -- women and men across diverse backgrounds are what make Citrix unique and special. In fact, in speaking with many of the women here, it is no surprise that they want to stand on their merits, not their high heels! Women at all levels want to be recognized not because they are women, but because they are really great at what they do, whether that's marketing, product design, engineering, finance or HR. At the end of the day, we all want opportunity. It's so motivating and inspiring to see that rewards, recognition and advancement are based on merit, and on driving great outcomes for Citrix.

One of the key ways to support this culture is embrace it every day. For example, the recognition programs on my team are based on merit... we share publicly what people have done to support the company's goals, and we focus on outcomes. It's also important to lead by example. My leadership team and I socialize ideas with stakeholders across the company, and share this approach with the broader team. This includes asking for help -- ranging from getting a new project moving, to dealing with constraints, to solving a problem -- and when leadership shows they don't always have the answers and need help, it makes it acceptable for others to do the same. When we hire, we look to find the best person for the job and as a result have built a team that has incredible diversity, along a number of spectrums -- gender, ethnicity, lifestyle, age. Our culture thrives because there is opportunity for everyone."

Judith Sim, Chief Marketing Officer, Oracle

"A major part of our company culture here at Oracle is allowing employees to drive and take responsibility for initiatives that matter to them. The Oracle Women's Leadership (OWL) group actually started as a grassroots organization -- employees developed it as an organization they could leverage, and it's been astounding to watch it develop into a global corporate program in such a short amount of time.

Being active in groups like OWL sets a positive example for everyone in the organization to work toward diversity and overall accountability. Participating in those conversations and being visible are very important when you're leading. When there's an OWL program coming up, I send personal email notes to teammates and peers, letting them know about the program and that I'll be there. Encouraging others to join in makes it easier for them to participate, and it does a lot to boost confidence levels.

Often, half the room is from my own organization because I've sent those invitations out. I get so much satisfaction out of seeing them speaking out and participating, getting a chance to be visible in that dialogue. The first thing I see is their confidence grow, and over time, I hope this sets an example for other organizations.

Sometimes it seems difficult to maintain this behavior because -- let's face it -- we're all super busy! However, it's so important to keep building that 'pay it forward' culture. I continuously see the leadership at Oracle do it, which makes it easier for me to do to maintain. My hope is that in turn, it becomes easier for other managers as well."

Maya Strelar-Migotti, Vice President of IP and Broadband Development, Ericsson

"One of the key principles of our culture at Ericsson is diversity. To us, diversity means male and female, people of all nationalities, backgrounds, and beliefs. It's critical for us to strengthen that, and I'm pleased to see that more and more companies in Silicon Valley are starting to pay attention and take steps toward a better balance. Research shows that more diverse teams lead to better governance and a higher return on investment, which is exactly what we want here at Ericsson.

I couldn't be more excited to observe that since I arrived here about two and half years ago, the leadership at Ericsson in Silicon Valley has increased greatly. We now have six female vice presidents, not to mention several director-level women leaders.

For a long time, I've been an active mentor for talented director-level women within Ericsson who want to move further up. It's important to take a hands-on approach, giving upcoming women the tools and advice necessary to get them to the next level. At Ericsson, we've begun a program called "Women in Leadership" to help members achieve their career goals through networking, best practices, career development, and balancing their work and personal lives.

Often, women executives have such a busy schedule -- sometimes helping others goes to the bottom of the priority list. You have to keep in mind that by helping develop women leaders in your company, you're making it stronger. More women at the top -- and more diversity overall -- is a goal we should constantly reach for, especially in our industry."

Company Culture Is Key

Each of these women are supported by the companies they work for, and it's important to keep in mind that they don't take that support for granted -- they work hard to shape it, contribute to it, and lead by example. Maya, Kim, and Judy are true champions of talent, diversity, and merit -- they would bring these qualities to the table at any organization!

Who are the role models in your company? What do they do to champion other women leaders in tech? How do they support and contribute to a positive company culture?

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