for its importance in the industry, I think”. Working with the US State Dept. and helping deliver the first ever DEMO Africa; and meeting Hilary Clinton in Washington DC, were Lee’s highlights last year. Microsoft continues to make big investments in programs and efforts to support Startups in 2013; and “we’re working on some really exciting things to be unveiled soon,” she says. Simultaneously, Lee is also embarking on her own special project – as she gave birth to her new baby son, “perhaps a future software entrepreneur,” Benjamin William Lee at Stanford Hospital on April 3. “I love the work we do, and I’m looking forward to going back in a few months. In the meantime, I’ll be focused on family and of course keeping up with all the industry news while Ben sleeps!” she says. “We are seeing some incredible innovation both out of Silicon Valley and in every major startup cluster around the globe – and indeed in some parts of the world that you’d not normally associate with ideas and innovation! It’s a really exciting time,” she reveals. Startups have a much lower cost of market entry and can build out a prototype in record time, for very little upfront cost, she says. “Just look at Startup Weekend to see examples of what can be created in 54 hours and how many people are taking ideas further now that mobile and cloud services are so pervasive. Entrepreneurs have access to so much advice via community networks now, both online and offline, so they can iterate on an idea, they can pivot (i.e. change and improve their idea several times), they can get grants, find cofounders, join one of thousands of accelerators, and crowdsource funding.” “The whole model has shifted in the five years or so I’m in this space at Microsoft. Both for technology platforms, with consumer and business “solutions”, with financing, and with distribution and customer acquisition. It’s a great time to start a business,” she enthuses.
Women in Leadership Women make great leaders, every day of the week, she believes, and “sometimes our leadership is unnoticed or degraded as menial.
It’s a huge pity our work in the home and our ability to manage so much overall in life, is not recognized in the manner it should be. It’s also about balance. If women are not represented, there is something missing. Often this can be dangerous. Where women are involved, companies are shown to be more profitable. It’s not a ‘diversity’ agenda at all. It’s simple economics.” Lee has been fortunate to work for IBM and Microsoft, which have both strived for diversity and inclusion.
attempting to change things. But then, we always had activists. Women are still underrepresented and that in itself causes an imbalance – potential is just not being realized. I’d love to think that by the time my now three-year-old daughter Natasha graduates, she may choose a career in tech and see a very equal and fair platform for her to thrive. Unfortunately I do not see that occurring. Too many things would need to shift quite radically for that to be possible,” Lee comments. From the culture of discrimination in the workplace, issues of [un]equal pay, women having to assume and juggle far too much at work and at home – risking burnout and then opting out of the rat race due to stress – these factors together are all barriers to success, she believes. “I also detect mainstream and widespread, deep-rooted societal attitudes to “women in positions of power”. Basically a good proportion of people still believe that pursuing a career and choosing to commit oneself to a rewarding vocation in industry, is an “unnatural act” and against the grain of how we are wired, and what role we really should be fulfilling. This last one – I just don’t buy it. But then I am part of the generation that assumed it was OK to choose this (work and family) path – and of course, we are surprised when we meet this wave of dissent and criticism.”
“We are seeing some incredible innovation both out of Silicon Valley and in every major startup cluster around the globe – and indeed in some parts of the world that you’d not normally associate with ideas and innovation! It’s But there is hope. a really exciting time.” Ultimately, having policies for ‘affirmative action’ is useful but you really need action and the right attitudes embedded in the company DNA. Unless your culture supports this agenda for equality, for balance and inclusion then you may not see any positive outcomes. People in leadership need to ‘walk the walk’. Policies are nothing without implementation in the workplace every day, everywhere,” she says. Women remain underrepresented in the tech sector and she admits that nothing has really changed since her time at IBM between 1994 and 1997, and her time now in the Bay Area. “I wish I could say differently. Certainly our perspective has changed and now we have role models that are speaking out and
If advising young women who are attracted to careers in the technology sector, she advises them that “whatever path you follow, stay true to your passion and skills. Do something you love. If you love it, chances are you are good at it too. If you are drawn to the tech industry, or to a specific function and field, do not be scared off by statistics or by stories of ‘laddish culture’. That is everywhere, regardless of sector.” “The truth is that every industry is male dominated. I don’t know one that is immune from the same issues. So, tech has its fair share of cringeworthy moments. So what? It’s also a really exciting industry and full of infinite possibilities for everyone, regardless of background or gender.” “Get in there, and build something. Change something,” she adds.
Silicon Valley Global Magazine