The Unseen Moments of the Women 2.0 Awards

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“Look around you and you’ll see something Women 2.0 has always known. There are many sides to Silicon Valley,” Shaherose Charania, CEO & Co-founder of Women 2.0.

By Jessica Schimm (Digital Audience Engagement Lead, Women 2.0)

Just moments after the Chief Technology Officer of the United States Megan Smith accepted Women 2.0’s Unstoppable Award, she greeted three girls from the audience, two of them just 9 years old. The former Vice President of Google[x] who President Obama appointed as CTO in September 2014 had just received a standing ovation in front of the sold-out crowd at the Women 2.0 Awards. The girls were getting to meet one of tech’s most influential women.

As daughters of women who work in tech at Nest/Twitter and Cowboy Ventures, these girls are no strangers to STEM. Yoky Matsuoka and Aileen Lee — both recognized for their contributions at the inaugural Women 2.0 Awards — each brought their daughters to experience the evening.

A small crowd gathered around as Smith kneeled down to ask the girls if they wanted to go to the White House to see what the CTO of the United States does every day. They smiled and nodded.

That exchange, between the CTO of the United States and three elementary school girls, is exactly why we do what we do at Women 2.0.

Why It Was Time for the Women 2.0 Awards

The goal of all our events is to spark life-changing opportunities for everyone in technology, no matter their age, gender or skin color. Our programs and blog aim to connect innovators, technologists and game-changers so they can inspire and propel each other’s careers.

For the last 8 years, Women 2.0 has hosted an two annual conferences a year and for the last three, half of those have been on Valentine’s Day; 2015 marks the first year we put on an Awards Ceremony instead of a conference in February which offered a different way to highlight the other side of the tech industry, one that isn’t always in the spotlight.

In the fast-paced world of tech, we wanted to take a moment and recognize innovators and those funding innovation for their achievements, talents and leadership.

"It just felt like the right time to notice the change," Shaherose Charania, Co-founder & CEO of Women 2.0 said in an interview with Inc. "It will always feel like there's not enough of us."

The Tech Industry Talks

After an opening networking reception, Charania greeted more than 400 men and women in tech. Attendees followed a pink carpet to fill a room that glowed pink.

“Look around you and you’ll see something Women 2.0 has always known. There are many sides to Silicon Valley.”

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Throughout the night, 35 awards were given to those in the industry, including investors, founders, companies whose culture prioritizes health and inclusivity, accelerators that have high diversity rates, engineering visionaries, trailblazers, those who are illuminating the tech industry in media and more.

*See the complete list of winners.*

Throughout the night, honorees shared words of wisdom they live by and some even gave us insights on their company values, including Christine Tsai, from 500 Startups.

“[500 Startups] is trying to do what we think is right, which is investing in more women, having women on the other side of the table writing checks,” Tsai told the audience after accepting the Women 2.0 Accelerant Award with Dave McClure. Share quote.

Paula Long, founder of DataGravity quoted herself, (which got many cheers), and honoree of the Women 2.0 Impact Builder award said: “Worried about the glass ceiling? Build your own house. You can make the ceiling out of whatever you want.” Share quote. See the complete album of shareable photo quotes

Lara Hogan, Senior Engineer at Etsy, quoted Grace Hopper when accepting the Women 2.0 Culture Creator Award telling the audience, "The most dangerous phrase in the language is 'we've always done it this way.'" Share quote.

And after being greeted with a standing ovation, Megan Smith, the recipient of the Women 2.0 Unstoppable Award, elaborated on the tech scene inside the White House, describing the technical teams as entrepreneurial, and encouraged the audience to think further than Silicon Valley when they think about where to bring their tech skills next.

”...I encourage you to consider joining the VA, or joining the immigration team or state department,” Smith said. “Think in your career - when you’re going to come serve the country with your skills.”

This certainly got attendees thinking about their second act.

How the Women 2.0 Mission Impacts the Global Economy

Numerous companies got behind the Women 2.0 Awards with varying levels of sponsorship; GE Ventures was one of them.

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“When I was thinking about the Trailblazers we’re honoring tonight,” said Amy DuRoss who presented the Trailblazer Award on behalf of GE. “ I was overwhelmed with the power of their imagination - their activated imagination - and that’s really what we try to emulate, what we try to empower at GE Ventures.”

Andrea Soto, Chief of Staff to the President of Operations of Technology at MasterCard, (our presenting sponsor), told the audience that supporting Women 2.0 has been the company’s first effort in finding, growing and keeping women in technology.

“At the end of the day, we are focused on growing the talent pipeline and inspiring girls at young ages so that they get a different view of what technology looks like,” Soto said.

Lyft, Samsung Accelerator, OpenTable, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, KPMG, Pandora and Etsy were also among our list of sponsors who helped make the night possible (we are so grateful for all of your support).

So, what’s bringing these companies to Women 2.0? Today, it’s not only “trendy”, but a clear competitive advantage to diversify your company’s workforce - so much so that you can now hire consultants to help diversify your company for a hefty price tag.

The companies are also looking outward and realize that through Women 2.0 they can be a part of a movement that drives new ideas and new people to launch the next set of disruptive companies. These new innovators will become leaders they will eventually hire to lead departments or even acquire. This tech ecosystem is generated by collaborative new ideas; new faces behind those new ideas enhance the industry even more.

Global companies such as GE, MasterCard and others, are helping amplify the work of Women 2.0  to communities across the globe through exposure and by bringing Women 2.0 City Meetups to countries outside of the United States such as Canada, Latin America and Europe. Thus working together is not a transaction, its partnership, a true win-win.

Today’s women-owned firms translate into 23 million jobs, according to a 2009 study from the Center for Women’s Business Research.

And a recent article in Forbes points out that in the US alone, there are more than 9 million businesses owned by women and “Together, those companies generate nearly $1.5 trillion in revenue each year.”

Our goal is to help boost those numbers in the tech sector, and while there’s been good progress made, we want to see those numbers continue to grow.

It All Starts With the Right Exposure

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Two of the three girls that spoke with Megan Smith during the Women 2.0 Awards night were the twin daughters of Yoky Matsuoka, former computer science professor, Nest VP and current Vice President of Technology and Analytics at Twitter. According to Matsuoka, both daughters are interested in STEM but are still uncertain about the exact career in STEM is that they want.

“One of the things I felt strongly as I was sitting there with them was: what can we all be doing now so that when these children (I call Women 3.0) grow up, they can feel okay to do anything they want without implicit or explicit barriers. It is our job to be a role model. And it is our job to confront problems and make them better.”

Attendee Everett Harper, Co-founder & CEO of Tetherpad said he would be bringing his daughter next year.

“The Women 2.0 Awards combines the ease of family reunion and being slightly star-struck. Next year, I'm bringing my 9 year old daughter because she needs to see this amazing collection of women and know she can be one of them someday.”

Women 2.0 knows the importance of leaders to look aspire to. In a recent interview Shaherose said, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” and so we’re going to continue to illuminate and shine light on the less visible perspectives, projects and people in technology.

*All photos were taken by Elvina Beck.


About the author: Jessica Schimm (@JessicaSchimm) works on all things digital at Women 2.0. Before joining Women 2.0 she earned her BA in journalism, interned at SF's premier culture magazine 7x7 and was the editor-in-chief of Her Campus San Francisco. She likes to dance-walk home after work.