Harita Yenisetty, Senior Engineering Manager at eBay, is a woman who has succeeded in tech. Having spent over 10 years at eBay and playing a lead role in projects such as the development of eBay’s Live Auctions, Yenisetty holds a unique insight into the role women are playing in technical positions within Silicon Valley.
Yenisetty talked to editor Ellie Burns about the role of women in tech – from barriers and challenges faced to her own personal journey with eBay.
EB: What was your perception of the technology industry before you made the choice to enter the sector?
HY: IT was a booming industry and almost ready to burst when I joined the tech sector. There were very few people that I knew in this industry and I was the first in my family to enter the tech sector. Even with lots of unknowns, I was ready to take a risk and pursue my education in technology.
EB: What made you decide on a career in tech?
HY: While I was completing my masters, I learned about databases and client server technology. During my internship at a defense firm, I was excited about how I was able to build an application and how it was helping the firm simplify their job. This made me believe that the opportunities tech are endless and hence solidified my choice to continue in this area.
EB: Technology is still seen as a stereotypically ‘male’ career – were you aware of this stereotype on entering the profession and did it result in any obstacles?
HY: I started my career in India. When I entered the workplace, the ratio of male to female workers was pretty much identical to any non-tech sector. I did, however, observe that there were women in leadership roles and this helped me realize that the prospects for career growth in tech for women.
I was lucky to have my first boss really believed in talent and not in gender. He was very encouraging and gave opportunities to grow, and as such, I got a lead role within just 1.5 years into my career.
EB: There is still a huge disparity between females and males when it comes to learning STEM. Why do you think this is?
HY: The disparity is influenced by the environment and lack of support that women get in these professions. There are also cultural stereotypes that prevent women from pursuing STEM career choices and often these biases start at early childhood right from the choice of the toys that girls are given to play with.
EB: How can we tackle this disparity and get more girls into the profession?
HY: This issue needs to be addressed right from the childhood. We need girls to have equal exposure to STEM related activities to inspire them to develop interest in STEM. This encouragement should start at home with parents and the family providing a conducive environment.
Schools and teachers need to facilitate opportunities that inspire learning and innovation. At corporate level, organizations should provide awareness and mentoring to sustain the careers for women in this profession.
EB: Looking to the c-level, again there is a disparity between females and males at board level. How can we get more women to the top of tech?
HY: I believe women have the perception that it is tough to get to the c-level, which is natural given that men had been dominating at all levels in all sectors including tech. At same time, there are a number of women like Sheryl Sandberg, Meg Whitman and Marissa Meyer who are very successful at these c-level positions and are adept in managing their career and personal life.
An awareness of these successes are great motivation for women to continue moving towards c-level status. Mentoring is one of the best way to navigate through the career path. Corporations need to have vested interests and strategies that promote women in c-level positions.
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