#BreakTheBias: Tech Lessons by Women Product Leaders

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias, so we’re celebrating some of the fantastic women in Product who smash biases every day.

Even though the tech industry has been made great strides in its DE&I initiatives, women still make up 28% of STEM jobs. This is often attributed to the ‘math anxiety’ being more predominant in women, a lack of role models in male-dominated fields (particularly a lack of intersectional female models), and the impression that STEM jobs are ‘masculine’.

There is also a lack of representation in leadership positions across the tech industry. When looking at talent, more white men appear as you get to the top of the pyramid in many organizations. In the US, there are more CEOs named John (5.3%) and David (4.5%) than there are female CEOs (4.1%). So the business world still has a long way to go before we achieve true equality.

But in our Product School community, we see amazing women from all walks of life who are conquering the world of AI, using data like a pro, leading teams to glory, and climbing to the top of their career ladders.

This year, we want to #BreakTheBias by highlighting the women doing the work. Not just on International Women’s Day, but every day. We hope you enjoy this selection of talks, blogs, and podcasts made by women who build.

Webinars:

Forging Empowerment Through FinTech by PayPal Director of Product, Mudita Tiwari

Mudita Tiwari, Director of Product at PayPal, talks about the exciting world of FinTech, and the problems she’s most passionate about solving in this not-to-be-missed Fireside Chat.

Building AI-First Products by Expedia Senior Product Manager, Laura Onu

In this talk, Expedia’s Senior Product Manager, Laura Onu, gives a comprehensive guide to building AI-First products, including advice on how to think big while keeping tasks feasible, and how to confidently adopt engineering practices as a PM.

Driving AI Incubations as a PM by Zillow Principal PM, Debapriya Basu

Debapriya Basu, Principal PM at Zillow, helps you understand how to ideate and align your AI ambitions to your overall business goals. She dives into the 3 levels of AI architecture and finishes with the next steps to take after a successful incubation.

Building Successful FinTech Products, by former Uber PM, Aanchal Arora

Aanchel Arora, currently serving as Senior Product Manager at eBay, goes into the future of the FinTech industry, and gives you an overview of the industry jargon that you need to thrive as a FinTech PM. The talks about why details are everything, and why security is key.

How to Use Data Like a Pro by Google Product Leader, Nargis Sakhibova

Google’s Product Leader, Nargis Sakhibova, takes you through how to use data like a pro to win at Product Management. With practical examples and advice that you can start applying to your day-to-day work immediately, this down-low on data is not to be missed.

Blogs:

Breaking Barriers and Bias in Product Management — Alumni Stories

Breaking Barriers and Bias in PM

In this interview with Product School alumna and Yelp Product Manager, Priyanka Palanikumar, she talks about the women who inspire her in the tech industry, from NASA to Microsoft. She also talks about her background in engineering and how it led her to a career in Product.

Read here.

Building a Culture of Safety as a PM with HubSpot’s Director of Product

Building a culture of safety as a PM

We got to chat with HubSpot’s Director of Product, Louise Bernstein, getting into all things Product Management as well as her experience of being a woman in the tech industry. She talks about her leadership techniques that help her to build a culture of safety for her entire team, and sheds light on the modern tech community currently thriving in Ireland.

Read here.

Working With Complex Products with Facebook’s Product Leader

Working with complex products

Reshma Nichani, Product Leader at Facebook, joined us for a special AMA session, where she answered questions regarding PM at big companies in tech, understanding problems before coming up with solutions, and working with complex products.

Read here.

To make sure you don’t miss the next AMA, join our Slack community for Product people!

Strong Product People – An Interview with Author and Product Leader, Petra Wille

There are plenty of books out there about Product Managers, but there are few specifically about managing Product Managers. Petra Wille wrote Strong Product People to help leaders nurture their Product Management teams, and to provide a kind of travel guide for leadership throughout your career.

Read here.

Podcasts:

Product Thinking and Hyper-Growth by Run The World CEO

In this episode Xiaoyin Qu, CEO of Run The World walks us through what it was like to build an online events company before the whole world moved online, and how she hires the right teams for hyper-growth.

Data Quality, Literacy and Discoverability by Avo CEO

In this episode, Stefania Olafsdottir, CEO at Avo walked us through her journey from math and philosophy to becoming a CEO. She uncovered the age of self-serve data governance, the key to democratizing data, and how to set up a data stack.

Recognizing When Change Needs to be Made by Climb CEO

Angela Ceresnie, CEO at Climb Credit shared her experience with transitioning from the big financial market into a niche market dedicated to making credit accessible to everyone. She opened up about her leadership style, company values and the structures around managing successful product teams in the FinTech industry. 

Defeating Launch Day Anxiety by LaunchDarkly CEO

Edith Harbaugh, CEO of LaunchDarkly, walks us through the backstory of how she runs a successful business. She shares all her tips from listening to product launches and continuous learning.

#BreakTheBias with Product School’s Director of Strategy, Sarah Almuhairi

At Product School we held an internal event for our teams to celebrate International Women’s Day, and to allow the women of PS to share their stories of how they #BreakTheBias, or experienced bias in their lives/careers. One story stood out among the rest, inspiring and moving all of us. With her permission, we’d like to share it with you:

“What does it mean for me to #breakthebias? When I moved from the United Arab Emirates to Nashville, Tennessee I was seven years old and had no idea how weird I was, or how much stranger I’d become.

My parents had just gotten divorced and my mom moved us from Dubai – which in 1994 was still a very conservative Muslim society – to the suburbs of Nashville, TN – which in 2022 is still for the most part a very conservative Evangelical Christian society.

You’d think that the culture shock would be jarring, but honestly, it wasn’t. The message I received in both cultures about my worth as a girl child was pretty consistent. Little girls shouldn’t be obsessed with David Attenborough nature documentaries and bugs and tropical birds, they shouldn’t be too loud or draw attention to themselves or their achievements. They shouldn’t be too vocal about their own interests or opinions lest they make anyone feel bored or uncomfortable. Educational achievement is important but not more important than marrying into a good family and having a successful husband and well-adjusted children — so don’t aim too high professionally or you’ll never be happy.

I had a lot of people around me tell me all the things I wasn’t or shouldn’t be. I was told, I’m not really Arab, but I’m also not really American. I was told that name isn’t really pronounced Sarah, I’m just being difficult.

As I got older, I got worse and worse at accepting the expectations society established for me. I thought there was something wrong with me. Carrying these expectations around with me felt a lot like wearing a heavy, ill-fitting suit around New York City in the middle of summer.

My first job out of college was at a petroleum shipping brokerage in Manhattan. I was one of 5 women in an office of over 100 employees. I was one of 10 employees under the age of 30. The CEO, who I still love and deeply respect, actually told me once that I’d have to choose between being a successful career woman and a decent mom because it was impossible to be both. He meant no harm, but the notion that I had to choose between domestic happiness and professional achievement tortured me for almost a decade. To be honest, it is still something I struggle with as my partner and I make plans for the future.

Breaking the bias to me is getting rid of that itchy, suffocating suit of other people’s expectations of who I should be as a woman and what I should be doing with my life. It is the freedom to be accepted for the things that make me Sarah, and to pick and choose the things that fulfil me in life, love, and career, regardless of what I’m “supposed” to be doing.To me , breaking the bias started with re-writing the story I told myself about who I am and who I should be. Listen to the story you tell yourself – if it doesn’t serve you, re-write it. You are the only person who should be defining your identity and self-worth.”

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