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Saturday, March 23, 2013

LinkedIn Boasts Highest Ratio of Female Executives in Silicon Valley 03-24

LinkedIn Boasts Highest Ratio of Female Executives in Silicon Valley

Leslie Bradshaw, Contributor

 LinkedIn welcomed their fourth female executive team member, Pat Wadors. The addition of Wadors to the senior leadership of LinkedIn puts the company ahead of previous Silicon Valley gender ratio leaders Google, Adobe and Salesforce, who each have three women on their executive teams. Wadors has previously held senior human resource roles at Twitter, Yahoo! and most recently Plantronics before joining LinkedIn as the Vice President, Global Talent Organization.
Pat Wadors: Newly minted VP of LinkedIn's Global Talent Organization. Image courtesy of LinkedIn.
At their Mountain View headquarters yesterday, LinkedIn’s VP of Corporate Communications Shannon Stubo remarked that the near-parity ratio (4 out of 11) is “great for people to see,” adding that “having female leadership beyond what is seen typically is also exciting… we have executives at the head of not just HR and PR, but corporate development and general counsel.”
Stubo is referring to her own role on the executive team, as well as those of her colleagues Sara Clemens (Vice President, Corporate Development), Erika Rottenberg (Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary) and Pat Wadors (Vice President, Global Talent Organization).
News of LinkedIn’s executive-level ratio changing comes on the heels of Etsy’s announcement that their efforts to recruit more female engineers yielded a 500 percent increase in a single year. Both LinkedIn and Etsy recognize the business benefits of increasing the number of women on their teams that build their products and lead their companies.
“All diversity matters. You don’t want a room full of people that have the same world view,” Erika Rottenberg told me in an interview yesterday. As LinkedIn’s General Counsel and Secretary for the past five years, Rottenberg believes strongly that LinkedIn should have “a leadership team that reflects our membership,” adding “having a team with a diverse set of experiences and demographics ensures that we are delivering a platform that will enable our members to connect, be more productive and be successful.”
These same themes — diversity of worldviews and representing one’s member base — were echoed in last week’s blog post by First Round Capital’s Brett Berson when he said: “Eighty percent of Etsy’s customers are women. And while it’d be outlandish to suggest that hiring female engineers somehow makes them somehow chromosomally connected to the product, there are definitely some shared experiences.” And on diversity, Berson points out: “Even science recognizes that diversity is important: research from both the Kellogg and Sloan Schools suggest that cognitively diverse teams perform better on hard problems.”
I don’t think that anyone reading this or even in business would disagree that diversity matters and that one’s company should embody the demographics of the people that it serves. However, as with most things in life, it comes down to execution and results. Even Etsy’s path to success wasn’t linear notes Berson: “[E]ven after a number of concerted efforts to bring more women talent onboard, the company achieved almost no progress; in fact, one year, they actually saw a thirty-five percent decline in gender diversity even when this was a priority.”
So how did companies like LinkedIn and Etsy ensure efficacy? To answer this, I sat down with a number of the men and women who power LinkedIn yesterday, and I will detail their learnings and advice below. As for insights into Etsy’s program, I will be detailing Etsy’s Hacker School program through the lens of one of its graduates and eventual hires, Martha Kelly Girdler, next month.
Learning from How LinkedIn Is Changing the Ratio
Just like Etsy, it should be noted that this isn’t a linear progression and is a constant journey and commitment. Yet unlike Etsy, some of LinkedIn’s conducive conditions (e.g, female board member) weren’t purposefully done to attract other top female candidates, it just happened to work out that way. Here are a few effective tactics that LinkedIn shared from their playbook:
  • Get women on the Board of Directors. Although LinkedIn only has one female board member, it is one more than many of its Silicon Valley counterparts and on par with Facebook. When interviewing at LinkedIn before taking the job, LinkedIn’s VP of Corporate Communications Shannon Stubo remembers thinking: “Leslie [Kilgore] having a board seat was a big deal to me. It appealed to me and was absolutely a factor in my decision.”
  • Host women-only hackathons. A product of their monthly “In-Days”, where employees have one full day off each month to work on a passion product, the Develop Her Hackday brought over 100 women internal and external to LinkedIn together to “hack” for 24 hours. Florina Grosskurth, a four year vet at LinkedIn who is an engineer by trade but now runs engineering programs, branding, and culture, said of the event: “Women not only felt more at ease, but there are some things that you can talk to fellow women and not men about your experience as a female dev,” adding that there were unintended benefits that resulted like “some of the women ended up starting a company and a few ended up getting jobs.” There was a sister event at the LinkedIn offices in Delhi and plans for a second annual DevelopHer Hackday are underway for this spring.
  • Foster women’s professional groups. This has become the standard for most large organizations and certainly nothing new, but it is a tactic that companies at any size should consider and be empowered to do so through virtual groups onGoogle Groups or LinkedIn. For example, Women At LinkedIn (WALI) is a networking and professional development group that is reserved exclusively for women who are current employees of LinkedIn. Currently at 945 members, WALI was created to “empower each woman at LinkedIn to dig deep and reach higher to achieve their personal, professional goals in a supportive, safe space,” according to Krista Canfield, Senior Manager of Corporate Communications at LinkedIn. There is also Women in Tech at LinkedIn, which is focused on supporting more women in engineering and leadership roles and to mentor younger generations to enter the computer science field.
  • Give a microphone to women who have been successful to tell their story. LinkedIn is committed to bringing in speakers who are successful and inspirational women on a regular basis. 

  • Headliners to date have included: 
  • Suze Orman; Leila Janah, founder of Samasource; Bernice King, the second daughter and youngest child of civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King; and Anna Marie Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. Beyond the in person amplification, LinkedIn has a robust influencer platform where inspirational ‘glass ceiling breakers’ are sharing their learnings for any LinkedIn member to follow. Top followed female influencers include: Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief at The Huffington Post (266,000+ followers), Sallie Krawcheck, Past President of Merrill Lynch, US Trust, Smith Barney (127,000+ followers and Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author; blogger 

What better way to wrap this piece than to recommend that you “Linkin” with the power ladies of LinkedIn mentioned and interviewed for this piece:
  • Shannon Stubo, VP of Corporate
  • Erika Rottenberg, VP, General Counsel and
  • Sara Clemens, VP, Corporate Development: 
  • Erin Hosilyk, head of internal communications: 
  • Florina Xhabija Grosskurth, head of engineering programs, branding and culture
  • Lisa Killeen, national sales manager and founder of WALI (Women at LinkedIn)
  • Krista Canfield, senior manager of corporate communications
It has often been said that “we cannot be what we cannot see”. Today, LinkedIn shows us that even traditionally male-dominated tech companies can change the ratio at the highest level. Bravo LinkedIn. Bravo Etsy. And to the rest of the industry: I highly recommend you apply these learnings and get on board. For the sake of better representing and empathizing with the customers you serve, for the sake of better business decisions, and for the sake of giving the next generation of women something to aspire to become.
You can connect to Shyamsunder Panchavati on Linkedin at

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