You’re not the only woman in the room here

By Gigi Kalaher

In November, I was in front of a beautiful roaring fire on a chilly fall evening in New Hampshire. That might sound like a set-up for a murder mystery, or at least some fall foliage viewing and hiking, but instead I was with the bright young minds of the Dartmouth Tuck MBA program and broader Dartmouth community. We were kicking off the 2018 Tuck Technology Conference, and I was on a panel of women in tech. Alongside me were Cassie Young, the Chief Commercial Officer of Sailthru, Adriana Gugel, a senior product manager from Carbon Black, and Amanda Hegge, a product management director from Fidelity.

The moderator asked us about our personal journeys, challenges being a female in tech, and views on mentoring relationships. We told stories, made each other laugh, cheered one another on, and fielded questions from the crowd. It was notable to me that in this forum filled with students who have already had internships and now job offers at Google, Amazon, Facebook and the like, their questions were similar to ones I had early in my career. Things like “How do you get taken seriously for your ideas?” “What do you do if you are consistently the only woman in the room?” “How does being a woman change or not change your leadership style?” “How do you find a mentor?”

We had a lively discussion about giving other people credit for ideas, having empathy (even if you feel like you are the only ______ in the room, there are probably 3 others who feel like they are the only ______, _______ or ______), taking a break now and then (do a stint at a company where you are appreciated and valued, then go back to doing something crazy hard if that’s where you are trying to go, with a renewed sense of value and confidence) and finding mentors where there is natural warmth, connection and affinity.

As always, I enjoyed not just talking about the work we do in general, but the specifics of being a female in fintech at Fidelity Labs. Getting to be on a team of people who come from diverse mindests and skillsets, and who also come from top design, tech, and finance startups with the muscle of Fidelity when you need it, but otherwise the agility of a start-up…talking about how great this place is never gets old.