We didn’t get our first family computer until 1999 so it wasn’t until 11th grade that I began imagining how technology could shape my love for art into a career. At the time I was completely ignorant to the huge advances made already before me by women like Grace Hopper, Janese Swanson, and The Women of ENIAC. These revolutionaries allowed me the ability to casually consider the field of digital design. I am incredibly lucky to have been raised by intelligent men and women who taught me to dream big and set goals without limits. I was supported by them throughout every phase of my career and it wasn’t until I started to rise as a leader that I began to have insecurities and doubts because I was a girl.

Looking back now, I know that the biggest problem I had was making internal excuses for people, things, or situations that I should’ve confronted as being wrong. I made excuses to myself partly in fear of what would happen if I spoke up and partly because I was subconsciously believing that it was normal. I wasn’t educated enough to recognize what inequality looks like in the workplace. As I began to hear other women speak out about their own experiences within the industry, I did more research on the topic and learned about things like the gender pay gap, “The first lady of the internet”, and the Cannon and Perry research papers. I began to see things in a different light, especially in more laid-back creative environments. I wasn’t part of the boys club. I felt constant pressure to choose between advancing in my career or being a mom. I struggled with being heard and was often the only female in the room of executives. I was dealing with inequality without even realizing it.

The more I advanced I became, the more I worried about striking seemingly impossible balances. I tried to be strong but not bitchy. Inspirational but not emotional. Kind but not naive. Beautiful but not attractive. Bold but not abrasive. Personable but not cute. Professional but not cold.

One area that I never struggled with finding a balance in was my curiosity to learn. I never worried about being too intelligent. So learning is what I focused on, in every aspect of my life. The more knowledge I soaked up, the more confident I became in who I was and what I was good at. With confidence came opportunities. The biggest opportunity being Gallardo Labs.

Being a woman in technology today makes me feel extremely empowered. I am inspired by role models like Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, and Michelle Obama, not only because of their achievements but because of their ability to put every ounce of themselves and their femininity into their leadership styles, being unapologetic real women who effect major global change.

It’s important to me personally and professionally with Gallardo Labs that we lead by example, progressing towards equality in the workplace and entire tech industry. If not for the women who fought before us, then for our future generations.

Some ways that you can do this as a leader are:

• Be real and transparent about your life so other women know they’re not alone with challenges they may be facing.

• Set up quick one-on-ones with each person on your team regularly to make sure they’re heard and recognized.

• Use social media to support other women in the industry who are killing it, like Caitlin Smallwood (VP, Data Science and Engineering at Netflix), Sallie Krawcheck (CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest), Yael Aflalo (Founder & CEO of Reformation), and Sheila Lirio Marcelo (Founder, Chairwoman & CEO of Care.com)

• Teach your sons and daughters about equality. Beto and I do this in words sometimes, but mostly by example. They see us run our family and business together as equal partners. They know that I can cook a mean waffle on Saturday morning, but come time when I sit down in front of the computer, they understand I mean business. They see Beto as the hardest working man they know, but they also see him braiding our daughter’s hair for school. Parental and professional support for one another is the biggest way we are educating them.

• Read…a lot. The more you learn about other women in technology, the more ideas you’ll get for ways to help support. I’ve learned about amazing organizations like the National Center for Women & IT, Girls Who Code, and Anita Borg.

• Confront people who don’t take you seriously. This one is definitely the hardest for me because I hate confrontation. Sometimes if I am worried about not being able to fully express myself face-to-face about something confrontational, I’ll write a well-crafted email to make my points first and in it, ask for a follow-up meeting. This allows me to get all the important things out before the actual talk happens.

• Model a successful flexible work schedule within your company to support equal family responsibilities. At Gallardo Labs, people can log on early so they can pick up their kids on time from school or they can work late at night if that’s when they’re most creative.

• Foster a creative culture based on inclusion and the celebration of diversity. Make it your mission to infuse this culture into every one of your partner’s teams as well if it doesn’t already exist.

“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”

Sheryl Sandberg

Technology gives us women a platform to be the voice of our gender in society. By choosing to work in this industry, we acquire the skills and expertise to literally change the world.

Posted by:Nicole Gallardo

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