Women in Tech, Silicon Valley’s diversity initiative

At the end of 2018, Orange Silicon Valley launched the Women in Tech initiative, a community based in Silicon Valley (and elsewhere) that meets regularly to discuss diversity and inclusion in the ICT sector. It aims to make women’s innovations more visible, accessible and viable from a business point of view. Here are four voices from Orange Silicon Valley and start-ups involved in this initiative.   

Marketing Specialist Alice Brisset and Business Development Lead Julie Leclercq from Orange Silicon Valley are the women championing Women in Tech. Here are the highlights of the movement, which are very much in line with the Group’s existing gender equality programmes.

“In recent years at Orange, we’ve come across inspiring founders, investors and executives. Their stories have opened our eyes to the situation of women in Silicon Valley, especially in the tech sector, where they are overwhelmingly underrepresented. To understand these inequalities, we have to go right back to the way young girls are educated. According to a study by the American Association of University Women, only 6% of first-year female students want to specialise in engineering compared to their male counterparts. And once they start their careers, they represent just 30% of employees (all positions) in the tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and Apple. The same goes for venture capital firms, where women make up 11% of the payroll in the USA. Excluding women in the innovation sector actually deprives us of a privileged point of view on a market share that represents half the world’s population and is responsible for 80% of product purchases! 

Understanding this, we’ve been organising a series of events since the beginning of 2019 around targeted themes such as well-being, education and FemTech (health technologies aimed at improving women’s wellness). Our meetings are kept small to encourage discussion. Since the initiative launched, the community has grown steadily .

These events have enabled us to identify and recruit numerous start-ups to Orange’s various acceleration programmes, find new opportunities for the Group in terms of tech trends or products and services, and of course connect the ecosystems of Orange and Silicon Valley (Women in Cleantech, FemTech collective, Advancing women in product…).

Our greatest success would be to see this concept extend to other entities. We want to grow the initiative within Orange by highlighting our female employees through interviews and international events. We’ve signed a partnership with TEDx San Francisco to organise a large scale Women in Tech expo in 2020.”

FemTech & Women’s Reproductive Health: health technologies for women’s well-being

Following its initial success, Orange Silicon Valley hosted a second event dedicated to FemTech in September 2019. Still considered a niche market until recently, the sector has now grown on a societal and financial scale and is estimated to represent $50 billion by 2025. 

The panel of guest health professionals included Rebecca Story, CEO of Bloomi, an e-commerce site offering hygenic FemTech products, Sophia Yen, CEO and cofounder of Pandia Health, a platform enabling contraception prescription and delivery, and Alice Zheng, a McKinsey consultant specialising in the health sector. For the first time, visitors paid to attend the event with 100% of the profits donated to the nonprofit The Cup; an organisation that supplies menstrual cups and sexual health advice to girls in Kenya. Just one ticket is enough to support a girl for 10 years. One way to strengthen the Women in Tech movement and its fight for gender equality is to educate younger generations. 

“Working with Orange Silicon Valley has enabled us to expand the network of Unboxd founders.”

Nitasha Syed is the businesswoman behind Unboxd (opens in a new window), an online platform showcasing women working in science and new technologies. These inspiring portraits offer a different perspective on typically male-dominated sectors, encouraging women to move towards careers in science and technology.

What does the Women in Tech initiative offer you?

Working with Orange Silicon Valley is very informative from a professional and personal point of view. Even though Orange is a big multinational company, Orange Silicon Valley’s teams are agile and can get fast results. This enabled me to expand the network of Unboxd founders and host events in collaboration with Orange. I also find it extremely rewarding to contribute to Women in Tech. The subject is close to my heart and being able to talk about it with women is very enriching.

What do you think is needed to encourage greater diversity and inclusion of women in the tech world?

I start with the premise that you can’t become what you don’t know. That’s why we work with companies to showcase women who work in tech, and their skills, to help recruit candidates from more diverse backgrounds.     

 How does your start-up contribute to inclusion?

We build strong relationships between employees and future candidates through storytelling. For example, we work with companies to promote female engineers or scientists internally so they become employee “role models”. The goal is to encourage more women into these roles. Our writers, photographers and videographers spend time with business teams to create relevant and engaging content.   

“We like to stay in touch with other collectives and companies that are trying to improve women’s health.” 

Rebecca Story is the founder and CEO of Bloomi (opens in a new window), an e-commerce site dedicated to female hygiene. Guaranteed non-toxic, products have all been approved following strict clinical trials.  

How do you encourage the diversity and inclusion of women in technology?   

Bloomi is a woman-led business that supports other businesswomen in the emerging tech ecosystem. 

How has your start-up contributed to this mission?

Bloomi was created to enable women to make informed decisions about their bodies. Everything we publish is backed up by research, and our products are certified non-toxic.

How does it feel to be part of Women in Tech?

I love it! Although we’re a small start-up, we like to stay in touch with other collectives and companies that are trying to improve women’s health as we do at Bloomi. And it’s amazing to collaborate with the whole Orange Silicon Valley team as they are really putting FemTech in the spotlight.