The four panelists included Solutions Manager at Microsoft Gina Roldan, President and General Manager of Promega Kris Yetter, Director of FlashRay Engineering at NetApp Avital Arora and Senior Director of Quality Assurance at Oracle Caroline Koss, all women in senior level positions in their companies.
Approximately 100 people — men, women, faculty and students (both college and high school) — attended Thursday’s Preparing for the Workforce workshop.
Panelists at the workshop — which dealt with how to stand out in an interview for both men and women, how Cal Poly can prepare students for gender inequality and how students and faculty can work to end biases in the workplace — included four women in senior positions at their companies, said Alexandria Ward, business administration senior and Information Systems Association (ISA) secretary.
These panelists were Solutions Manager at Microsoft Gina Roldan, President and General Manager of Promega Kris Yetter, Director of FlashRay Engineering at NetApp Avital Arora and Senior Director of Quality Assurance at Oracle Caroline Koss. Cal Poly Provost Kathleen Enz Finken moderated the event.
Roldan sponsored the event along with her husband, Brad. The event, however, was mostly information systems and management professor Barry Floyd’s idea, Roldan said.
Roldan and her husband are Cal Poly alumni, and she said she wanted to offer scholarships in order to give back to a couple of students who fit her “category.” Roldan worked full time to put herself through school while keeping her grades up and participating as a board member of the ISA and Society for Advancement of Management clubs. She wanted to give scholarships to students who “fit the bill of working hard,” she said.
“And Barry actually dug into our conversation about a deeper problem,” Roldan said. “And that problem was what we talked about today, which is there is a gender inequality in the workforce.”
At one part of the discussion, San Luis Obispo high school students stood up to speak about gender inequality at their school. The students mostly said teachers didn’t do anything about it.
Roldan said she noticed gender issues at college while studying information systems and management. Transitioning from college to the workforce was “shocking,” she said.
“I would say that at least at school, if I didn’t have the males and females ratio in some of my classes, I at least had the experience from being on campus,” she said. “And going into my first job I literally was maybe the only female of many, many men.”
Unfortunately, Cal Poly did not prepare her, she said.
“I wasn’t prepared for the workforce,” she said. “I wasn’t prepared for the male dominance that was going to be in the tech industry and I wasn’t prepared for the cultural difference between the males and females that have often led me to do the work that I didn’t always desire.”
Part of the inspiration from the event came from COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In,” which details her experience as a top-level female executive and some of the problems she has faced.
Though Roldan believes the technology field is a popular field to enter, there is a low number of women seeking to go into the industry.
“If we don’t increase the number of women that are trying to get into technology jobs, then we don’t have those women in decision-making rules to create a better gender-equality balance in the technology industry as a whole,” she said.