“Tech Stayers & Leavers”: Lili Gangas with Kapor Center (Video + Transcript)

May 21, 2019

In 2017, the Kapor Center published the first-of-its-kind Tech Leavers Study why people voluntarily left their jobs in tech. In this session, Lili Gangas (Kapor Center Chief Technology Community Officer) will walk us through the findings, shattering the myth that women leave to spend time with their family among others, and will provide some ideas for how you can ensure an environment where all employees feel valued, appreciated, welcomed and heard.


Lili Gangas / Chief Technology Community Officer / Kapor Center
Sukrutha Bhadouria / CTO & Co-Founder / Girl Geek X


Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi, everyone. Hi, Lili.

Lili Gangas: Hello, hello.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thanks everyone for joining us, and also staying with us through the day. I want to just do a quick intro before we have Lili share her amazing wisdom. First I want to tell you some housekeeping notes. I’m Sukrutha, I’m the CTO of Girl Geek X. Housekeeping notes, yes, this is being recorded, the video will be available for you to view in a week. Please share all the information that you’re hearing that you’d like to share on social media with the hashtag #GGXElevate. I’ve been seeing a lot of you tweet your comments and questions there, so keep that going. We’ll have a Q&A at the end, so use the Q&A button at the bottom to post your questions, and we’ll make time for that.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Also, our amazing sponsors have posted their job listings on our website, so you can go to GirlGeek.io/opportunities to take a look at our job board. Now, for the amazing Lili. Lili Gangas is the Chief Technology Community Officer at Kapor Center. She helps catalyze Oakland’s emergence as a social impact hub, she advises inclusive tech entrepreneurship building activities in Oakland, such as Oakland Startup Network, Tech Hire Oakland, Latinx in Kapor Center, Innovation Labs as well. Lili’s also a proud immigrant from Bolivia, and her talk today is about Tech Stayers and Leavers. Thank you, Lili, for making time for us.

Lili Gangas: Thank you. Let me make sure you guys can … All you can hear me okay? Yes? Okay, awesome.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yes.

Lili Gangas: Well, hello, hello. I’m so excited to be here, this is amazing. I see a lot of all the different hundreds of women across the world, so let’s get started and jump right in. I’m gonna share my screen, and I have a presentation here. Let me make sure it all looks good on our end. Great. We should be able to see it now. Excellent.

Lili Gangas: Again, my name is Lili Gangas, I’m the Chief Tech Community Officer of the Kapor Center. Now, the Kapor Center, for those folks that may not be aware of what it is that we do, we really want to increase representation in tech and tech entrepreneurship. We want our communities to be representative of the demographics that we have. Our work is focused on US talent, and also US based companies, but we know that these companies in the community have a global impact, so our work really is trying to make sure that we are leveling the playing field.

Lili Gangas: Today, I’m here to share some of the problems that we’ve seen of why folks that have started in the tech careers leave, but then also, how could they stay, and do folks come back? Let’s jump right in and see what do the numbers show, what can we do about it, but before I do that, I wanted to share a little bit about me. As you heard earlier, I’m a proud immigrant from Bolivia. I’m not sure how many women here are from Latin America, but go Latin America. I immigrated to the US when I was about six and a half, and we take a look at all the stats that they shared with us about first gen, being the first to college, single parent home, all these different numbers that really say “You’re not supposed to be here.” But yet, thanks to my really just strong mother, fearless, and I’m just really blessed to have been able to have somebody like her just always push me, ever since … even from elementary school all the way to college and to pursue engineering, she’s always been the person behind me helping me make sure that I’m reaching the next goal, and also being able to make sure that I keep challenging myself.

Lili Gangas: This International Women’s Day, shout out to my mom, Sandra. Love you. I share that story because I think being able to come from a community that is very different than where I grew up, so in Bolivia, immigrating as a kid, you have the language barriers, you have the school, you have the cultural norms, it was challenging, but I think my love for math really gravitated me to math really being my language. That’s how I got started in my love for engineering. I went on to do electrical engineering. It started really my career in aerospace engineer. I think I’m gonna check to see if everybody can hear me okay. I think so. I started my career off electrical engineering, and specifically because I really wanted to solve problems that were meaty, that were big systems problems. I got to be able to work in a lot of satellite systems.

Lili Gangas: It was great, this was me going into tech and being able to just really nerd out in all the different types of technologies and teams, but I also started realizing that it was tough. I think as I started to manage teams, that’s where the team dynamic and the people dynamic became harder sometimes than the technical component. I think that that’s one of the topics I’ll go into a little bit more. Just so you have the real talk, what are some of those different issues that we all see? Those paper cuts that we also need to be aware of and how they’re impacting us, but also, what can we do about it? Now, in retrospect, from leaving engineering to then moving onto getting my MBA and really want to use technology for more social impact, and looking at social entrepreneurship is how I ended up here at the Kapor Center now.

Lili Gangas: After consulting with [inaudible 00:06:21], and the Excenture, and how we can use startups, public sector, private sector to really find new solutions and create new systems that are helping close gaps of access has been really what my career has pivoted to. I’ll share a little bit more about that as we go through some of the next slides. Lastly, I want to share also a little bit about me before, more personal. I love to run, and one of my long term goals has always been to run marathons, so in about three weeks, I’ll be running my third marathon, so I’m super excited. For all the women that are runners out there, keep at it, and for the folks who may not, I definitely encourage you, it’s a really great way to keep the body and the mind balanced. My last about me aspect is that I really started learning about meditation, and sometimes when we’re in different spaces, and sometimes we may be the only one that is like us in some of those spaces, or just balancing the difficulties that life brings, as a woman, as a professional, and just as a human. I think being able to find different ways to really allow ourselves to have that quiet time is something that I’ve learned really this past year, and it’s a blessing, it’s a gift that I wanted to share with you all.

Lili Gangas: Great. With that said, let’s get into what is really happening in the tech industry, and why are such talented people of color and women leaving? What is happening here? Just to give you a little context, in 2017, Kapor Center, along with the Ford Foundation and the Harris Poll conducted a study to specifically look at this, and over 2,000 tech leavers were surveyed, and the insights that I’ll share come out from that.

Lili Gangas: What did we want to study? We wanted to study what are the factors that are causing this turnover in the tech industry, specifically, what’s happening with underrepresented populations? Why are folks like me leaving? I left the tech industry to find different avenues, but there was also these paper cuts that I didn’t know they were paper cuts until actually I read the study, but also, what are some of the stories that we should be sharing so then that way folks feel heard and seen, and that we can do something that the policy inside the workplace can be done, but also, how do we provide support for those that we manage, or folks who are managing us? What are also some of the costs, and what are some of the practices that can be implemented to really change this culture around?

Lili Gangas: I’ll go to the next slide. For some background, the study was conducted over 2,000 professionals with this type of breakdown. This is a sample of the people that were surveyed. It’s a national representative sample, looking very focused on the intersectionality of the LGBTQ, the age, the race, gender, their previous role, the previous employers that they were in, and then over a set of 40 questions. Let’s get to the bad news. Some of this stuff might not be new for you all, it might be something that you may have lived. But this is the finding, and all those other professionals that took this survey found. We found that 37% of the surveyed professionals left because of unfairness, some kind of mistreatment in their role was really what turned them over to leave.

Lili Gangas: This is actually the highest reason why people leave, and it’s not rocket science to be able to say if you’re not treating me fairly, I’m not gonna stay. It just permeated across all the different groups as well. Specifically, underrepresented people of color were more likely to be stereotyped. Some surveyors responded that they were actually mistaken, if I was the only Latina, they were mistaken by the other Latina in the room. Little things like that really started adding up. Out of 30% out of those under represented women of color, they shared that they were actually passed, most likely passed for a promotion. LGBTQ also had some of the highest rates of bullying and hostility. One out of 10 women reported unwanted sexual attention and harassment.

Lili Gangas: Then, lastly, looking at some of these areas, some of the women reported others taking credit for their work, in addition to being passed over for a promotion, and sometimes even their ability was questioned at a much higher rate than men. The part that was interesting in all of the survey is that actually, white and Asian men and women reported observing a lot of these biases the highest, and they actually also attributed them leaving because of this reason. So, it’s not just impacting the under represented groups, it is really impacting the entire company. From that end, the key takeaways that the survey really showed is the unfairness that’s driving the turnover. The experiences differ dramatically across groups, and I think this is something that, especially since we have a community of global representation, to be very, very aware and mindful of that, that each group, even though you may not have felt it, some other group is feeling it, and it’s something to, when you’re working in cross global teams, but also very diverse teams, to be mindful of everybody’s experience as well.

Lili Gangas: The unfairness costs billions of dollars, but there is opportunity for this to change. We are able to find, and find ways to improve the culture if folks want to. I’m gonna go to the next slide.

Lili Gangas: Feel free, if you have any questions, feel free to add them into the Q&A, and I’ll jump into that after we’re done.

Lili Gangas: Great, I shared a lot of these problems, but what can we do? If you’re a C Suite at a tech company, or you’re a manager, there are ways that you can directly really help create a more level playing field for everybody in your workplace, and ultimately, women, we really just want to have equal pay. We cannot believe that we’re in 2019 and we still have issues that we’re still being underpaid. Specifically, Latinas in the US are significantly underpaid. They’re about 56 cents on the dollar compared to a white male. Second, improving company leadership is critical. Without having the C Suite, the CEO, but also the managers across the different angles being able to advocate and really create and put forward new policies. This is going to continue. We have to lead by example.

Lili Gangas: Again, promotion. This is an area where a lot of women that were surveyed, specifically here, expressed that this is why they were leaving, in addition to wanting to have a better work/life balance. If you’re not finding the opportunity internally, you’re going to leave, but sometimes if your job at the moment is providing you a great work/life flexibility, and it’s hard to make that change. Sometimes our careers start plateauing, but we have to be mindful that there are other opportunities and options. Ultimately, we just want to have a much more positive and respectful work environment. I know that here I’m preaching to the choir, because you all are probably feeling the same, but these are clear things, no matter the size of the company, that these are very doable, these are very trackable and measurable, and us, as being part of this industry, we have to make sure that we’re holding our leadership and our companies accountable.

Lili Gangas: Here we go, what can the companies continue to do, but what can you also make sure that your companies are doing? If you don’t see any of these aspects being done, this is the time to really start having these types of discussions across the chain, whether it’s with HR, or if you have a D&I, diversity and inclusion officer, or if you have your ERGs, but also starting to the high levels of the C Suite, being able to understand what does it mean to have a comprehensive D&I strategy? It really starts with that leadership, it has to be bold, unequivocal leadership from the CEO. We have to make sure that we are measuring the effectiveness of these strategies. One thing is to have it on paper, but the other part is to actually go and implement it, and measure it. Also just being honest if it’s working or not, which leads to the second opportunity for companies, and this is where we can all play a role, which is how do we create these inclusive cultures? What does this actually mean.

Lili Gangas: Make sure that your company has identified a set core of values. Make sure that there is a code of conduct. Ask if maybe you might be new to the company, and if somebody hasn’t directed you to a code of conduct or values, you should really ask, and that could actually also spur more discussions on this topic. Making sure that you’re always observing what’s getting implemented and if people are measuring it. For example, see if your company, and even if you’re a founder yourself, are you conducting employee surveys across the different experience that they might have, across the different levels? Are you doing it at regular intervals? Is your company doing these types of continuous studies? If not, maybe we should be bringing that up for discussion. Also, very, very important is to make sure that the data that is being collected and examined is intersectional. We want to make sure that you are giving voice to all the different groups by demographics, or the intersectionality or identity that otherwise wouldn’t be able to be shared out, and I think being able to have this intersectional lens needs to be intentional, and it needs to be measured regularly.

Lili Gangas: Ultimately, it’s really having a transparent culture about the issues that you’re having. There’s a really great resource for you all to check out that if you may not be aware, Project Include goes into these topics at even much more detail. There you could actually download and share some of this work with your team if you want to start having this discussion. Highly encourage you to do that. Lastly, developing an effective and fair management process. What does that mean? There’s actually a new sector of HR tech tools that are being developed that look at the people [inaudible 00:17:19] technology site where you could actually measure, let’s say through Asana or some kind of task management, who’s getting those types of tasks? Are women getting the technical tasks, or are they getting the more admin tasks? Who continually continues to get more work versus somebody else on the team? There are all these different types of tools now that exist that can help identify some of this bias that we may not be aware. It’s happening in the background, or some, for whatever reason, whoever is also managing a team may not even be aware of their own biases.

Lili Gangas: I definitely encourage you all to take a look at how are your teams being managed, how are you managing your teams, what type of technology are you leveraging to really be able to help create a much more fair process of managing the teams, the work, and being able to also audit what’s happening. Right now there’s a lot of, I think about two weeks ago, Google was in the news because they had their … my apologies … They released their compensation, and actually more white men ended up getting more raises than women. There’s questioning of even how was that invalidated? How was that managed? What were some of the processes? These are really, really tough discussions, but I think that we have to make sure that we also are being empowered. Without us, these companies won’t be able to continue to work. I think that the power of women in general, intersectionality and identity are different discussions that need to go from the talking to the doing, and to the implementing and measuring. That way we can start to do see of these toxic cultures really change. If you’re in a place where your company is actually thriving and doing really great in this side of the culture, protect it.

Lili Gangas: I think as you get bigger and larger, sometimes with the wrong hires, things can change. Being able to have this, being able to measure the things that are important, what you value, is critical. I encourage you all to do that. Lastly, again, this tech leaver study was released in 2017. There’s a lot of [inaudible 00:19:27], if you Google it, and you go to the Kapor Center Org website, you’ll see, you can go into more depth about the different insights. It’s a discussion that we need to continue to have. Hopefully I gave you a high level of what are some of the common pain points that you may also have felt but also how can we start to tackle them, so then that way we can continue to grow the talent and the leadership of women in tech.

Lili Gangas: With that said, I’ll see if there’s any more Q&A questions, but loved to have spent the time here with you all. Please feel free to contact me should you have any other more questions. You can find me on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn. There’s a lot of different other initiatives that I work on locally to help foster the tech talent to local tech talent as well as helping spur more entrepreneurship. We can have lots of different dialogues.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, Lili. Your insight and your energy really, really made a difference, and there’s been great comments, especially because you said you meditate and you run marathons, I think that resonated really well with a lot of people. We have time for one question, just like a quick one. I’m gonna read it.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I’ll summarize it, but there’s one that says “Can you share some tools that can be used to identify bias?”

Lili Gangas: Sure. Actually, in Kapor Capital there is different investments. One of the companies is called Compass. They are helping identify, using some data and AI, actually, in the backend to be able to measure the assignments of tasks. There’s also [inaudible 00:21:21] is another company that are we aware. Happy to share, I don’t want to blurt out names, but happy to share some links to a lot of different tools. When I did a talk last year on the pay gap, there was actually a huge increase of venture capital investments in this sector. There are so many different types of tools, different price points. Depending on the type of company that you are at, there’s definitely a lot. The question is, if you use it, how are you gonna measure the results? How are you going to do something about it? I think it’s understanding the what is it that you’re trying to tackle, which problem are you trying to tackle, and identifying the proper technology solution for that.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Lili. We’re going to end it here. Thank you to everyone who asked your questions and posted your comments, thanks. Bye.

Lili Gangas: Adios from Oakland, goodbye.

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