In anticipation of our April 20th Changing the Conversation event (buy your ticket now!), we interviewed each of our panelists, asking them to describe a challenge they've overcome, share a piece of advice, and talk to us about their passion for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We will share these interviews with you leading up to our event, and are excited to start by introducing you to Alexa Scordato, VP of Marketing at Stack Overflow:
Describe a challenge that you’ve overcome in your career.
I graduated college when I was twenty years old and my first boss and mentor told me that I was going to have two things working against me that I couldn’t control: 1) I was young and 2) I was a woman. It didn’t matter how smart I was or how hard I worked, these two factors would always play a role in how I’d be evaluated on the job.
Over the years, I’ve been given advice left and right about how to act or present myself. I’ve been told to ask senior men to have breakfast or lunch because drinks after work would give off the wrong impression. I’ve been told to shield my emotions and tears from colleagues. I’ve been told to wear my hair long or short to give the appearance of someone more polished and older. Although much of the advice I’ve received has been well intentioned, there’s an added layer of scrutiny that comes with being a woman, especially when you’re just starting out in your career.
The challenge has and always will be to stay true to who to you are and to let the loudest voice you listen to be your own.
What is a piece of advice that you wish you could give your former self?
Know thyself. Every challenge I’ve encountered always comes with its own context, its own set of people, expectations, and assumptions. The only variable that remains constant in every case is me. When I disagree with someone’s perspective or an outcome doesn’t go as planned, it’s so easy and tempting to blame the situation or the person. I’ve gotten a lot better at really owning and understanding my voice and how I react in different situations. It’s helped me communicate more effectively and also respond to challenge and crisis with more diplomacy and tact.
What fires you up re: diversity and inclusion? Why is this a passion?
Where to start?! I’m passionate about diversity and inclusion because every person should have the ability to be their true self and reach their full potential. When diversity and inclusion is undervalued in any social or organizational context, it actively prevents people from being their best selves and doing their best work.
As a female executive in the tech industry, I think about this often because software is ubiquitous. It’s impacting almost every facet of our lives and transforming industries. It’s a big miss when the people who are developing software don’t reflect the users they’re building for. I’m a glass half full kind of person and I’ll always believe in technology’s ability to connect people and ideas in powerful, positive ways. I’m concerned that the culture we’re seeing in certain tech companies in Silicon Valley and the lack of diversity and inclusion across the industry as a whole is holding us back.
I’m passionate about defining the current state of diversity and inclusion as a problem and no longer interested in debating whether it is or not. Until we see 50% of women in STEM and leadership roles, our work isn’t done. For an industry that prides itself so much on using data to make decisions, we still haven’t explicitly come around to the idea that the current state of affairs isn’t acceptable. In some ways we’re making progress, but it isn’t happening nearly fast enough.