Intel's top female exec says these two things could fix Silicon Valley's gender problem

Intel Diane BryantIntelDiane Bryant

Diane Bryant is the executive VP and general manager of Intel’s data center group,
the chip maker’s most promising business unit that generated $16 billion in revenue last year.
She’s one of the three top executives at Intel, and perhaps one of the the most powerful female leaders in all of tech.

But Bryant isn’t too happy with the lack of women in the general tech industry. And she has harsh words for Silicon Valley’s gender inequality.

“I think it’s a sheer crime that women make up 50% of the population, 57% of the college educated, and yet only 23% of the tech industry,” Bryant said at the KPMG Womens’ Leadership Summit on Wednesday. “And when you’re under representing 50% of the population, you have a real problem when you’re trying to drive innovation.”

To increase female representation in tech, Bryant believes women need to pay more attention to the following two things:

1) Find more advocates, not just mentors: Bryant stresses mentors and advocates are two very different things. Mentors provide confidential, one-on-one advice, while advocates actively push for you to find better positions and put their own reputation on the line to support you. Citing a previous Intel-sponsored Harvard study, Bryant said, “women are mentored, men are sponsored.”

2) Create domain expertise: Bryant says women in general tend to move into “generalist” roles, like project managers or operation managers, which in the long term doesn’t help grow specialised expertise. Without having that expertise, it’s hard to differentiate yourself and make good decisions, especially the higher you move up the ranks. “I always ask women to stick with your area of domain expertise until you can truly call it an expertise, you can truly say this differentiates me from every other people manager,” she said.

For Bryant, finding an advocate and expertise almost happened accidentally. As she told Business Insider previously, Bryant only became an engineering major after learning it offered the most well-paying jobs in the country, an important motivation for her since she was homeless for a while.

She also shared an interesting story on how she met her first advocate in the tech field during the talk on Wednesday. While waitressing in college, she met an old couple who always asked for her table for Sunday brunch. Coincidentally, the man was a renowned aeronautic engineer and got her a phone interview with a company called Aerojet. She was given 3 internship offers on the phone, which kicked off her 30-year career in tech.

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