The tech sector will become more inclusive of women--just watch. That’s what YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and Honest Company founder Jessica Alba told CBS anchor Gayle King during a fireside chat Thursday night at Dreamforce.
“I know for sure that technology is changing our lives in ways that we can’t even imagine now, and that it's really just getting started. And technology has to become more inclusive, and it will become mainstream. I know that will happen over time,” Wojcicki said to a crowd of thousands that packed San Francisco's Moscone Center.
To make gender parity a reality, the two said coding needed to be better integrated into education and workplaces needed to be more flexible for parents.
Alba announced during the conversation that she would be extending paid maternity and paternity leave from 10 to 16 weeks at the Honest Company starting in January.
“I love when we hire people who are parents because they know how to multitask and are very efficient,” said Alba.
King did not ask Alba, by the way, about the latest reason why her company is in the news: Honest Company is facing two lawsuits brought by consumers involving the effectiveness of its sunscreen and the ingredients in several products. The company recently raised $100 million as it presumably inches closer to an IPO.
Wojcicki said paid maternity leave is good for business because it helps companies retain the women they’ve hired. The mother of five children noted that first-time parents tend to need more time to adjust to having children then parents having subsequent children, and that allowing employees to have that time helps them return to work feeling more prepared to do their jobs rather than worrying about how their infant is sleeping.
Wojcicki mentioned a statistic she had seen about the high proportion of working moms who return to their jobs within a relatively short time of giving birth. Department of Labor data from 2012 showed that roughly one in four women returned to work after less than two weeks.
““I thought what would happen if I were to try to go back to work on day 10? I would quit,” Wojicicki said.
Wojcicki and Alba also spoke about how they had gotten their own daughters into coding. Both mentioned that their daughters had attended camps centered on teaching the skill.
Alba’s daughter had a more straightforward experience making an app. Wojcicki’s daughter at first had a negative experience, and it took some elbow grease on Wojcicki’s part to get her to stop turning her nose up at computers.
The YouTube CEO said her daughter had stated point-blank that she did not like computers, so Wojcicki enrolled her in a computer camp. The camp made her daughter dislike tech even more.
Wojcicki reported her daughter came back saying, “Everyone in the class was a boy and nobody was like me and now I hate computers even more.”
So, mom called the camp and spoke to the CEO, asking that the camp be made more welcoming to girls. Wojcicki cited two approaches she thinks are necessary to make tech accessible to everyone, not just those who have the privilege of being exposed at a young age in their own homes.
First, Wojcicki said, tech CEOs need to take charge and lead by example by making efforts to recruit employees from underrepresented groups; second, the pipeline of talent needs to be strengthened through the integration of computer science into school curricula.
"I think long term the only real way to fix it is to make it be a required class for everybody," said Wojcicki, explaining that once everyone has access, "everybody can become a computer expert."
Correction: An earlier version of this article mischaracterized Wojcicki's involvement with a computer camp that her daughter disliked. She had spoken with the camp's CEO.