Supporting Women in Tech - Interview with Wei Lin

Danica Bozin, Serbia

Marketing Manager at Data Science Conference / 4.0,
Physics student

Today we are presenting a very special interview with Wei Lin, the Vice President of Engineering at TeleSign. Wei has been in the industry all the way back since 1989. And therefore has a lot of experience she would like to share. She’s involved in Women in Tech initiatives and has been actively participating in Grace Hopper Conferences since 2009. Her goal is to encourage more girls and women to get into engineering and computer science, fields that are widely considered ‘men’s fields’.

You can find the full interview below or keep reading for the key points of the interview!

Why Engineering

Her father was an engineer and a CTO of a research institute which is how she got in touch with this field. When she was choosing a university major she went for Medical Engineering, which is something that was quite new back in the day. She went on to do a PhD in Medicine with applications of Computer Science and then she was faced with the choice - do Medical Research or Computer Science, and he chose the latter because her love for coding was bigger.

Today, she says, it’s the best choice she made. She never looked back.

Data Science and Engineering through the Years

Back in 1989 they were new fields, and a lot of work that is done by computers nowadays were done manually, Lin remembers. As better machines were developed, cheaper storage and greater computational power, it enabled data science to blossom. Companies got the chance to extract knowledge from many different sources and it allowed for better understanding of problems both employees and customers were facing. So in turn, more innovative solutions were implemented - enhancing products and everybody’s experience, says Lin.

Grace Hopper Involvement

Wei has been involved in Grace Hopper, a conference that celebrates women in tech, since 2009. but she started fighting for women’s rights back in 2005. She noticed how few women were holding the top level positions in the companies, as well as seeing women be mistreated in the workplace, lead her to take action on these matters and become an advocate for women’s rights.

Computer Science - A men’s field

Lin explains it this way:
“Traditionally a “geek” is not well accepted by their peers. Girls don’t want to be geeks! And people used to think that girls can’t be good at STEM. To no one’s surprise, girls didn’t believe they could be good either! This lead to a very low number of girls enrolling college for computer science. The number of enrolled women in computer science has declined substantially from 1990s to 2000s.”

She goes on to explain that in 2015. the number of girls graduating from computer science was only 17% or 18% of the total number of people graduating in the US. Additionally, when they get into the workplace they feel a lot of pressure. Firstly they may not be accepted since they are a minority, and yet they have to maintain their family life and possibly bear a child (maybe even a few times), yet, the companies aren’t ready to accept that these women will have to leave the workplace temporarily - “They need the job done!”, Lin adds.

Women bring Creativity

Women think differently than men, they can bring diversity - a different perspective to the workplace, and that can lead to innovation with more comprehensive solutions. It’s one of the reasons companies need diversity, women naturally think differently than man.

Will there be an equal amount of men and women in the workplace anytime soon?

That is a far target, but some countries are doing better than others and the goal seems achievable, though it will take time and effort. For example, in India there are a lot more women in computer science than in the US, or many other western countries. Lack of career paths, lack of support for women is preventing them from choosing this field, as Lin says ‘’there’s a glass ceiling’’. Even though there are many organizations today who work on this, in the end it’s the companies’ decision they don’t always care about diversity, they just want to reach business goals. High rank jobs usually have just a small percent of women, even though it would lead to more creativity and innovation.

Do you have an idea how we can get there?

“First, we need to build a pipeline”, Lin states. It’s important to start as early as possible - “at elementary, middle or high school.” She used to visit schools and talk to girls about what a career in computer science would look like. These girls need support, to get into the field and get hired. Once they are hired the companies must give them the chance to succeed. Moreover, we need men’s support. They need to acknowledge that having women helps their companies and them as much as it helps shatter the stigma around ‘women in males’ jobs’.

In recent Deloitte research, women contributed and took up to about 85% decisions that companies made. They can bring their unique thinking to develop more creative and comprehensive business strategies and products, if they are given a chance.

Advice for the Youth

“You need to have curious and inquisitive mindset, a positive mindset, you have to think you’re good, you can do it! You should not have fear, you should have this daring spirit, you need to go out there and do it so YOU can be successful!

If you don’t have that mindset you will have a lot less chance to get where you want to be.”

To watch the full interview, click here. Additionally, you may want to check out other interviews we did. Subscribe to our newsletter to get 10% off of the DSC/4.0 ticket as well as many other perks we offer to our subscribers :)