Women in Tech: “Gender bias is creating massive challenges across social, ethnic, and economic groups.”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Rachel Taylor, CEO of Nubix.io.
A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Rachel Taylor, CEO of Nubix.io.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Rachel Taylor, CEO of Nubix.io
Rachel Taylor is the CEO of Nubix.io, a provider of edge-native tiny containers for IoT analytics. She is a passionate operational executive with over 20 years of enterprise infrastructure technology experience. Prior to Nubix.io, she was chief operating officer at Rocana, focused on scaling the organization. She has held leadership roles at leading tech companies where she helped build great teams to achieve operational excellence, including Cloudera, Meraki (acquired by Cisco), Clearslide (acquired by Corel Corp), Peakstream (acquired by Google), Riverbed, and VMware.
What first got you interested in tech?
I have loved technology from a very young age. In second grade, I was invited to participate in a special academic program where I was first exposed to coding. I wrote a program that made a fish swim across the screen with little bubbles coming out of its mouth, and from that moment on, I was hooked. Throughout school, I took any computer class I could. While in college, I worked in the computer lab and was the first sales rep for Apple on campus.
How did you end up in your career path and what obstacles did you have to overcome?
After college, I took a job at a discount brokerage firm and managed billing for a no-transaction-fee mutual fund. The firm had used spreadsheets to manually keep track of balances. It didn’t take long to realize that in some cases they were off by millions of dollars because of human error. I had experience building databases in college. I figured out I could download a file from our clearinghouse every night and input it to a database so it would automatically update and adjust the balances. This prevented human error and made it easier to track and send out mutual fund balances every month. That solidified my transition from using technology academically to applying technology in meaningful ways in business. Over the next two years, my role grew into the management of the company’s IT systems, and I began to envision a successful career in technology.
I’ve found my gender, age, and educational background all to be obstacles to overcome.
However, it hasn’t been an easy path to follow. I’ve found my gender, age, and educational background all to be obstacles to overcome. In the mid-’90s, I moved from San Diego to the Bay Area, where there were many open technology positions. With a hot job market then, you’d think I would’ve landed a network or database administration position, but I could not get a job to save my life as a 20-something female. And in spite of having years of real-world experience and knowledge of IT systems, many firms would not even consider me for roles because my degree was in business, not computer science. I went to about 40 to 50 tech recruiting firms before choosing a new path within the industry. I found that becoming a technical recruiter myself allowed me to leverage my technical knowledge to help build successful teams. It expanded my network and exposed me to new areas of tech. I went on to lead expansion efforts for a number of rapid-growth technology companies and continued to rise in leadership.
Did you receive support from your family and friends?
I didn’t receive much support from family and friends, but I did have a boss early in my career that I considered a role model. She also didn’t follow a traditional career path. She didn’t attend college right away. She worked as an executive assistant at a bank when her boss convinced her to go to night school. After two years, she applied and got into Stanford, and graduated with honors while she was in her late ’20s. She then got her MBA from Harvard and became a successful investment banker.
I started as her assistant and then ended up building a database for her. She changed my perception of career paths and my ability to make a change. She is a smart, wonderful woman who didn’t hold other women down, but she also didn’t shy away from siding with men. She was the only female at the time with a seat at the table.
Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
Yes, I had a female boss that constantly gave negative criticism and misinformation. In many cases, the criticism was not only professional but personal as well. She positioned herself as the gatekeeper of information and communication, blocking those around her from building positive connections with leadership. It was a painful experience because I had worked hard and had done a great job. I ended up leaving the company and team that I loved.
We need to build corporate cultures where people are respected, promoted and paid for their expertise, not their gender.
Part of the problem was my naivete and wanting to believe in the best in people. I assumed she was giving me feedback because she wanted me to improve. I should’ve realized it wasn’t about me. It was her insecurity. Looking back, I could have been more assertive in seeking direct meetings with leadership. It would’ve made me more comfortable, calm, and confident in my role. I probably would’ve still left the company, but it would’ve been a less stressful experience.
A day in Rachel’s life
I am the CEO of an early-stage startup company, and there is no typical workday. One week, I’m flying to Helsinki to present to a potential partner. The following week, I’m in California presenting to investors. And then I also have to figure out why our expense system isn’t reimbursing employees. But I love my role because I get to be strategic and I can make an immediate impact.
It can be lonely as the CEO, especially a female CEO. I’ve got to believe in myself and be confident that the decisions I make will be good for the company.
But it can be challenging as well because, as the CEO, there are not a lot of people I can turn to for advice. It can be lonely as the CEO, especially a female CEO. I’ve got to believe in myself and be confident that the decisions I make will be good for the company.
What are you most proud of in your career?
While working for another company, almost everyone came up to me after a company meeting and said, “This is the best company I’ve ever worked at. I love the people. I love the culture. It’s the most fun. It’s like a family, and I know that’s because of you, Rachel.” That was the moment when I concluded this is what a great company should look like. That’s what I’m building here at Nubix.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
There are a couple of critical inflection points we have to be more conscious of. It starts with elementary school. We need to make the right investments early in their education. This will help to build their confidence around technology, science, and engineering. And as they begin their careers, we need to make sure they have the networks and mentors to help them get on similar career trajectories as men. We need to build corporate cultures where people are respected, promoted and paid for their expertise, not their gender. We need a culture that encourages balance and family life as well. So many of the women who make it through college and enter the tech field choose to not return from maternity leave because they are so tired of fighting the battle and do not want to have to prove themselves all over again.
What challenges do women in tech face?
Outside of the obvious, I see it as a huge concern that a lot of women who achieve professional success in technology aren’t supporting other women. They don’t pay it forward, and then it’s a self-perpetuating problem. Regardless of whether we’ve had help along the way, we need to consciously seek ways to support the success of other women in the workplace.
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?
Absolutely. Take a look at the medical research field where women-specific issues have been neglected for a long time. The amount of research on male versus female issues has been disproportionate. For example, until recently, there’s been much research into things like erectile dysfunction and little into female hormonal issues. It’s very weighted toward males because all the doctors in the research positions were men. At some point, it needs to come into balance.
As far as the impact of gender bias, research shows women with the same role and experience as men get paid less on average. Add in ethnicity, and it goes down more.
As far as the impact of gender bias, research shows women with the same role and experience as men get paid less on average. Add in ethnicity, and it goes down more. On top of that, a lot of women are single mothers working two jobs trying to support their children, but they make less than their male counterparts. They don’t have the same opportunity. They have to leave early because they have to pick up their kids, and they get shamed for that. Gender bias is creating massive challenges across social, ethnic, and economic groups.
The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?
If the results mean full equality, it could take generations. We face a lot of entrenched biases. The problem is there’s so much pent-up anger and frustration that a lot of women are reacting in negative ways. It’s almost shifting the discussion too far in the other direction. It’s going to take a while to retrain people. We need to make sure women don’t get too angry and men don’t get too defensive. It’s going to take time to get a more balanced answer that’s fair. For that to happen, we need to come together as people who care about people, regardless of gender, age, race, orientation, and socioeconomic status.
What advice would you give to women who want a career in tech?
Women should prioritize building their networks and finding people and mentors that can help them get on their career path. It’s not just what you know, but also who you know. And that doesn’t necessarily relate to nepotism—it’s about generating more pathways for opportunities. I’m always willing to help network people, to make an introduction. I will go above and beyond for women because they don’t have those natural, organic networks men have.
I will go above and beyond for women because they don’t have those natural, organic networks men have.
Also, there are some very strong tech groups focused on women, but I would encourage young women to also pursue professional groups that foster networking for men and women together in relation to the specific area of tech in which they want to grow. These can generate connections and opportunities that align with career goals without limiting their network to only women. And when the path is difficult, they should keep showing up and making themselves invaluable.
Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:
- Women in Tech: Katrin Rabow – “A higher proportion of women in our industry will change the way we think”
- Women in Tech: Milecia McGregor – “It is a difficult industry, but it’s nothing that you can’t handle”
- Women in Tech: Emily Jiang – “Your track record of successful delivery is enough to show the truth.”
- Women in Tech: Ina Einemann – “Women and men must be equally represented”
- Women in Tech: Stefanie Langner – “Diversity still has a long way to go”