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Boise women technology employees hold inaugural event

Tanuja Gairola speaks at the Treasure Valley Women in Tech event. Photo by Sharon Fisher

More than 100 women from Boise’s biggest technology companies got together to share professional advice at the first Treasure Valley Women in Tech event.

In the first of what’s hoped to be at least a quarterly or semiannual experience, women employees from Clearwater Analytics Inc., Intuit Inc. and Kount Inc. were joined by other women from EETech, HP, Micron and the city of Boise. Held on Nov. 7 at the Clearwater headquarters in downtown Boise, the event was open to all women employees, regardless of whether they worked in tech roles themselves.

“We don’t want it to be a flash in the pan,” said organizer Tanuja Gairola, global head of talent acquisition for Clearwater. “This is like a pilot.”

Purpose of the group

Gairola – who lives in the Bay Area, commuting back home on weekends – said she was compelled to form the group due to what she saw as a vacuum in Boise.

“I’m used to seeing a lot of women in tech – not in equal numbers, but we have lots of opportunities to get together and discuss issues,” she said. “Boise has very few women in technology. There’s barely any outlets for women to meet, discuss issues and find mentorship.”

So Clearwater reached out to Kount – which Gairola described as a “rival,” particularly for tech talent – to see whether they felt the same. They did and joined forces with Clearwater once they were convinced it wasn’t a recruiting event.

“What brings us together is a desire for not just checking off the diversity and inclusion checkboxes,” she said. “We want to do more for the community.”

While the event was originally intended for just the three companies, including Intuit, women invited friends from other companies, Gairola said.

“I loved it, even though we are spending all the money,” she said. “The idea was to have a larger platform.”

She hopes the additional women will carry the idea back to their companies and future meetings will have more participants.

“Women have not had a chance to have this kind of an event to open up,” Gairola said. “’Do others suffer from the same issues I do?’”

It’s a subject that often comes up at other events, she said.

Build a team, make a plan

photo of Sandeep Sahai

Sandeep Sahai. Photo by Sharon Fisher

At the event, the only male speaker was Sandeep Sahai, Clearwater CEO, who opened the session. One of his daughters always asks how many women are in meetings he attends, and he said it rarely gets above 20%. In the C-suite, where decisions are made, it is often none or one, he said.

“We’re always talking about ‘making progress,’” Sahai said. “And that [malarkey] has to stop.”

Other speakers included Rebecca Hupp, Boise Airport director, and Katy Kahla, a leader in product development at Intuit. The speakers were followed by roundtable discussions on issues such as negotiation skills, imposter complex and identifying male allies. After the discussions, each table presented its findings to the group.

Hupp – who started working at the Bangor Airport in Maine just before 9/11, which diverted a number of flights to her airport – urged attendees to build their teams. No one can know everything and be there all the time – you have to know your team and trust them, she said. And she encouraged attendees to put their plans in writing. “Putting things in writing makes it real,” she said.

photo of rebecca hupp

Rebecca Hupp. Photo by Sharon Fisher

It’s important for women to step up and volunteer for speaking gigs, committees and conferences, Hupp told the group. “Wherever you are, seize something.”

“People are now pretty woke, pretty aware,” Gairola agreed. “If you show up, you get a chance, but if you don’t show up – especially in tech when it’s so fast-paced and competitive – no one is going to do it for you. It does come down to the individual to raise their hands and say, ‘I’ll take this stretch project, I’ll go to this conference.’”

About Sharon Fisher