Despite spending nearly a decade in Silicon Valley working for Facebook, Randi Zuckerberg doesn’t have many simple tips for women looking to succeed in the male-driven tech economy.
“The advice I like to give young women to succeed in tech is to have a man’s name, like Randi,” Zuckerberg said during a talk as part of Quartz’s “How We’ll Win” series on work equality for women. “I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve gotten over the years because I e-mailed someone and they thought it was a dude. I would show up and they’re like, ‘Where’s Randy?’ and I’m like ‘Sucker!'”
The crowd of budding and aspiring entrepreneurs laughed, as did Zuckerberg, before admitting that tip is “funny and horrible.”
“Unfortunately, a decade later, that’s still my best advice,” she added.
Zuckerberg is now an author and speaker and has founded Zuckerberg Media with the goal of creating content for children, particularly girls, that will spark and develop an interest in STEM fields, something she sees girls being turned away from around eight or nine years old. Her experiences in Silicon Valley — mainly her longtime role heading up marketing at Facebook, the platform her brother founded in 2004, drove her toward this focus on getting more girls on a path to tech careers.
“I loved every second of working at Facebook and in Silicon Valley, but what I didn’t like was being the only woman in every meeting,” Zuckerberg said. It wasn’t until a year after Zuckerberg in 2011 left Facebook (after her idea for Facebook Live became a reality) that Cheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operations officer since 2008, was became the first woman on the company’s eight-member board.
And Zuckerberg’s decision to leave Facebook ultimately came down to her wanting to “walk the walk” of the female entrepreneurs she had started to write about and speak to.
“By that point I was traveling a lot and speaking to women, angel investing, saying ‘Start your own companies, ladies!’ and I would just go back to my job, working for someone else,” Zuckerberg said.
As for women and people of color trying to get funding for a business idea that don’t want to change their names, Zuckerberg didn’t offer a lot of advice beyond using one’s differences as an advantage (“you’re more memorable”) and not being afraid to fail (“once you’re in an environment like Silicon Valley where people are not afraid of failure, you realize you have this entire creative spirit inside of you”).
While there’s no denying that she certainly had a serious leg up on other women trying to get their own business off the ground — including some women in the audience, one who said she’s started a nonprofit with her brother trying to bring tech skills to children in Africa through a digital photography education program — there were a lot of fields Zuckerberg, who longed to be a Broadway star before going to Facebook, could have gone into besides the notoriously costly and unpredictable one of media.
“It’s not the easiest industry, but I think it’s the most powerful industry,” Zuckerberg, who’s cartoon DOT is now in 40 countries through a deal with NBC, said. “TV is still the main driver of cultural influence in the country and abroad.”
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