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How to bridge the gender gap in the tech sector

Priyanka Sharma, Cloud Native Computing Foundation General Manager joined Yahoo Finance to discuss how to tackle the gender gap issue in the tech sector.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Priyanka Sharma-- she is a global-- or a general manager of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. And Priyanka, you're in the software space. So let's just talk specifically about what's going on there because we talk to so many business leaders here on the show who say that this is a huge focus, diversity and inclusion. Yet the numbers, when we looked at-- look at it from a sector basis shows that there clearly needs to be improvement. Why do you think the software space has been lagging behind on this?

PRIYANKA SHARMA: I think there has been-- this industry, while extremely fast-moving and very innovative, has had some cultural and traditional barriers that have made it harder for women or people of color or generally diverse folks to get involved.

However, good news is on the horizon because open source, which most of the technology today depends on-- for example, I think this show itself is probably running on the infrastructure technology that we host over there-- in this Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Things are changing rapidly because of open source because open source is, by nature-- anyone can contribute. Anyone can show up. Geographies don't matter. Time zones don't matter. Your demographics don't matter.

So by its nature, open source is set up to improve diversity in the technology ecosystem. And there is, obviously, you know, the trickle-down effect because most technology today depends on open source software.

So there's a lot of possibilities and potential. And I think now is the time where, with various initiatives, we have all come to the conclusion that this needs commitment. This needs everyday practice. This needs work every day. And we're starting to do that. So I'm optimistic that, over the years, things will get better.

ADAM SHAPIRO: And, well, when-- one of the reasons to be optimistic is I can remember, you know, 10 years ago talking about the need to get young girls involved in software and in coding. And those young girls are now women who are going to be taking these positions. Are we seeing that actually happen? Did young women take to coding with the emphasis that the world was, essentially, saying, hey, you can do it?

PRIYANKA SHARMA: Yes. I think we have made good progress. I personally am a recipient of all the efforts people in our industry have been making where I got so much encouragement, so much support to keep working in open source, first as a contributor. Then I started joining boards. And now I'm running the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

But that does not mean that all our work is done and we can just relax. No way. That is not the case. It is an ongoing journey, you know? So many more women, so many more female leaders exist today. But are the numbers where they should be? Absolutely not.

And when we think of diversity, are we thinking beyond women? Are we thinking to different geographies? Are we thinking to different nationalities, different races?

There's so much work to be done. And there will always be work to be done. So we got to just keep going.

SEANA SMITH: Priyanka, what do you think the timeline is on this, because I think-- I'm so encouraged to hear that you are optimistic. And I'm certainly optimistic. And when you look at the numbers, though, you see the need for so much improvement. When do you think we will finally reach those numbers, the goal numbers that we've been striving for now for so long?

PRIYANKA SHARMA: I think that's a very good and very difficult question.

[CHUCKLING]

So in my opinion, we had a little bit, you know, slow start. But that's because, you know, getting, like, 0 to 1 is always very hard. And then when you go further, it-- hopefully, like, it's-- the snowball effect happens.

I would hope that in the next decade, we see meaningful improvement, in the next five years, we see meaningful improvement. In fact, I mean, every day that somebody supports another person in the community, helping them with job opportunities, helping them with education, we're making, like, effort chip by chip.

I think there's often, like-- rightly so, we look at the macro trends, right, like what will happen in 10 years, what will happen in 20 years. But we have to keep this front and center every day.

So when we work in inclusive naming to make sure everybody feels welcome and there are no problematic terminology in code, when we look for folks for leadership positions and really reach out to any and every traditionally underrepresented minority, all of those efforts-- they compound over time. And that's what we must always remember.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Do the companies-- do the tech companies or, for that matter, any company that's looking for employees who write code-- do they scour open source or authors? It's like, you know, this was good. We want to bring you in.

PRIYANKA SHARMA: Absolutely. So software and technology is one of the best places for wealth creation, for high-paying jobs. These are one of-- some of the best jobs out there. And open source is, with its increasing value in commercial products-- I mean, in the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, we are the baseline for a lot of things that happen in cloud computing technology, for instance.

The criticality of open source means all these employers look for open source contributors not just because, you know, that's cool or fun, but because it's business-critical. People who really understand the technology you're going to build on-- you need them. And so anyone who has an open source background has a huge edge.