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Randi Zuckerberg on women in the tech industry

Randi Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, spoke to Yahoo Finance's Alexis Christoforous about the current role of women in the tech industry, starting her own business, and decreasing the gender gap in careers in tech.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: In honor of Women's History Month, I caught up with one of tech's leading ladies, Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Randi is an entrepreneur in her own right. She is Founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media. And she shared with me why she thinks now is the perfect time for women to consider careers in the tech sector.

RANDI ZUCKERBERG: You know, it's such a great question. I think it definitely brought up some bigger challenges, but it's also created more opportunities. One of the big challenges is that we were already seeing a huge gap in women going into tech careers. Women make up more than 50% of the American workforce. But in the tech industry, it's less than 30% of the jobs are held by women.

And unfortunately, the pandemic is even making that number go down more, because women are facing increased pressures to do work at home and with children. But one of the interesting things, though, is that the opportunity for remote work has really broadened the number of opportunities that are available to women who need to balance all of the new jobs and responsibilities in their life. So there have definitely been challenges, but there are also definitely exciting opportunities.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Let's talk a little bit about those opportunities and perhaps some careers in tech that women aren't even aware of.

RANDI ZUCKERBERG: Yes. I'm so glad you asked that. And you know, it can feel very overwhelming. When we think about tech, we often think about kind of the big tech companies, but technology touches almost every single career and company that we have. I mean, agriculture, education, health care, manufacturing, these are tech careers that might not immediately come to mind.

And that's why I was so excited to work with DeVry University. They are launching a new program called Women and Tech Scholars, and it really is designed to touch on all of the things that are keeping women out of the tech industry. So they are introducing mentorship program, education and training, access to internships and jobs. They're committing up to $10 million in scholarships so that tech careers can be accessible by any woman who wants them. So it really is a full 360-degree program.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And why do you think there is such a gap there? Why are there so few women going into tech? Is it lack of opportunity, lack of access, knowledge, not knowing that these opportunities even exist? Or is it something societal, something within our society where we don't view women in tech in that way?

RANDI ZUCKERBERG: You know what, I think the answer is yes, everything that you mentioned. And that's why I think it's so critical if we're going to close this gap that we have to touch on everything, on education, on community, on mentorship, because all of these issues are happening at the same time. And when there are only a few women in the room, what happens is their voice gets silenced. It's harder to recruit other women, because no one wants to be the only woman in a company or a room. And the cycle perpetuates instead of getting better.

When you have more women in the room, they mentor other women. They invest in other women. They turn around and hire and give opportunities, and we can start closing that gap. So yes, we need to address everything, and that's why I really loved when DeVry came to me with this program that feels like it's touching on every challenge that women face.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You've certainly had a varied career, of course, very focused in tech, but also you love performing, and you've been able to produce and star on Broadway. So-- so lots to dig into there. But I think there are also some real lessons for all of us to learn from the journey that you've taken.

And one of them is I know that your brother Mark launched Facebook out of his dorm room at Harvard, but you actually launched Facebook Live out of a broom closet. So the two of you don't like doing these things in offices, apparently. But I know that Facebook-- Facebook Live, at first, didn't-- was not going to happen. Can you tell-- can you walk us through that a little bit and what are some of the lessons that were learned?

RANDI ZUCKERBERG: Sure. Well, I guess you mentioned I started out of a broom closet. I guess I was into running offices out of closets before it became cool this year with the pandemic. But I mean, one thing is that I never considered myself an entrepreneur. I always-- I had jobs in corporate America, and I loved those jobs, so I never even thought of myself as an entrepreneur. And when I got out to Silicon Valley and I saw the culture there-- and I want to reiterate that when I talk about tech jobs, it's not just Silicon Valley.

Tech is everywhere. My personal journey took me to Silicon Valley. It's hard to be there and not get caught by the entrepreneurial spirit. But I was always shocked by how few women there were, especially how few women were starting entrepreneurial initiatives. And starting Facebook Live was exciting, but really, it gave me a taste and a passion for encouraging more women to do that.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And I know that you also went to Harvard. And you point out you're the one who actually graduated, because I know Mark didn't. So kudos to you for finishing. But when you first entered, I know that you had wanted to major in music and that didn't work out, and you had to pivot at a very young age. Tell us what you learned from that, how you take that with you all these years later into your career?

RANDI ZUCKERBERG: You know, it was actually the best lesson, because what I learned from that is that women are so resilient and that we can become passionate. We can learn new skills. It doesn't matter how old you are or how much you've had your heart set on one career path versus another. At any age, we can retrain ourselves to dive into a new career, find new joy and meaning. And that's especially important because the jobs all of us are going to have in the future don't even exist yet today.


RANDI ZUCKERBERG: So, you know, [INAUDIBLE] I'm glad.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: It's mind-- really, it can blow your mind. But before we let you go, Randi, what is one thing you think that the tech industry can do, should do right now to help close that-- that gender parity gap?

RANDI ZUCKERBERG: I think the biggest thing is that we-- we definitely need more mentorship opportunities. We need women to feel-- to have a community around them, to feel like they're not the only woman in the room and when a woman does go into a tech company that's very male-dominated she feels like she's welcomed in with open arms. So I really am excited to see-- it's a great time to become a woman in technology. And I'm really excited to see all of the amazing digital careers that all of our viewers will take on.