dents to VMware [so] that once they gain
some professional experience, VMware is
at the top of their list,” says Smith, who’s
senior vice president, general counsel, chief
compliance officer and secretary for the
virtualization software company.
Anderson, meanwhile, arranged last
summer’s Digital Discovery Tour for 10
Wisconsin youths without limiting it to
Instead, he exposed students to a
spectrum of technology-related careers at
Google Inc., Dropbox Inc. and Twitter Inc.,
where top executives discussed their professional paths and how they made choices.
The youths explored more of the digital
ecosystem with venture capitalists who
explained how they selected businesses in
which to invest.
“There are constantly new opportunities in the
information economy, so I wanted to shorten their dis-
covery process,” Anderson says. “Some of them did not
realize that a giant tech company can start with only
five people working from a coffee shop.”
Before and after the California trip, the students
have been participants in Marquette’s Educational Op-
portunity Program, part of a national initiative aimed
at increasing the graduation rates of young people from
Students on the digital tour were struck by the fact
that so many executives persevered through failures on
their road to success, says Joseph Green, EOP director
“The trip opened their eyes,” Green says. “Seeing
real people work at these companies underscored that
they aren’t mythical. Many of the students could envi-
sion themselves at these kinds of companies.”
The latter is significant, he says, because college stu-
dents tend to pursue jobs in the region where they’re ed-
ucated. If not for the California trip, his EOP participants
would not think to apply for Silicon Valley positions.
Respect Helps Fuel Retention of
Just as Hispanics and African-Americans are few at
Silicon Valley corporations, women have historically
been underrepresented, too. Women constitute 46 percent of the nation’s workforce, according to the Bureau
of Labor Statistics, but news reports indicate that they
hold less than 20 percent of computing jobs at some
Even so, the number of female legal chiefs is multiplying industrywide.
Of the 180 members of the Women’s General Counsel Network—most of them northern Californians—
more than 60 percent work in the tech sector, says Jan
Kang, the group’s founder. Furthermore, membership
in the organization, which began in 2009 with five
women, including Kang, hovered in the 50s for a couple
of years until more Silicon Valley companies brought
their legal work in-house.
Look no further than VMware’s law department
as an example of stepped-up gender inclusion. Before
Smith joined the company as GC in 2009, none of the
direct reports to her female predecessor were women.
Now, women make up half of Smith’s senior leadership
tier and about half of her 138 lawyers.
But workforce observers emphasize that improved
head counts won’t guarantee that a company climate is
welcoming and supportive. Without respect from supervisors and peers, employees across all divisions will
likely seek jobs elsewhere, even outside the field. Amid
last year’s release of dismal race and gender data in
Silicon Valley, the San Francisco Chronicle published accounts from female tech workers who were groped by
male colleagues and subjected to suggestive remarks.
Offensive behavior crosses racial lines, too.
Costin was a junior law firm associate at the 1995
conclusion of the murder trial of former football star
One of the few African-Americans at her firm,
Costin was using the restroom at work when two white
colleagues came in. The women, who were outside
Joseph Green Jan Kang