Google X Roboticist Reveals How She Overcame Gender Discrimination

It’s no surprise that the computer industry is widely dominated by men (and male culture), but despite the rapid growth of companies and technology, the number of women in the industry is actually falling.

Since 1990, the number of women in computing has fallen from 35% to 26%. Now, those women are speaking out as part of Re/Code’s new series, “The 26%: Women Speak Out on Tech’s Diversity Crisis.”

The first episode features Leila Takayama, a senior user experience researcher at Google X, Google’s secretive branch dedicated to advanced technology development. Takayama is also one of the world’s leading experts on human-robotic interaction, but like all women in the tech industry, she has witnessed and faced gender discrimination. She explained one example to Re/Code:

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“One team I worked with, they always had this tradition of having Scotch in the afternoon, and I was like, ‘Okay, how about we widen that a little bit.’ And they did. They weren’t doing it on purpose, they weren’t trying to exclude us. But it was, and so we just talked about it and it wasn’t emotional, nobody got defensive. We just changed it, and so now they’ll do cupcakes and everybody is happy because everyone loves cupcakes.

“There are some days where I really want to take it on and tackle that kind of bias, but there’s other days when I’m like,  ‘I don’t have the energy to fight this all the time.’ I’m going to go where people actually want to work with me and are interested in what I’m doing.

“It’s a problem, but it’s not insurmountable.”

However, she’s also tackled the problem in her workplace and has some advice for how women everywhere can help build a stronger and more balanced tech industry.

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“I think if we had more examples of non-fictional and fictional role models, I think that would make a huge difference just for people thinking, ‘I could do that.’ “

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