While the number of women working in tech jobs in the U.S. has doubled over the past 20 years, they’re still significantly outnumbered by men in the field. Only 24 percent of computer science jobs were held by women last year, according to federal data analyzed by GeekWire.
For Nancy Wang, those figures were a call to arms.
Wang, senior manager of product management with Amazon’s Web Services (AWS), is also CEO and founder of Advancing Women In Product (AWIP), a nonprofit supporting women in the field. While numerous organizations aim to give a boost to minorities in tech, Wang said her group has a specific mission.
“The focus is more on women and other underrepresented groups who have experience and are moving on to their first leadership role and bridging the chasm,” Wang said. The group is focusing on more seasoned tech workers looking to climb higher and in need of mentors and sponsors.
AWIP, whose acronym is pronounced “A”-whip, has grown to more than 7,000 members nationally since starting in 2017. There are nearly 1,000 AWIP members in the Seattle chapter, and there are additional chapters in the Bay Area, where the group began, plus Boston, London and Paris. There are plans to create more chapters this year.
In February, the group launched a podcast called Masters of Product. The series features the careers of women and other underrepresented groups in tech, as well as providing resources for career development.
AWIP surveyed 800 women and other minorities working in tech product management to learn what challenges they faced. Many people responded that it was difficult to have their voice heard, to establish their leadership and be treated as a leader, and to be taken seriously. That can be particularly hard when your ideas run counter to the prevailing notions, Wang said. AWIP aims to coach women in leadership trying to overcome those obstacles and connect them with mentors.
Wang is eager for men to participate in AWIP.
“Especially since we’re in such a male-dominated space, the way to effect real change is to get everyone’s buy in,” she said. When most tech colleagues and leaders are men, “we need them to be brought into female empowerment.”
Wang started at Amazon in January. She’s leading product management for Amazon EC2 Enterprise Workloads. Her team supports Microsoft workloads including SQL Server, Active Directory as well as Windows workloads in Worldwide Public Sector and gaming. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Sciences in Computer Science.
We caught up with Wang for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: Seattle. I recently moved from San Francisco.
Computer types: MacBook Pro/Air (better for programming)
Mobile devices: iPhone (AirDrop is amazing), and the Google Nexus (which I got for a Christmas present one year when I still worked at Google)
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Slack (that’s how all 70-plus members of the AWIP volunteer team communicate), Mode Analytics (really great platform for data analysis), LinkedIn (good for connecting with peers and former colleagues)
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? I love the fact that my office faces Mount Rainier. Being in Seattle, we need all the sun we can get! I know a lot of people think it’s kitschy, but I got my ergonomic assessment almost as soon as I joined. I love it when my chair and my desk just work.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Ruthless prioritization — ha ha, but really. I think when you really care about something, you’ll make the time for it. I get that question a lot because in addition to my full-time job at AWS, I also run AWIP. With six chapters, 7,000 members and growing, there’s never a dull day!
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? LinkedIn. Ever since they introduced LinkedIn News Feed it’s been super interesting getting to see folks sharing articles, findings, and inspirational news for others. I use it these days to share anything from posts I write for Forbes, job opportunities, to connecting with old friends from Google and Penn.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? Too many to count! It’s a daily struggle to keep the number below 100.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? If we’re only counting work, over 50. If we add AWIP, it’s over 80.
How do you run meetings? I believe the best meetings are when you do the homework beforehand. Figure out who needs to be there, what needs to be decided and what are the possible outcomes.
Everyday work uniform? A pair of kitten heels, a skirt and funky, sometimes pastel silk blouse — and my trusty shawl!
How do you make time for family? Family time is sacred for me. My Significant Other is super understanding, and I’m glad that he supports my career but when we’re together it’s “phones down, laptops closed.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? AWIP! As strange as it may sound, being able to work on something other than my full-time job that I can see impacting others’ lives makes me super energized.
What are you listening to? Either my A.R. Rahman Bollywood playlist, or jazz piano!
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? For work: Mind the Product, Hacker Noon, ForbesWomen, Wall Street Journal. For fun, I love reading travel blogs and foodie reviews!
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “High Growth Handbook” by Elad B. Gil
Night owl or early riser? Naturally, I’m a night owl — but my job requires me to be both :). But I never go below seven hours of sleep a night.
Where do you get your best ideas? When I’m not trying! I feel that when I’m relaxed and in my element, the ideas just come. I also love just brainstorming and whiteboarding with other PMs.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? I’m currently working on a piece with the execs at AWIP on servant leadership. I’d love to explore that more as a concept, because the most successful leaders I know seem to share that in common.