Friday, June 29, 2007

Lin Chase: Women in Technology from Pittsburgh to India

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interviews Lin Chase, current director of research and development for technology at Accenture in Bangalore, India. Chase has a bachelor's degree in physics, and a PhD in computer science-robotics. After finishing her undergraduate degree the 1980s, she worked in Pittsburgh's fledgling high-tech industry, better known for steel production and heavy industry:

At the time, I felt like I was really on target with how these technologies could be used; and I was really, really good at building relationships in the companies.

But I didn't think I was being taken seriously in certain situations because of both being young and being female.

A lot of the industries we were looking at were capital intensive: automotive, rail transport and the military. ... And these, traditionally, are not great industries for young women to take on. So I just decided I was really interested in getting a Ph.D. and furthering that kind of intellectual experience. And I really wanted some time to get some gray hairs and be older.

She went on to get her Ph.D. from Carnegie-Mellon, and worked in the tech industry in Paris, London and Silicon Valley. Today, working in India, she says that "being a Westerner trumps being female," but she sees that the women who succeed in India are ones who "don't have personal full-time responsibilities at home."

There is a small handful of women I know [in India] at work in their 20s or early 30s who are very, very devoted to their work, and I'm very sorry to say most of them are divorced.

I make a big effort to bring women on to my team. I go to great lengths to make sure they understand, and everyone on my team understands, that anyone who has elder care or child care responsibilities at home gets special treatment in terms of hours they need to work, whether or not I can pay for their Internet access at home, and whether they can have a laptop to take home. I don't say specifically it's the women who get this. I say anyone with elder care or child care responsibilities. It's not really about being male or female. It's really about work-life balance.

Do tech companies here in the U.S. made the same kind of effort? I would hope so.

You can listen to audio excerpts of the Post-Gazette's conversation with Chase:
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