The inspiration behind Studio’s creation, her path in product management, and the challenges and opportunities she sees for women in the field.
Stephanie Shaw’s degree is in psychology, and she’s stayed true to her roots even as she explored the world of product management at the Game Show Network, SessionM, and DigitasLBi before she transitioned to InVision. “I’ve always been interested in how people’s minds work, how they react to a brand, how they respond to stimuli. It translates well into tech. Each product tries to elicit a certain reaction.”
Here at InVision, Shaw is the product manager behind Studio, which brings advanced animation, responsive design, shared design systems, and an extensive app ecosystem into one powerful screen design platform that will not only make designing faster, but will remove many of the roadblocks to effective collaboration between stakeholders.
Product management seemed like a natural fit for Shaw, who enjoys wearing many different hats in her communication with a wide range of players. “It’s the best part and the most challenging part of my job—I have to put myself in everybody else’s shoes. It means I really have to invest in empathizing.”
Asked if she thinks the gender divide plays into product development, Shaw says, “I do—I think the people who build the products influence which problems are perceived and which products come to market. That’s why having a diverse team working on Studio meant we were able to make a comprehensive product for a wide user base. With a narrow team, naturally it’ll be hard to account for all the use cases for your market—more and broader minds can deliver a better-suited product to the people who need it.”
“Do something you’re passionate about with people who inspire you.”
Recent headlines from some of the major tech companies point to an industry still struggling with how to give its underrepresented members a voice while finding fair ways to encourage more balance in the numbers. The conversation is not a new one, nor is it without plenty of examples to site: then-interim CEO of Reddit Ellen Pao’s case against venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers; and Google’s firing of software engineer James Damore for writing a manifesto questioning the company’s diversity efforts.
And that’s only small sampling of complaints at large tech companies—the landscape for female entrepreneurs seeking venture capital funding for their tech startups, the landscape is downright grim.
Even without approaching the level of litigation-worthy harassment or discrimination, gender stereotypes can have a chilling effect on innovation. Shaw described an exchange at a previous job where she was excluded from an important conversation between male colleagues because they worried she would react emotionally. A HomeAway software developer I spoke with described a previous employer who routinely “gave me busywork or tasks that were overly simple,” and a UX researcher at Square said, “I’m often the only woman in a packed elevator, and I find my contributions in meetings are often talked over.” Research backs this up, revealing that women in conversations with men are interrupted 33% more often compared to conversations only between men.
Nevertheless, Shaw remains optimistic about the developing landscape for women in tech. “I’ve worked in product for 6 years, and even in that time I’ve seen big changes. We’re making progress, we’re making headway, and as long as we continue to push for that gap to narrow, it’s an industry I’ll continue to stay a part of.”
“Women in conversations with men are interrupted 33% more often compared to conversations only between men.”
When asked how women in tech can advance their careers and help close the gender gap in the industry, she had this advice…
Have the confidence to advocate for yourself.
If you believe there’s merit behind why you deserve a seat at the table, a promotion, or a raise, outline that ask and voice it.
Do something you’re passionate about with people who inspire you.
You spend the majority of your days at work, so if you’re motivated and excited by your environment, it will reflect in your work performance and create potential growth opportunities.
Find creative ways to grow your skill set.
Be open to all constructive feedback, seek out mentors who can not only guide but also challenge you, and explore education or networking opportunities outside of the office. Our industry changes every day, so we need to evolve alongside it.
Longstanding conferences like the Grace Hopper Celebration and the Women in Tech Summit provide opportunities for women currently in the field to convene and share experiences and ideas while organizations like ChickTech work to increase the number of girls entering the pipeline to pursue careers in tech.
“Be your own advocate.”
Additionally, many companies support internal channels in which likeminded employees can connect and communicate, encouraging women and other underrepresented groups—LGBTQ employees, people of color, and employees with disabilities—to find ways to chip away at the notion of a monoculture in tech.
Bottom line? If, as InVision CEO and co-founder Clark Valberg says, “the screen has become the most important place in the world,” it’s even more critical that the tools and platforms we use to create products for it reflect the diverse, dynamic, and innovative voices of teams that look more like the populations they design for.
Rachel Starnes is the author of The War at Home: A Wife's Search for Peace (and Other Missions Impossible) (Penguin Books, 2016). She received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from California State University, Fresno and her BA from the University of Texas. Her essays have appeared in The Colorado Review, Front Porch Journal, and O Magazine. Born in Austin, Texas, she has lived in Scotland, Texas, Saudi Arabia, Florida, California, and Nevada, and is currently at work on a novel. More at rachelstarnes.com