Representation Matters | Beth Steinberg and the Women of Zenefits

Representation matters– specifically the representation of women in traditionally male-dominated fields. Zenefits sits down with Beth Steinberg, who talks of increasing the representation of women in Bay Area companies. 

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Women of Zenefits

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we want to shine the spotlight on some of our valued female employees. Why? Because representation matters– specifically the representation of women in traditionally male-dominated fields (Ahem, all of Silicon Valley). Zenefits sits down with female powerhouse Beth Steinberg, who gives us some advice and talks of increasing the representation of women in Bay Area companies. To kickstart this initiative, read on to find a step-by-step guide on how to implement a women’s resource group within your company!

Beth Steinberg is Breaking the Status Quo

“Women need to know their power… and use it,” says Beth Steinberg, Chief People Officer here at Zenefits. Beth has been working in Silicon Valley for over a decade, playing an integral role in companies such as BrightRoll, EA, Facebook, and Sunrun. She’s also worked as a startup advisor to countless more organizations, including Mozilla, Lynda, Greenhouse, Reddit– the list goes on and on. Needless to say, she’s had her fair share of working in what has been deemed “a man’s world.”

While she has grown confident in her abilities and earned the respect of her peers, she says it wasn’t always easy. “Back when I started in the workforce, a certain level of harassment from coworkers was unfortunately just expected. It wasn’t ‘will it happen?’ but rather ‘how will you deal with it when it does?’” 

While conditions for women in the workplace have undoubtedly improved within the past few decades, harassment and microaggressions are certainly still rampant, specifically in the male-dominated tech culture of Silicon Valley. 

In fact, in a 2017 study of over 200 women with a minimum of 10 years work experience in tech, 60% of them reported unwanted sexual advances and 1 in 3 felt unsafe because of work-related circumstances. 87% of respondents said they had received demeaning comments from their male colleagues, and 88% had clients direct questions are their male colleagues that should have been addressed to them.

So, to all the badass working women out there, what can you do to break the status quo? Here are Beth’s pro tips:

  1. Be Authentic. We’re not going to beat them by joining them– being authentic can open up space for a new status quo, and allow others to take the same action. “I find a certain solace and strength in acting on what feels right to me,” says Beth, “and I trust that instinct.”
  2. Do what’s right for others. Wait… but aren’t we supposed to be standing up for ourselves? “In a lot of ways, it’s much harder for me to stand up for myself than for others,” says Steinberg. The first time she was really forced to challenge authority in the workplace was to defend a co-worker who was being mistreated. When she succeeded in creating a culture of respect in the office, she felt more comfortable voicing her own needs and concerns.
  3. Representation Matters. Perhaps most important of all, women need to see other women in the world of tech, in the office, in positions of power. “Seeing people who look like you at a company– whether they reflect your gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or so on– that goes a long way in making you feel welcomed and valued.”

The Importance of Representation

After recognizing the importance of this last point, representation matters, Beth became a sponsor to Techwomen, a company that inspires, supports, and fosters connections between the next generation of women in STEM. It connects successful Bay Area companies with women from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East in the form of internships and mentorships.

“I remember when we hosted a young woman from Yemen,” recalls Steinberg. “Both she and the company went through a huge adjustment period. On her first day, she had a hard time speaking in front of others, but on her last day with us, she made an incredible presentation about what she had learned. It was in front of the entire office, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room!”

This program helps women from all backgrounds succeed and ultimately aims to inspire female leaders all over the world, boosting the representation of women in the workplace. With this initial catalyst, girls will grow up with more female role models, fostering a sense of belonging for them in seats of power. It also aims at boosting economic growth for the participants’ home countries.

“It was a great experience for the company as well. We put in a prayer room for her and it expanded our knowledge of her culture.”

Representation of Women in at Zenefits

Upon accepting a job at Zenefits, Beth immediately became an advisor to ZeneWomen, a group that supports and connects our female employees.

ZeneWomen unifies employees who share a passion for learning, offering mentorship, and fostering lasting connections which enhance and support women’s success in the workplace– and they welcome men!

“I joined Zenewomen seeking some career mentorship opportunities from the strong women that were in leadership positions at Zenefits,” says Emily Smith, one of the ZeneWomen leaders. ”Instead of having formal mentorship meetings with the female leaders in the company, I quickly began to work with them on various events and initiatives and learned from seeing them in action. I think that exemplifies what Zenewomen is all about. We want to connect people from all different parts of Zenefits to help support the women in our workplace and foster their personal and professional growth.”

Caitlin Dowling is another member of Zenewomen. She says of her experience, “Zenewomen is one of my favorite peer groups at Zenefits – it’s a great place to garner inspiration, motivation, and collect support from like-minded professionals. Attending events and volunteering together is a great way to get to know one another outside of work, too!”

By carving out a protected space for the women at Zenefits, we hope to demonstrate that we highly value their contributions and want to make them feel heard, supported, and comfortable in their work environment.

Want some tips on how to start an employee resource group to celebrate your female employees? Check out our latest blog, 5 steps to starting your ERG.

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