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August 31, 2020

Self-Driven Women: Building a community of women developing the future of mobility

  • Life at Waymo
A photo of a woman inside a Waymo Firefly vehicle
A photo of a woman inside a Waymo Firefly vehicle

On August 26, we celebrated Women’s Equality Day. It marked the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in the United States. It’s an important milestone in America’s history, though it wasn’t until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act passed allowing women of color to exercise their right to vote. This reminds us that over the past hundred years, there has been substantial progress toward gender equality, but the work is far from complete. At Waymo, equal opportunities are not just part of our culture, but are also an essential foundation for building truly inclusive technology and improving mobility for everyone.

Last week, we launched a new initiative called Self-Driven Women and hosted over 250 people at our inaugural virtual event. Our goal with this series is to build a phenomenal community of women and allies that are developing the future of mobility.

During the one-hour discussion I was honored to moderate, we heard from Michelle Avary, Head of Automotive Industry & Autonomous Mobility, World Economic Forum; Raquel Urtasun, Chief Scientist of Uber ATG and the Head of Uber ATG Toronto; and Tilly Chang, Executive Director, SF County Transportation Authority. These accomplished women shared how they began their careers in transportation and autonomous driving, the challenges they’ve faced, and lessons they’ve learned.

We constantly hear about the ‘pipeline problem’ in tech and engineering specifically. In 2019, only 26% of professional computing jobs in the U.S. workforce were held by women. In transportation, these numbers are even more disturbing: in 2019, women represented only 15% of the transportation workforce. During our discussion, Michelle shared that according to the World Economic Forum, it would take 257 years for the global gender pay gap to close and for women to have all the same economic opportunities as men. We want these industries to do better, and we’re starting by bringing awareness to the low representation of women in mobility by highlighting their contributions and illuminating an inclusive path forward to all.

Here are some of the key pieces of advice we left with from our panelists:

  • Mentors and networking are gold: We heard from all of our panelists about the power of networking, mentoring, and having a strong support system around you to help you achieve your goals. Tilly emphasized the importance of informal networks and the benefits she’s received from seeking out and finding these groups herself. Raquel asked how we can create better mechanisms to ensure women have access to mentors, so they don’t always have to proactively seek them out themselves. To the women entering technical industries, Raquel emphasized: “You are not alone when you suffer from discrimination or biases. It’s important to know that all of us have arrived in successful positions and struggled with that journey. It’s important that you don’t give up and continue pursuing your dream.”

  • Putting in the work increases pipeline diversity: One of the biggest barriers in tech is ensuring that recruiting efforts are targeting a diverse set of candidates. As Michelle highlighted, we need to be proactive, going above and beyond when it comes to filling the pipeline. And then, once we have diverse candidates in the door, it’s about educating our teams to understand that people have different ways of communicating and creating space so they can hear the different ways these people communicate. 

  • More talent diversity leads to more inclusive mobility options: Tilly pointed out that mobility is a direct path to prosperity and shared her experiences in urban planning, a field that historically has largely been driven by men. She shared that there are “so many roots to it - not just for women. But for people of color, gender identities, physical abilities. Growing awareness through programs like this is critical...It is critical that we learn about these issues so that we can be a part of the solution.” Michelle reiterated this point, saying, “We need to ask the questions about how women, elderly, and low-income households travel. If we don’t understand these questions, we can’t solve for them. We also need leadership that represents the communities.”

At Waymo, we’re committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive culture and translating these values to the technology, products and experiences we design for all of our riders, partners and communities. We will continue this work and look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming events. You can watch our discussion here and follow our hashtag #SelfDrivenWomen on Twitter and LinkedIn for more updates.