Breaking News Emails
Facebook's femme force just created the ultimate Silicon Valley girl squad.
Hundreds of women working as technology product managers gathered at Facebook's Menlo Park campus on Tuesday to swap stories, strategize and network at the first-ever Women in Product conference.
Deb Liu, Facebook’s vice president of platform and marketplace, and one of the conference co-founders, told NBC News the idea for the conference came after talking to other female product leaders at small Silicon Valley dinners.
"We are incredibly fortunate at Facebook. We actually have a lot of senior women leaders, we have a lot of emerging leaders who are women in product, and that has been really great," Liu said.
"But we have talked to a lot of women who don't have that, where they are the only person in the room and there is not any sort of a community," she said.
Fidji Simo, a director of product at Facebook and the other co-founder of the conference, said those intimate gatherings made her realize women in technology are facing the same issues.
"During these dinners, we realized we have so much in common with all of these women and our experiences are so similar, so there is something we could do together that every woman ... feels like she has a strong network," Simo told NBC News.
It's no secret that women are underrepresented in Silicon Valley, especially when it comes to executive roles.
One reason: A Harvard Business Review Study from 2008 found women in tech are leaving the workforce in droves in their mid to late 30s, often when their careers are taking off — but the demands of their home life are also increasing.
"I said the same thing, 'This is not working for me.' And I thought about whether or not I could continue in this sphere," Liu said. "We think that moment comes for a lot of women."
Once someone leaves a technology job, it's incredibly difficult to come back, Liu said. As someone who leads product manager recruiting at Facebook, she said she hopes to find a way to "make it easier to have the flexibility, if we could make it easier to onboard back, those are the kinds of things we can change fundamentally," she said.
"Somebody said in there the other day, this happened to me twice where somebody just took my idea and just repeated it," Liu said.
"People talked about how to deal with that. What are ways we can support each other?" she said. "I think that is what we hope to achieve with this."