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Compass

A Look at Our Event with Compass

As a relatively new homeowner, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate the world of real estate and how important it is to have a trusted guide with you along that journey. That's why I was thrilled as PowerToFly's Production Lead to collaborate with real estate groundbreaker Compass on a women in tech networking event, held at their gorgeous New York office, on December 6th.

"Women in tech" you say, not "women in real estate"? Yes, because at its heart, Compass is a technology company that is building the first modern real estate platform, pairing the industry's top talent with technology to make the search and sell experience intelligent and seamless.


Our event on December 6th, hosted by PowerToFly's CoFounder Katharine Zaleski, featured many of Compass' impressive women tech leaders and male allies plus plenty of time for our guests to network with their peers over delicious bites and warming wine.

The evening kicked off with a thrilling and inspiring welcome address by Maëlle Gavet, Compass' COO. "I'm here because diversity really matters. Compass is a company that has a CEO who is a Jewish black man and the COO, which is a french woman. We are by definition diverse people. Our CEO Robert and I, all our life, we have been in an environment where there was no diversity and where we were basically one of a kind in the room."

Maëlle shared some encouraging statistics about Compass' diversity as well. "49% of our people managers are women, which is a really important indicator because a lot of companies will talk to you about diversity, but they will never talk to you about people managing diversity. 21% of our product and engineering team are women. It was 19% a year ago, so slowly but surely we're improving. And the last performance review, 61% of the people that were promoted were actually women."

After Maëlle wrapped up, she introduced Chief Product Officer Eytan Seidman who provided a bit of a deeper look into Compass' platform from the perspective of both a buyer and a seller, showing just how easy it is for a listing agent to create an email blast to her potential buyers.

Maëlle returned to participate in a panel discussion featuring two other women leaders at Compass: Basia Mucha, Senior Engineering Manager and Tal Netanyahu, Engineering Manager. In addition to detailing their own career journeys, our three panelists dived into such topics as how they keep current on tech trends, how they balance work-life integration and, if they could go back in time, what advice would they give themselves.

The evening closed out with a very special keynote speech from Compass' brand new CTO Joseph Sirosh (it was his third day and Joseph rushed back to the office after a school event for his kindergartner because our event was so important to him ). A veteran of both Amazon and Microsoft, Joseph stressed the importance of the customer. "Everybody is customer focus but it is the customers that will end up defining who you are as a company."

While our presentations may have ended, there was still plenty of time for our guests to continue to network with our speakers, other members of the Compass team and their fellow women in tech. We were proud to partner with Compass on this energizing event.

Compass is hiring! Visit their page on PowerToFly to learn more about their open roles.

Maëlle Gavet, Compass' COO provided the evening's welcoming remarks.

PowerToFly's Katharine Zaleski moderated a panel featuring Maëlle Gavet; Basia Mucha, Senior Engineering Manager; and Tal Netanyahu, Engineering Manager.

Joseph Sirosh, Compass' CTO, takes questions from the audience.

Attendees had plenty of opportunities to network with members of the Compass team.

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Why Female Presidential Candidates Are Still Told to Be Chill, Not Shrill

The Dated, Everyday Tech Stifling Women's Voices Shows the Importance of Diversity in Tech

"You're not like other girls. You're so...chill."

I've gotten that "compliment" from multiple guys in multiple contexts — and I'm ashamed to admit that until a few years ago, I took it as one.

Occasionally I'd wonder why. After all, anyone who knows me well knows I am the Anti-Chill: a tightly wound stress ball, ready to explode into tears at any given moment.

So what was giving these guys the wrong impression? As it turns out, it was my voice. My cool, unnaturally-deep-for-a-woman, never-shrill voice.

And if I'm honest, I always prided myself on not sounding 'like other girls.' No uptalk or high-pitched squeals of glee from me. I thought I sounded smarter and more serious. Talk about internalized misogyny.

This isn't just me though. There is a societal double bind that forces women to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the right pitch and tone for each situation.

Just consider the advice that Democratic-debate coach Christine Jahnke gave female candidates to avoid being labeled as shrill: "… go slow and low. Very purposefully slow your pace and lower the tone a bit, because that will add meaning or gravitas to whatever it is you're talking about."

In a nutshell: try and sound chill, not shrill.

What I didn't know, until recently, is how this bias against women's natural voices is being reinforced and amplified by century-old technology. (Just one of many examples of how technology designed by and for men ends up hurting women in the long-run.)

Author Tina Tallon explains this little-known fact in her recent New Yorker article, summarized below:

How 20th Century Tech Is Holding 21st Century Women Back

With the rise of commercial broadcast radio in the 1920s, women's voices began getting critiqued. As Tallon explains, station directors asserted that "women sounded 'shrill,' 'nasal,' and 'distorted.'" So when industry standards were set, directors didn't take women's voices into account.

When Congress limited the bandwidth available to each radio station in 1927, station directors set a bandwidth that would provide the minimum amount of information necessary to understand "human" speech.

They used lower voices as their benchmark, so the higher frequency components of women's speech necessary to understand certain consonants were cut, making women's voices less intelligible.

  • Researcher J.C. Steinberg asserted that, "nature has so designed woman's speech that it is always most effective when it is of soft and well-modulated tone." He explained that if a woman raised her voice on air, it would exceed the limitations of the equipment. As Tallon says, "He viewed this as a personal and biological failing on women's part, not a technical one on his."

Why You Should Care

Women have always been told to lower their voices, but this 20th century approach to sound frequencies is still accepted as the standard, literally forcing women to lower their voices if they want to be heard.

  • To this day, many algorithms and speakers distort women's speech by limiting higher frequencies, causing women's voices to lose definition and clarity.

Tallon sums it up well:

"Consequently, women are still receiving the same advice that they were given in the nineteen-twenties: lower the pitch of your voice, and don't show too much emotion. By following that advice, women expose themselves to another set of criticisms, which also have a long history: they lack personality, or they sound 'forced' and 'unnatural.'"


----

So as we continue to grapple with implicit biases against women, from what it means to be "presidential" to who's considered an "innovative leader," let's remember the importance of diversity in tech.

Had a woman been involved in researching/setting the standards for radio frequencies, she might've been able to steer the industry towards a voiceband that would allow men and women to be heard equally well. And perhaps had a more impartial voiceband been established, I'd have heard a more diverse range of female speakers growing up, and internalized fewer biases myself.

That's why we care so much at PowerToFly about making sure cutting-edge companies have diverse teams.

Times were different then, sure, but the fact that Depression Era standards are still impacting how we hear (or don't hear) women's voices is a vital reminder that what we do today impacts our world for centuries to come.

Agree?

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