Meet DiverseUp is a company that promotes the success of working women through knowledge sharing. Their mission: utilizing software as a solution to collect targeted data and align women’s working preferences to employers’ offerings.
SWE HQ had the pleasure of two things: 1) Interviewing the innovators behind this new company and 2) Finding out through the interview process that both founders, Azadeh Yazdan and Angel Vossough, are SWE members! That’s what we call a win-win. Read on to learn how these entrepreneurs developed the concept for the company and how they both came to love SWE …
HQ: How long have both of you been SWE members?
Angel: I’ve been a SWE member for 12 years, joined in 2004.
Azadeh: I joined SWE in 2001, and I’ve been a member for 15 years.
HQ: What are the stories behind each of you joining SWE? How did you find and come to love, SWE? 🙂
Angel: I was the only woman in my engineering group (at her place of work) for the longest time. I constantly wondered: “Am I in the right job? Why are there no women working here?” This is what inspired me to seek out and connect with other women with engineering backgrounds, and ultimately this search led me to join SWE!
I found SWE and loved it.
Once I found SWE and loved it, SWE helped me build a network and gave me the confidence in my career I was seeking. SWE also gave me the opportunity to share stories, collaborate with and learn from my peers who have more experience than I do. My involvement in SWE also led to my becoming a Vice President of SWE at San Jose State University, which boosted my ability to help other women in engineering.
Azadeh: I learned about SWE through San Hose University while pursuing my bachelor’s degree. Back then, SWE was the only organization that supported female engineers or at least that I’d hear of. I noticed a flyer in my school’s cafeteria, joined SWE and never left. It gave me an opportunity to meet, network and learn from other like-minded women, something that I’m forever grateful for. It also made me feel special and proud. Special because my education in engineering had enabled me to become part of such an esteemed organization, and proud because I was part of a movement towards opportunity for women in engineering, a cause I was always passionate about but didn’t know how to contribute to at that young age.
HQ: What discipline of engineering are both of you in?
Angel: I have two bachelor’s degrees – math and computer engineering. I also have a master’s degree in software engineering focused on computer networking
Azadeh: I have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and an MBA with a concentration on leading innovative organizations.
HQ: What inspired the both of you to become an engineer?
Angel: Growing up, I was always fascinated with science and technology. My Dad was a big believer that understanding math from early ages can help shape the way we think as we grow up and improve even in our daily life. He encouraged my brothers and me to build a strong foundation in mathematics.
When I studied mathematics, I could see that a practical application of this knowledge could be applied to the engineering profession, and I am happy I chose that path.
Azadeh: I was really good at math. It was just natural to me, like a second instinct. I was fascinated by numbers. I remember as a little kid I was always counting in my head whether it was the number of stairs or pieces of chocolate in a bar. I would close my eyes and would see numbers. But what motivated me more was that I came from a highly educated family that placed special importance on education and yet growing up, I did not know even one woman in my family who studied or had an interest in pursuing a degree in engineering. I always saw myself as being different in that sense and decided to pursue that difference and become that female engineer.
We both have been fortunate enough to work for two companies that have been at the forefront of gender diversity.
HQ: What lead to the discovery of needing to create DiverseUP?
Azadeh: Our own experience in tech. We both have been fortunate enough to work for two companies that have been at the forefront of gender diversity. While we were advancing in our careers and starting families, we were seeing our friends, intelligent and highly qualified friends, dropping out. Most of them gave up on their careers in tech due to lack of support from their employers to effectively integrate their lives and careers. The exact reason why we had stayed with our employers for as long as we had.
But how would one know about such companies if you don’t have friends working there and what is the definition of effectively integrating life and career? That varies from one woman to another. For us a list of top female friendly companies as listed on some publications will not work because female friendliness means different things to different women at different stages of their lives and careers. Instead we need information that empowers us to make informed decisions based on our unique needs to thrive in the workplace.
One big obstacle for a lot of women, for example, is how they can choreograph their career with motherhood. That’s how we came up with DiverseUp. We felt a need for platform where on one side we could anonymously collect culture and policy data from current or past female employees and on the other side we collect women’s working preferences, then align the two based on a smart match making algorithm to help women find employers that best fit their needs. We were surprised that such an intuitive solution didn’t exist. The reason that alignment is important is that there are 35,000 tech employers in SF alone and 478,000 in the US. Unless a woman knows exactly what she is looking for at which company, it’s difficult to sort through all this data. We make the process fast and easy for them in a similar way Tinder and eHarmony do in dating space.
HQ: How did the two of you decide to become partners of DiverseUp?
Angel: We connected because we are both engineers. We had similar backgrounds, shared the same challenges of working in a profession with few women, we both had kids but most importantly both deeply cared about this cause and had similar vision to address it. DiverseUp started as a passion to solve a problem that as a society we have been trying to solve for the past 30 years. We hoped to do our small part in tackling such a big problem and giving back to a community that facilitated our own success, the way we personally defined it
HQ: When did you begin this venture?
Angel + Azadeh: We started in August of 2015.
We see DiverseUp as the destination of choice for professional women and employers who want to empower women to succeed in the workplace.
HQ: Where do you see this venture in 5 years?
Angel: We see DiverseUp as the destination of choice for professional women and employers who want to empower women to succeed at the workplace. For employers, the #1 tool to help them enhance their brand and engagement of their women workforce which ultimately would help them attract and retain highly qualified women. For users, a knowledge-sharing and an-all-in-one solution when it comes to making career moves and empowering other women.
HQ: What do you plan to accomplish by developing DiverseUp?
Azadeh: The ultimate goal is to create an impactful solution to help increase the number of professional women in the workforce, and we are starting with tech. Through partnering with companies we want to help both employees and employers get a better return on their investment in their mutual relationship.
If you look at the tech sector not only its failing to attract women, it also is losing those women already interested. Fifty-six percent of women in computing leave their jobs mid-career. In the mid-1980s, 37% of computer science majors were women; in 2012, 18%. When there is lack of role models, the industry will fail to attract more talent. Our goal is to increase the number of those role models to first make tech a better place for those who are already living and second to attract more girls to study this field. Our business model is unique in that we offer more than data collection; we can provide employers a targeted pool of applicants through our software solution that effectively aligns women’s needs to employer offerings. Lately there has been a lot of buzz around gender equality, and that’s a bit concerning because sometimes the buzz overshadows the cause. We hope to deliver a solution based on real value and a scientific approach.