How Google’s Bethanie Baynes overcame gender bias in the tech industry
Have you ever wondered how to make it as a woman in the tech industry? We asked Oxford Saïd alum and Google executive Bethanie Baynes about her experiences, what she thinks makes a good leader, and what businesses should be doing to encourage more women to reach for high-level roles.
We are often told how tough it is to be a woman working in the tech industry. How have you overcome any issues of gender bias in such a male-dominated industry?
In a word, candor. Highlighting bias in assignment of opportunities, visibility and presence has really helped to ensure more women have a seat at “the table.” It is an approach that takes courage and vulnerability, and a willingness to hear “no”, but more often than not, those in leadership are not intentionally excluding; these are oversights. It can be tiring to always be the one to speak up and you don’t want to be labeled only as a squeaky wheel, so ensure you are empowering others around you to also speak up when they see inequality … especially men!
What is your favourite career moment?
Hopefully I haven’t had it yet!
This is a tough question because there are many moments where I’ve felt heard, rewarded and fully utilized. It’s hard to choose just one.
One of the most energetic moments of my career was a time when I was working on a highly complex and strategic deal. I had flown to California for the week for an unrelated summit. At the beginning of the first day of the summit, right after I introduced myself, I had to take a call related to the deal. I ran into a tiny conference room across the hall to take the call and barely left the room for the rest of the week (missing the summit I had traveled for entirely). Sounds gnarly but there was such a sense of urgency and focus that it was completely exhilarating. When I flew home to NY from California, I landed on the tarmac to realize that the signatures were in!
What makes for a good executive? What experience, traits, and approaches should they bring to a role?
The most important traits, which I believe underline all of the below approaches, is to have a great deal of empathy and self-awareness.
Someone who listens more than they speak. Someone who is genuinely a good person and is more impressed by content than glossiness. Someone who sees their leadership team as stronger than they are and ensures those leaders treat their individual teams well (e.g. by not rewarding those who “kiss up and kick down”). Further, I value leaders who are willing to admit they don’t have all the answers and push their team to provide solutions.
What should companies be doing to encourage more women to join the tech industry and help them reach board level roles?
Emphasize ally-ship. It is not being an ally if you ask a woman on your team to go for a walk or golfing. That doesn’t get to the heart of the fundamental issues of inclusion. An ally is when you stand up to point out “hey, there are only 2 women out of 40 attendees at this event” or “why don’t you give that opportunity/project/deal/team to her versus him this time?” or “let’s ensure we have an equal representation of speakers or panelists at this event”. An ally thinks carefully about the message they send in each forum. An ally ensures that the leadership team is encouraging of others to share their voices, one who has acts as their representative when those in the minority are not in the room.
What was the most unexpected and useful takeaway from your time at Oxford Saïd?
First is my ongoing relationship with the leaders at Oxford Saïd; this was unexpected and is a pleasure.
Secondly, there was a really profound activity where we emphasized focus on times when our greatest strength had become a weakness. This is a lesson that I continue to learn over and over. I always go back in my mind to thank the programme for teaching me to be aware of this duality of traits in myself and others.
Bethanie Baynes, Google
Director, Strategic Partnerships: New Business Development, Revenue Management, Analytics
Bethanie began her career in the photo industry before joining Google in 2004. Throughout her 14+ year career at Google she has spent 12 hour days reviewing ads, sold the first-ever ads on YouTube, created, launched and (sometimes) sunsetted new products, negotiated billions of dollars worth of first-of-their-kind deals and now oversees New Business Development, Revenue Management and Analytical Insights.
Bethanie is a strong women’s advocate; an active mentor and present leader for many women in tech. She’s hosted numerous events for the Talks@ Google YouTube Channel for topics focused on furthering women in various industries, including the film Equity(written, directed, starring and produced by women), the documentary She Started It which follows female entrepreneurs on their struggle to secure funding and launch businesses and the book The Myth of the Nice Girl which deconstructs the negative perception of “niceness” that many women struggle within the business world.
Bethanie holds a BA in Human Services from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. She has attended several global leadership conferences for women including Women Transforming Leadership at Said Business School at Oxford University in the United Kingdom and the Women’s Director Development Program at Kellogg. She also enjoys world travel, made easier by her fluency in Spanish thanks to her two fun-filled “gap” years in Alicante, Spain.
Bethanie lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY.