Written by Celia Xia
According to the 2022 Semiconductor Gender Parity Study from the Global Semiconductor Alliance, women today only hold 16% of board positions and 13% of executive positions at public semiconductor companies. However, research shows that three-quarters of companies with diverse teams in leadership roles exceed their financial goals, and more gender-diverse organizations outperform their homogenous counterparts by, on average, 50%. These data are among the latest findings as part of the Global Semiconductor Alliance, as published in their recent white paper, “Unlocking the Value of Women in Semiconductor”.
The work to transform those statistics is being shaped in large part by the Global Semiconductor Alliance’s (GSA). Since 2020, Microsoft has supported GSA’s Women’s Leadership Initiative – a dedicated effort to increase the number of women in leadership roles within the hardware and semiconductor industries, dedicate capital to women-led startups in the field, and increase the number of STEM-focused female candidates joining the industry.
This year, four women in AHSI are leaning into the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) as part of a pilot program, Women in Hardware Mentorship Mentoring Circles, intended to create a support community for emerging senior women leaders and a space for mentees, mentors, and advisors to connect.
The program’s creator, Antonietta Oliva, is a retired Technical Fellow who spent over thirty years working on technology roadmap and pathfinding at companies like Apple and Sun Microsystems. GSA’s WLI, inspired by Microsoft’s approach of mentoring rings for mid-level women, and Oliva partnered to develop a 6-month experience that pairs senior women leaders with a group of four mentees for a series of monthly fireside chats and quarterly individual development sessions. “I’ve been in so many meetings throughout my career where I was all by myself as the only woman in the room. When I retired, I looked at the space I occupied as a mentor and role model for women, and the void that was left when I departed, because of the scarcity of women in senior positions across the industry. That’s what prompted me to start this program.”
Members of the Women in Hardware Mentoring (WHM) Program at the official kickoff event in February hosted by GSA.
Through the program, Oliva hopes to build a support network of women that can openly discuss their own experiences as women navigating the semiconductor industry. Over the course of the pilot program, which began in February and runs until September of this year, mentors host discussions on various leadership development topics including motivating your team, trust and visibility, executive communication style, career path self-advocacy, and work-life balance. The program’s kickoff event, held in-person at Western Digital in San Jose in February, featured an in-person meetup among participants as well as a keynote by Tsu-Jae Liu, Dean and Roy W. Carlson Professor of Engineering @ UC Berkeley.
Padma Parthasarathy, a Partner Design Verification Engineer in the Silicon, Cloud Hardware, and Infrastructure Engineering team, serves as a guest mentor for the program, and noted that she’s able to contribute her unique perspective as a technical leader with over 25 years of experience at Microsoft.
“I’ve personally learned a lot myself from hearing experiences shared among women – both technical and non-technical – about their own tactics for navigating challenging situations at work, communication, and working styles,” says Parthasarathy. One of the readings from program’s curriculum that has deeply resonated with Parthasarathy is a Harvard Business Review paper, “Leadership That Gets Results“, by Daniel Goleman. “I’ve been applying the teachings on coaching and authoritative style without even realizing it,” she says.
Tulika Jha, Monica Tang, and Anna Mary Mathew are this year’s mentees representing Microsoft as part of the pilot.
While this year’s program is a pilot, GSA intends to popularize this program by expanding its scope in future years. “The GSA Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) is proud to support this very important program and roll it out to our WLI. Our hope is that we can continue to expand the WHM program and this mentorship and experience sharing across the industry will ultimately increase the presence of women in leadership positions in hardware engineering,” says Traci Brandon, Director of Special Projects and Women’s Leadership Initiative at GSA.
Throughout the year, the WLI hosts events, publishes research, and provides resources online to their community of women working in the semiconductor field. During their flagship conference, Women in Semiconductor Hardware (WISH) in 2021, AHSI CVP Rani Borkar delivered a keynote address, and in 2022 Microsoft was honored with the Designing the Difference award recognizing our commitment to inclusive practices and measurable impact towards advancing the industry through diversity and inclusion.
To learn more about the GSA and its various initiatives and programs throughout the year, visit www.gsaglobal.org.
Reprinted with permission from Microsoft Corporation. © 2023 Microsoft. All rights reserved.