Lina Nilsson is the Senior Director of Data Science at Recursion Pharmaceuticals, a Utah grown biotech start-up Recursion is an innovative drug-discovery start-up that combines artificial intelligence, automation, and experimental biology to find treatments for rare genetic diseases, inflammatory diseases, infectious diseases, and immuno-oncology.
She spends her days building innovative tech products after moving from the Bay Area to Utah close to a year and a half ago. In her article, she recalls that, "Recently, I was in a meeting and realized that I have been forgetting to deploy my standard meeting “tools”: I haven’t been resetting my chair height uncomfortably high to appear as tall as the guys and I have been jotting down notes for all to see. And yet, no one at Recursion, my high-tech biotech employer here in Salt Lake City, has asked me to be the permanent official note taker or bring in more coffee."
For women everywhere that have been given the "housework" of the office, this feels like a breath of fresh air. But, it's time for some sobering statistics: Utah has the nation’s largest gender wage gap and women are the least likely to be employed in a STEM field in the Beehive State.
Nilsson dives into the history of Silicon Valley as a model for all other tech hubs (Silicon Alley, Silicon Hills, etc.) in this piece while interrogating the idea that Utah could be the best place for women in tech if we make it. The statistics at times feel staggering -
- Roughly 20% of technical roles in SV startups are held by women
- Women-led companies pick up 2% of VC funding
- Women are more likely to leave their careers
- Women are less likely to hold and maintain leadership roles
But in these statistics lies a massive opportunity. "I work at a machine learning-biotech startup in Salt Lake City. But I have also spent nine years in the San Francisco Bay Area.The dynamics of being a woman in tech are simply different in Utah. We have been given both a risk and an opportunity to shape its future," details Lina.
From breaking down "Brotopia" from Emily Chang to "Lean In", Nilsson cracks through the facade of the 'equality trailblazers' and details how to approach this opportunity head-on and make a difference here in Salt Lake City. We have a small, but fast growing network of tech. Small changes made my leaders here will have a massive ripple effect on tech at large.
She sets the following as an example: "When the CEO of Recursion sets concrete company goals on diversity in recruiting and encourages community events like our Women in Science and Technology speaker series, this really matters. But when another Utah CEO stands up in front of thousands at the region’s largest tech conference and demeans the women attendees by suggesting they only showed up to crush on a certain pro-athlete guest speaker, this also really matters. We are setting the tone for the tech expansion to come."
"The way you shape diversity at your companies today — from large-scale policies to the 140 characters you tweet — will affect not just your company’s success, it will shape the way our local tech community grows. It is up to you whether Utah is the best — or the worst — place for a woman in tech," concludes Lina Nilsson.