- It’s hard to raise your voice when you’re underrepresented in a certian industry or company.
- But according to Diane Yu, Better.com’s new CTO, it’s an essential skill for leaders to build.
- Yu has learned over the years to overcome the self-doubt to share her opinion.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When Diane Yu joined mortgage financing company and LinkedIn’s hottest startup of 2020, Better.com, as chief technology officer in January, she became the fourth woman in a C-suite of six.
Yu is joining Paula Tuffin, general counsel and chief compliance officer; Elana Knoller, chief product officer; and Sarah Pierce, head of sales operations on the company’s executive team.
Joining a company with a majority of women in the C-suite is a rarity, especially in the tech industry. Women make up less than 35% of the workforce at the five biggest tech giants, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Just 14% of software engineers are women, and 25% are in computer science-related jobs. When it comes to startups, 53% in the US have at least one woman on their board, and 28% have at least one woman founder.
Most of the time, women have to pave their own way when climbing the corporate ladder. And Yu, a woman and minority who migrated to the US to pursue her career, had to do plenty of paving since she first started as a software engineer at internet service company DoubleClick nearly 25 years ago.
“I started as a foreigner. I spoke broken English. In those days, there weren’t a lot of women in leadership. I realized, many times, that I was the only female engineer in the team,” Yu told Insider. “A lot of times, I found that while the rest of the team were aligned in one direction, I felt differently, but I didn’t have the level of the confidence to bring it up.”
Today, Yu urges her mentees and young engineers to speak up when they have a differing opinion.
It can be intimidating to raise your voice when you’re underrepresented at the table – but it’s also an essential skill for any aspiring leader to build.
Here’s how Yu did it, and how anyone can do the same.
It’s natural to second-guess yourself. As a junior engineer, Yu faced many doubts in her own ideas, and that would prevent her from speaking up.
“I thought I was wrong; I must be wrong, because everyone else agreed,” she said. “As I build on my career, I realize that, in many of those situations, I just had a different perspective. I should have brought that different perspective forward. I wasn’t confident enough.”
It’s normal to be anxious about raising your voice. But your anxieties don’t mean that you’re not qualified. Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal recommends that, instead of letting your worries weigh you down, try acknowledging and befriending your stress response. Take it as a sign that you’re ready to take action.
“Just because you see the world a different way, it does not mean you’re wrong,” Yu said.
Give yourself targets
By setting clear goals on how often to speak up, you’ll likely feel more motivated in doing so.
Yu, for example, is a self-proclaimed introvert. For her, setting goals for how often to speak was a useful tool that gave her measurable goals.
“I measure my contribution based on how many times I share a different perspective,” Yu said. “I feel like it’s my obligation. If I’m just nodding my head every day, then I feel like I have not accomplished anything.”
Be sincere about your ideas
Don’t just speak up for the sake of it. It’s more important that you speak up when you truly believe what you’re advocating for.
“I only speak up for things I truly believe,” Yu said.
And her ideas don’t end when the meeting does. When Yu introduces an idea, she makes sure to see it through to its execution. That way, she builds credibility with those around her as someone who follows through.
“I not only speak up, but also see it through to make the execution,” she said. “And then, bit by bit, that’s gotten me a reputation: When Diane speaks up, you’d better listen.”
“Everybody can have an idea, but it can quickly get forgotten,” Yu added. “Following through takes a lot more effort.”