Former Amazon exec aims to close the gender gap in STEM fields with new guidance startup Gotara – GeekWire
Seattle-startup Gotara is on a mission to get more women in STEM through a mentoring software platform aimed at boosting retention.
Founded by D. Sangeeta, a former vice president of connections at Amazon, Gotara helps women in STEM fields receive mentorship and training.
Gotara is meant to “teach new behavior,” Sangeeta said, where women are free to ask for advice without fear of retaliation in the same company or being misunderstood.
Launched in February, the platform is available for free for individuals, where they can request advice or mentorship from Gotara advisors. The topics can range from long-term career goals such as job changes; tactical goals like advice on presentations; or more urgent questions, including handling conflict in the workplace. Both the advisor and the user are anonymous. Gotara calls these advice sessions “nano-learning.”
Gotara also offers employee retention programs for companies. They include sessions for women new to the field and those returning to work after a break.
The company currently has 12 employers as customers, including both small startups and large companies such Cisco.
Sangeeta said she is a STEM woman “through and through,” and in her 30 years in the field, she has seen improvements in the amount of women graduating and entering the workforce in these fields.
“However, we all do a bad job at retention,” she said.
Sangeeta said recruiting women isn’t as big of an issue as retention. As she conducted her research, she found some women who wanted to leave the field, but the majority of them wanted to stay.
“They wanted to have that sense of belonging,” Sangeeta said. “They wanted to have the intellectual opportunities and challenges that the job gives, to have the independence of making money and financially being independent.”
She said women she spoke with noted either a work or family situation that made them to decide to leave. Gotara is working to fix that.
Sangeeta said most participants in Gotara feel undervalued or bullied at work. Gotara tries to help in a very technical way, Sangeeta said.
“These women understand because they are technical folks, and they understand the analytical approach to solving a problem,” Sangeeta said. “They look at the logic.”
Women’s retention in the workforce isn’t a problem exclusive to STEM, and one that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. In September, 865,000 women left the U.S. workforce — four times more than men, according to NPR.
Sangeeta’s research on women’s retention in STEM took place before the pandemic, where she found that 40% of women leave the workforce in five to seven years. She said it has gotten worse.
“It’s not just altruistic reasons for closing the gender gap,” Sangeeta said. “It has a bottom line impact.”