Despite interning at the White House and Wall Street, working in the Silicon Valley tech industry, and even conducting digital strategy for Beyonce’s team, Barr Yaron always dreamed of living in Israel. This year the Philadelphia born Israeli moved to the Startup Nation for a career at Facebook–and a little more shakshuka. When she’s not working, dancing, or watching beach sunsets, Yaron is interviewing incredible technologists for her Women of Startup Nation (WOSN).
What prompted your interest in working in the high-tech industry?
In college I studied what I loved without focusing too much on industry–mostly theoretical classes in math, computer science, and economics. Solving problems in these fields felt like cracking fun and challenging puzzles. Professionally, I knew I wanted to make an impact. The tech industry is unlike any other, and it touches every part of our lives. Technology requires interesting and challenging problem-solving, but its applications are broad and, when applied carefully, can improve the world.
What was your inspiration for creating the Women of Startup Nation Facebook page?
At my going away party in San Francisco, I was surprised to hear my friends’ questions: is there a tech scene in Israel? Will moving to Israel hurt your career? What’s the role of women there? I made a mental note when I moved here to learn as much as possible about Startup Nation and the gender dynamics within it, and so I founded this page, inspired by similar ones in Silicon Valley. The main focus of the page is to raise awareness, both within and outside of Israel, of the incredible things women in Israel are accomplishing.
To be blunt, there is sexism, covert and overt, in this industry. The overt you often see in the new stories, but the covert is also harmful–I have countless stories with gendered behavior that I don't know how to interpret, like when I entered a robotics competition, and competitors approached my male partner asking how he built the feature that I coded. By sharing stories, triumphs, challenges, advice, and journeys, through WOSN the hope is to create a stronger community of shared experiences and inspire the next generation of young women who are considering this industry.
What's the most surprising part of running this project?
I did not expect women to be so receptive to sharing their stories! Today, I am constantly being introduced to incredible engineers and entrepreneurs, but when I moved to Tel Aviv, I did not know anyone in this industry. Before I launched the project, I cold emailed several Israeli women in tech explaining the concept and asking if I could interview them, and was blown away by the response rate. Nearly everyone was eager to share their story and advice. I think it’s indicative of both the open culture here and the fact that so many women want to elevate others by sharing their journey.
In 100 years what sort of things do you think people will say about the role of women in the high-tech industry today?
Women played a pivotal role in the history of technology, and many of the first computer scientists were women. The number of women studying computer science was growing faster than the number of men, until a sudden plunge in the 80’s. Just as today we celebrate female computing pioneers from the past, in 100 years they will be celebrating the accomplishments of women who are working on frontier technologies today. However, today the leadership gap, pay gap, and pipeline problem are real–in 100 years my hope is that people view this purely as a history where society was not operating at its full potential to innovate.
If you could interview anyone for Women of Startup Nation who would it be?
Dr. Orna Berry–she is an incredible trailblazer and breaks so many glass ceilings. She is Israel’s first chief scientist, the first woman to hold one of the top Israeli command posts, and the co-founder of the first Israeli company acquired by a European conglomerate. She does all of this while serving as Vice President of Dell EMC. She is a prime example of a Woman of Startup Nation–using her technical talent to shape Israeli science, technology, and venture capital while creating significant public impact to push the country forward.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for a woman entering the Israeli tech world?
Confidence does not have to be something you are born with: it’s a muscle that can be built and developed. Be humble, but always ask for what you want and believe in yourself. This might mean coming up with hacks that work for you; for example, if you know that you have trouble speaking up in meetings, make rules for yourself to participate early on. Israeli chutzpah can take you really far in this industry!
Studies show that women tend to apply to roles only when they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men will apply even if they only meet some of the qualifications. I always tell my friends that it’s the company’s job and responsibility to screen for qualified candidates. Absolutely do not be the one to block yourself out of opportunities that interest you!
If you had your own startup, what would the product be?
If I knew, I would be building it!
What’s your dream for Women of Startup Nation in the future?
I want to build a bigger community and better represent all pockets of this country–women from different religions, educational and army backgrounds, and regions.
Beyond that, the long term vision is to make Israel the place where women in tech thrive and lead by example. I am still figuring out the best way to do this. There is clear demand within this community for more -- I receive many messages, varying from students looking for mentorship to accelerators looking to reach more female founders. While the focus of WOSN will always be on each individual’s story, I do think that organizations play a large role in shifting industry trends. If I can find more ways to help organizations empower women, this will be a success.
Links to WOSN: