Baat Enosh, Intuit Israel’s Director of Strategy & Innovation, was featured as one of GeekTime’s Most Influential Women in Israel Tech this month! GeekTime spoke with Baat to discuss her career goals and how she views gender equality in the workplace. Read the full interview, translated, below!
Baat Enosh is Intuit Israel’s Director of Strategy & Innovation. She relocated to Israel after many years in Silicon Valley where she served most recently as Product Manager at Intuit’s Innovation group with a focus on futuristic products. Baat holds a B.Sc & M.Sc in computer science from University of Colorado at Boulder. She was VP Operations and part of the founding team of Founder Labs, a mobile-focused pre-incubator in San Francisco and won a gold medal at the US National Skydiving Championship.
“My professional career does not look like a ladder with a goal at the end,” says Baat. “Rather, it looks like a jungle gym, with many inconsistent moves, changes of directions and locations, and internal deliberations about finding meaning, having an impact, and feeling gratified and rewarded.”
Still, you have managed to climb to the top and land an executive, impactful position in a global corporation. How is your story different from that of other women?
Baat: Looking back, and in addition to the well-known ingredients such as hard work, relevant and timely academic degrees, exposure to international markets, a true and equal life-partner, and lots of energy, I’d like to highlight those moments in my career when I had no confidence or a clear vision in my way. Those were critical moments for me. Today I understand that as a woman, it was far more difficult to navigate through them. These are the moments of transition from one discipline to another, or when I shifted the focus from being more at home back to my career. Speaking very broadly and generally, I feel these moments are more common for women. And that’s when the professional network you create for yourself begins to really matter.
How, in your opinion, women and men differ in the way they develop their career?
Baat: Some people believe women don’t build professional networks the way men do. I think women sometimes skip professional networking altogether and end up classifying their relationships as either a ‘close friend’ or ‘someone I know’; they can skip the category of ‘a professional connection that may come in handy one day’. I remember listening to a professional panel in which one of the panelists said that aside from professional networks and smart networking, it is even more important to have someone who would vouch for you in those unclear moments. Someone you “kicked a** for”. I have experienced this first hand: after years in which I wasn’t as active in the technological space and was looking for a way to go back into the industry, I was helped by a previous manager, Moti Eliav. He vouched for me and brought me in as a product manager where he was working, basing it on work we did together years before. It was then that I realized the power of ‘Sponsorship’ – the important role it plays and how non-obvious it is for many women.
Are there other places in which you feel the difference between women and men is too big and too palpable?
Baat: Workplaces have been designed throughout history as a separate place from home, allowing people to dedicate themselves to work without bringing in what we call ‘the other side of life’ – the kids, the friends, the parents, and the home. As I see it, the main difference between women and men still revolves around society’s perception and gap in expectations and price that is paid by each. Women are still expected to run the households and men are still free from managing ‘the other side of life’. You find very few men who are willing to pay the price in their career and their workplace.
For this to change, the workplace needs to fade out the separation between the two worlds. Merging the two worlds must be acceptable, built-in, and free of such a high price tag.
Looking at it from another angle, where has being a woman helped you with your career?
Baat: I have been the minority from day one of computer science class (approx. 15% women students). For years, I thought it didn’t really matter whether you’re a man or a woman, as long as you’re good at what you do. It took me a long time to realize that I can believe it, but people around don’t necessarily share my belief.
It was with that realization that I decided to devote my energy and efforts to gender equality in the tech industry, with an emphasis on technical women entrepreneurs. During those years, I learned about all the things I missed seeing: the societal perception of women, the statistics, and the insights surrounding our unconscious biases. This knowledge and the experience gave me the confidence to and the ability to impact the organizations I joined, and be part of the changes corporations are undergoing today in respect to gender.
So what would finally cause the statistics to change so that we have gender equality?
Baat: Today’s statistics represent the power distribution between women and men. To some extent, it also represents of the distribution of self-confidence. In the USA, I learned the concept of ‘systemic privilege’: people who are considered by society the ‘norm’ while others who need to prove they belong in order to be treated equally or receive an equal opportunity. Usually, people who benefit from systemic privilege are not aware of it most of the time. Once they are made aware of it, they instinctively tend to become defensive and shift the responsibility for making the change to the weaker party.
Several things need to happen to achieve equal opportunity for both genders. First, we all need to understand how society is structured and who gets the opportunity just because they belong to the right group and who needs to fight to get a chance. This is something both women and men need to learn. In addition, we should continue developing ways to balance out the factors that create the gap, be they our perceptions – for example, the image of a successful entrepreneur or genius programmer – all the way to changing legislation in order to correct gender pay-gap and other inequalities.