Seattle startups Gotara Its mission is to allow more women to participate in STEM through a mentoring software platform designed to increase retention rates.
founder D. SanjitaGotara, the former vice president of Amazon Networks, helps women in the STEM field receive mentoring and training.
Sanjita said that Gotara aims to “teach new behaviors” and women can freely seek advice without fear of retaliation or misunderstanding in the same company.
The platform was launched in February and is free for individuals to use, who can seek advice or guidance from Gotara consultants. Topics can include long-term career goals, such as job changes; tactical goals, such as speech suggestions; or more pressing issues, including dealing with workplace conflicts. Advisors and users are anonymous. Gotara refers to these proposed meetings as “nano-learning.”
Gotara also provides employee retention programs for the company. These include courses for new women in the field and women returning to work after a break.
The company currently has 12 employers as clients, including small startups and large companies such as Cisco.
Sanjita said that she is a “through-and-through” STEM woman, and in her 30 years in the field, she has seen an increase in the number of women graduating and entering the labor force in these fields.
“However, we all did a poor job of retention,” she said.
Sanjita said that hiring women is not as serious as retaining women. During her research, she discovered that some women wanted to leave the field, but most wanted to stay.
“They want that sense of belonging,” Sanjita said. “They want the intellectual opportunities and challenges that this job brings, they want to earn money independently and be financially independent.”
She said the women she had spoken to pointed out that work or family conditions made them decide to leave. Gotara is working hard to solve this problem.
Sangeeta said that most of Gotara’s participants felt underestimated or bullied at work. Sanjita said Gotara tried to help in a very technical way.
“These women understand, because they are technicians, they understand analytical methods to solve problems,” Sanjita said. “They look at logic.”
The retention of women in the workforce is not a problem unique to STEM, and this problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic. In September, 865,000 women left the U.S. labor market—four times the number of men. According to NPR.
Sangeeta’s research on female retention rates in STEM occurred before the pandemic, and she found that 40% of women left the labor market after five to seven years. She said the situation had gotten worse.
“The reduction of the gender gap is not just for altruistic reasons,” Sanjita said. “It has a bottom-line effect.”