Category: Women in Technology
One of my favorite morning rituals is to browse the papers in the early morning to catch up with what is going on and to be inspired! WSJ is one of standard papers I read. On top of the front page I read: Don’t be the office Tech Dinosaur (which makes sense as old pros sometime tend to reject new technology because they just didn’t or don’t want to get into it) and then I read the next headline which infuriated me to no end:
‘ The Toys’ that would turn girls into Scientists’ and on page 6 the full title reads: “Can new building toys for girls improve Math and Science skills? By Diana Kapp. To further add insult to injury there are 2 color photos of a plastic tree house and an classroom made up of plastic blocks!
Wow, Ms. Kapp! Newsflash: Girls ( I suggest you join our movement to try to stop the segregation of ‘girls’ into a separate class and stop finding gender-specific toys for girls) are the same as boys. No need to classify girls and suggest that ‘girls’ are different. Last I recall, Lego made toys for kids, NOT JUST GIRLS! We are trying very hard to remove the gender stereotyping, make gender a NON-ISSUE, so that we can have girls and boys be excited about science in school , college and eradicate the lack of women in technology and science leadership. But the game starts here and with inappropriate articles such as yours which further the problem. If you felt compelled to write an article about building toys and impact on science and math, then make it about kids, not girls.
Second news flash: Girls play with the same toys (which today includes electronics and not just blocks) and don’t build pretty tree houses with flowers! I was so furious when I read this article that I discussed it with my male executive friends who have young girls, we all agreed that you not only this article does NOT add value, but those of us with daughters don’t agree with your assessment. You are furthering a stereotype which we are working hard to stop. We encourage you to write about kids, not girls, and as the article by Sue Shellenbarger in WSJ suggests, Don’t be a tech dinosaur, and please realize that words have consequences. Science is both for girls and boys and separating the 2 adds no value, rather,it regresses us in our mission to eliminate gender stereotypes. There was a famous Harvard president as you recall, who had to leave Harvard because he said, girls are not as good in science/math as boys…. We all know who he is. Please be careful not to promote gender stereotyping in science and tech. Even remote stereotyping suggestions, creates huge reaction. Creates a global reaction! Please be mindful of what you write!
And finally, people are busy and sometimes, they only read headlines and look at pictures. I would HATE if all they remembered from your article is toys for girls in math and science and a cute tree house with flowers…. For those of us fighting the battle to get more women into math and sciences and promote women in technology leadership, I did not find your article adding to our mission, rather hurting our mission. Fortunately, the male readership of WSJ who have young girls know that toys for math and science for ‘girls’ are not and should not be different than toys for ‘boys’! To WSJ editor: Please review the articles more carefully!
Ms. Kapp, we urge you to write articles to help us bring gender equality in math, sciences and technology and not those regressing us by a few decades. As a female, I am sure you want the same equality as we all do!
There has been much energy around Marissa Mayer’s (CEO Yahoo) decision to not allow Yahoo employees to work from home. First off, I applaud any CEO who takes a position. Whether I agree with a position or disagree, I love people who take a position. I think there is another reason that she may have made this statement. See ‘the real reason’ below.
What do I think?
Well, first off, the announcement was a bit harsh and should have been approached by first internally vetting the change, before making a mass declaration. Quite possibly there were those at Yahoo who have the option to work remotely, may have received the news in a memo and BAM! – have to change their lives to accommodate. So, firstly, when you are introducing such a change, best start the shift from within (slowly, gradually) rather than using media fanfare.
Secondly, while we can never be sure what her intent was, the tone implied that working from home was wrong and needed to be fixed. So, folks, let’s regroup here: When people are hired and we ‘allow’ them to work from home or remotely and when that continues for a while, it becomes a practice. To criticize anyone, we first need to look within to the executive layer and HR, before making the employee feel badly about their ‘choice’!
Today, we have plenty of platforms, encouraging and allowing virtual connection and collaboration. Our platform ProVokeLiVeNetWork, PLN was designed to allow collaboration remotely and effectively, bringing global teams together, So, I could say: “We have all the tools we need to collaborate so going to the office is no longer necessary”. But I would not be truthful. I believe we need to bring teams together and nurture active collaboration to innovate, BUT, that is not the entire story.
There is a chemistry and culture that is created by being in a physical environment together. Learning happens because you happen to speak to someone by the elevator , or because you met over lunch. The absence of such culture is frightening. The truth is that this culture CANNOT be made virtually to start off with . Think about Google. Think about the sensation and tingling of collaboration you have when you walk through the campus? Think about the inspiration? Can you really recreate a campus ‘virtually’??? Yes, we can create the campus, but not the culture.
Once the culture is built, and chemistry in place, then remote collaboration is easily possible and the right thing to do. More importantly, we need to bring global teams together who are by default remote.
The real reason in my opinion that Marissa made this statement is that she is desperate to build a culture. She inherited a fractured company, with weak to no identity, and in despair. Her only job I believe was at Google, so what she knows is how to build the culture when folks are at work (and not remote), like Google. Right or wrong, at least she is trying and not just collecting a fat paycheck and riding her golden handcuffs.
Let’s be honest, Yahoo is in trouble. They need to build its market position and do it quickly. Easier to do so by having people at work, constantly collaborating and building. I believe in the integrity of individuals, and I think folks work very hard at home. But there are distractions at home. Very few individuals have a totally separate offices at home, which means there are chunks of time that folks are disconnected from work and unreachable. As an ex and current CEO, it is a challenge to build and maintain a culture, doubly hard to do so if folks are not there in person. Once the culture is built and everyone is board, then consider allowing employees to work remotely. But until then, it remains a challenge.
Net-net her tactics and approach were wrong but there is a positive intent at play and not just her ego, unlike much of Silicon Valley behavior. It is far easier to criticize than to put ourselves in her shoes and her tasks. Would we have ‘really’ acted differently?
Short order, I think Marissa needs to surround herself with advisors to help her slow down her knee jerk reflexes and be more patient in bringing about change to Yahoo. She stands to build a legacy or just run a company. If the former is her goal, she needs to keep her passion and drive but do so ‘with’ the company and avoid public declarations!
Folks, I am an angel investor in tech startups in the US (Silicon Valley, Seattle, San Diego, Utah and other cities), Europe and India as well as emerging markets. I have been eagerly investing in companies for the last 5 years. To date, in any of these cities/countries, I have ‘rarely’ had a woman investor in the investment forums globally. In fact most of the forums have a few women investors but typically they are not very involved. So, what gives?! Seriously , fellow female investors: Why are women not at the table in investing? Women are a massive ‘buying-power/force’ in the global economy, BUT, not at the investment table.
As a result, most angel groups are men, and VC firms are comprised of ‘male’ investors. More importantly, as over the years the number of women have not increased, the ‘male’ investing community globally has not learned how to work with women investors. When we look at investments, we form due diligence teams. I would love to have a few fellow women investors in these teams but it is extremely rare. And of course, when investments are made, board seats are allocated, which as a result of there not being enough women at the table, the boards are comprised of men. No surprise there! Hence, I am often a solo woman investor and the only woman on the due diligence team and on the board. To make matters worse (this really deserves a blog on its own), the bigger problem that we simply don’t have enough women as startup CEO’s or in startups, period! See the pattern. This is 2012, and I never thought I would be having this conversation.
As a result the environment is not terribly inviting and the pattern gets deeper. Hence I see where Dave McClure is coming from. Frankly, an unreal sight: An all male investment team, investing in an all male startup company…Where the hell has my gender disappeared to? We have enormous talent in women execs, technical and talent across the board. Women CFO’s are phenomenal and totally get finance but are not present at the investment scene. The fact that women are not at the table is not a matter of not having the talent (which women do), but a matter of choice and decision.
A huge contributing factor I have found is that startup investments are all about risk. Huge risk. You place a bet. With that comes uncertainty and the possibility of failure. Women often shy away from financial risk (even women with huge net worth) and the possibility of failure is not comfortable. Fear of failure is much more personal for women (as an investor or startup exec) than it is for men. I believe that this has been a stumbling block for women. Not a matter of intelligence, finances, or capability: A sheer matter of risk-tolerance!
There are some fantastic all female investment forums such as Golden Seeds, Seraph Capital Forum and others, who not only are mostly women investors but have great women participants and do invest quite a bit in women led companies. For me it is critical to change the playing field and integrate. Perhaps part of the problem is that we (women) try to hard to separate into groups. While we have female-centric investment forums, I don’t know of forums that are male-centric. I think that we (women) perhaps separate more than integrate, shy away from intimadation and need to hugely up our risk-tolerance ( if we are inclined to invest) and get in the game. As for barriers, our lack of participation has accentuated the barriers. I look forward for us to play harder and be more at the table. I would love to hear your thoughts!
Like you, I have attended a whole bunch of tech conferences this year. I am jazzed that so many organizations want to put together conferences around Hadoop, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Digital Media and much more. Via conference such at TechCrunch, Strata, and many other venues we have reached global audiences with dialogs about technology any where from the US, Europe, China, India and much more. However, I am equally concerned regarding the following:
1. Let’s get more paying customers (users) to the conference and make it less of a vendor-fest. Hey- not to say there isn’t loads of fabulous inter-vendor networking, but great if we can hear actual customer user case stories from customers. How ? Let’s just invite customers.
2. Let’s be less sponsor centric. When you go to a tech conference these days, it is really about the platinum, gold and other sponsors. Let’s make it about technology!
3. Let’s play it less safe! Let’s push the boundaries and disrupt more. What the tech industry does great is deal with the ‘what-if’…let’s stimulate and dare to disrupt and not play it super safe. Let’s point out what we do very well and what we don’t
4. Let’s improve year on year. Have you noticed how super-constant the agendas are? You can almost take the agenda and change the year and voila, a new conference and more than anything folks, seriously.
5.Let’s change up the speaker roster. Not to say the sponsor speakers are not great, but how many times a year can you hear the same speaker? Are there not free thinkers in the tech giants, others who can present?
6. Let’s let disruptors present, shake things up and let’s invite, encourage and demand more women technologists and thinkers on the stage! No wonder that the female attendance is so low at techfests. Maybe because we don’t have enough women speakers? With about 50% of the tech field women, is there a reason that we still have conferences with zero women presenters?
So, let’s disrupt to innovate. Let’s dare to use these conferences as venues to think, stimulate, mix things up and come up with the impossible.
A great example of disruption which brought about one of the more eclectic conferences, is TED- multi disciplinary, searching for the out of the box thinkers, to create a renaissance environment for creativity, which has given rise to many TED’s around the world and now via podcasts available to all at no cost. Why not to Tech-TED?
Hey, I want to see more events. I just want to see us grow and not stay stagnant. It isn’t all about landing the sponsor dollars, it is about educating, stimulating and growing.
I welcome your thoughts as always.
- TEDGlobal 2012: ‘The more you give away the more you get back’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Tech Conferences Should Not Be Just for Vendors… Let’s Change the Game! (lindabernardi.com)
- TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon – Hackers Gotta Hack (twilio.com)
Folks, this is my blog to ‘disrupt’ common notions of why we don’t have enough women entrepreneurs or angels or VCs. With a huge amount of respect I am going to use my good friend, Vivek’s article (Women and Venture Capital on Inc.com) to disagree with several of his points:
1. We have plenty of women role models. Since last week, I have spoken to brilliant women executives in banking, consulting, publishing and technology in the UK, Canada, the US and India. Sometimes when we throw around the word ‘role model’, it implies we don’t have a lot of successful women, but we do. Is it enough? Hell, No! A handful of Fortune 500 women CEO’s does not suffice, but there are plenty of women doing great work out there. I believe that the work of great women like Shaherose Charania, CEO of Women 2.0, is really helping to raise the bar and the dialog by helping to empower women with the tools needed to succeed.
2. When it comes to getting funded, it is about appetite for risk and absolutely convincing the source of funding, say the angel, VC or other, as to why you believe your company will succeed and your determination and passion should be addictive, unstoppable and infective. Yes, even in light of skepticism and doubt. This is very hard for women! The question we should ask ourselves as women entrepreneurs, is: “ Are we totally committed to the idea? Can we convince the party at the other side of the table?” Or, will we buckle under pressure?
3. Women also shy away from being investors. Globally, I rarely have women investors with me at the table. Why is that? Are we fundamentally comfortable with taking risk and funding risks? Or are we more comfortable with low risk? FYI- this has nothing to do with access to money. Very wealthy women often stay away from investing. Why?
4. So, it would be very easy and convenient as a female to state that the opportunities are not there, the role models are absent, the funding is not there, on and on…BUT, the fact is to succeed we should not view convenience as the path to success, truth is. Hey, I do believe sure there are some totally unenlightened VC’s out there , and some who don’t believe women can be great entrepreneurs. But we will fail if we believe that is the norm.
I am a woman entrepreneur, investor, disruptor and I work around the globe. Once I show unstoppable passion and determination, I find people (male and female) that want to be part of the game. I look for people to inspire me and want to inspire others about the impossible.
So, frankly, folks, I want to change this dialogue. Let’s focus on realizing that women are doing great stuff, help women deal with intimidation/self doubt/ skepticism better. Help women embrace failure and experimentation. Let’s have positive discussions of how to get the impossible done and get things done, and focus less on hashing the outdated, uninspiring dialogue of why as women we have so many obstacles ahead of us!
Steve Jobs had the goal of making a ‘dent’ in universe. I say, women can make a huge dent.
Let’s focus less on all the negative rhetoric of why there is inertia against women. It is uninspiring and unproductive.