Why Tech Already Has Women (And Why They’re Better Than Arrington)

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UPDATE: Robert Scoble believes our comments are taken out of context, and has offered this Cincast on his views about women in tech. We appreciate Mr. Scoble’s participation in this important topic, and wish to encourage all parties to discuss the matter.

UPDATE: Robert Scoble has shared his thoughts on Women in Tech. You can view his take here.

Women of WiFi, after Caillebotte

Image: “Women of WiFi, after Caillebotte” by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

by Danny Brown and Geoff Livingston (Cross posted on Danny’s blog)

Contrary to Violet Blue’s disappointing stance about women in tech in 2010, this year saw a terrible new trend, the outright enforcement of the glass ceiling in technology.  First there was Michael Arrington’s terribly ignorant rant, followed verbally by the likes by Robert Scoble and Ms. Blue, as well as the visual use of boobs to sell copies of WIRED by Chris Anderson and crew.

Before opining too much, here are some statistics for you (the first three were originally cited by Allyson Kapin in Fast Company):

In spite of the statistical advantages of women in tech, negative trends towards male speakers and executive leadership continue. Worse, reading this negative enforcement of sexism in tech has been a damn shame. Working with great women in tech — Susan Murphy, Beth Kanter,  Kami Huyse, Allyson Kapin, Amber MacArthur, Sarah Prevette, Lisa Kalandjian and Cali Lewis to name a few this year — has been a phenomenal experience for both of us, and they demonstrate every day how brilliant and capable they are.

In fact, these women are better than the likes of Arrington and crew, because they would never allow themselves to demean an entire race, gender or religious sect of people on the Internet.  Even if they had such feelings (which we doubt), they would rise above this kind of baseless attack to offer solutions.

Then again, perhaps that shouldn’t come across as too surprising. TechCrunch is hardly the purveyor of common sense and good “fights,” as they’ve shown continuously in the past with their attacks on PR, CEOs, bloggers – basically anyone who doesn’t bow to Arrington’s missives.

There are certainly issues for women, as pointed out by Allyson Kapin in the above articles as well as many other women who discuss this issue. Men have a role in it, too, as evidenced by this year’s newest glass blowing experiences.  Moving forward, men need to be more active about providing solutions to create a more level playing field. For example:

  • Actively support women in business, both through choices of partners, vendors and employees, and in promotion.
  • Support men and women trying to help women.  Whether it’s Girls, Inc., supporting female entrepreneurs abroad, efforts to highlight Women Who Tech, or a host of other efforts, support women.
  • Stop trashing and reacting to women trying to succeed.  Rather than get into throw downs about how women create their own problems in tech — or worse revert to past bad practices like conferences for men — work to create an inclusive balanced playing field for every human being.
  • If you are a man and you don’t like these types of actions against women — posts, magazine articles, speaking rosters — say something. When both genders actively voice dissatisfaction in this matter, it becomes a powerful statement.
  • Instead of supporting old structures for speaking — such as soliciting speaking submissions from chest beating male A-Listers — build an editorial mission for the conference, and seek out great male and female speakers beyond the comfortable and immediate social network.
  • Stop thinking with the mindset that “women” and “success” are two words that – together – are news, and start thinking it’s the norm.
  • Think of the challenges your great-grandmother, grandmother and (possibly) your mother went through to be someone. Then ask if you’d want that still, and add your wife or daughter into the mix. Would you want them to be viewed as “unique” because of their industry choice? And that’s “unique” in a negative way, not in a good one-of-a-kind way.

To be fair, this isn’t an isolated issue with the technology sector. Think of a lot of industries, and you’ll find that women are often viewed as second-best to their male counterparts. They may have won the vote but it’s clear that women still trail men when it comes to advancement, recognition and financial reward compared to their male peers in too many industries.

But it’s even more evident in the technology sector, where too many geek overlords want to keep the sandpit for themselves, and maybe the women can solder a chip or connect a conference call between the male kingfishers.

And it’s just plain stupid. For every Michael Arrington there’s a Bindi Karia; for every Robert Scoble, there’s a Gina Trapani; for every Chris Anderson there’s a Stephanie Agresta. And with new innovators being sponsored to come through from India, and developing countries making women and technology one of their key focuses, these names (and others like them) will only be added to.

Frankly, an argument can be made that most of the modern gender imbalance issues are rooted in men not consciously looking for great women, as opposed to them not existing. 2011 can be a year where forward progress can be made — by both women and men.  Let’s hope the community joins together in working towards that goal.  Given how great women are in business, why wouldn’t you?

About Danny Brown

For readers who aren’t familiar with Danny, he is co-founder and partner at Bonsai Interactive Marketing, a full service marketing agency offering integrated , social media and mobile marketing solutions and applications. He’s also the founder of the 12for12k Challenge, a community-driven social media charity initiative to connect globally and help locally that’s raised over $100,000 since inception in 2009. His top ranked blog is featured in the AdAge Power 150 list as well as Canada’s Top 50 Marketing Blogs, and won the Hive Award for Best Social Media Blog at the 2010 South by South West festival.

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  • Tabitha “Tabz” Smith

    Thanks for this awesome post. Michael Arrington is such a
    jerk, it’s nice to know there are guys out there who understand the

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Thank you for reading it. Keep fighting the good fight.

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      He does have his moments, doesn’t he? ;-)

      I’m sure my wife would say I have mine too, but hopefully they’re less than the good ones. :)

  • EurekaJanet

    …well…hell…my NY’s Dream? That people would STOP
    using gender or race identifiers like Man/Woman/Black/White etc.
    and go directly to HUMAN. Period.

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      That is a great dream! I look forward to that day, god willing.

      • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

        Amen to that.

  • http://www.suzemuse.com Susan Murphy

    Thank you for posting this, guys, and I’m honoured to be
    included in such a prestigious list of women in tech. I’ve worked
    in male-dominated industries since the start of my career – from
    being one of only two female news camera operators in my city back
    in the early 1990s, to countless roles in the high tech sector that
    put me into mostly-male executive boardrooms. I have to say, after
    20+ years, I’m pretty used to hearing the kinds of things you refer
    to in this article. Yes, the old boys network is alive and well,
    even in the technology game – it’s ironic that an industry that
    prides itself on being cutting edge and innovative still spends so
    much time in the dark ages. With that said, we each (men and women)
    have a responsibility to rise above the bullcrap and work to make
    our own success. If we, or others, are being treated unfairly
    because of race, gender, religion, or ability, it’s up to us to
    take a stand. I hope that 2011 does see more conversation and
    education on that role that women, and all people play in the
    furthering of our industry.

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Susan, I admire women like you who have the courage to lead with great actions, and change society. Both my Mom and my grandmother were entrepreneurs, strong business people. I learned from the best and saw how they beat out their competitors.

      It disturbs me to see the old boy network at play as it hurts society by denying some of the best minds an opportunity to succeed.

      • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

        What Geoff said.

        Having worked with you personally too, Sue, I know exactly what you bring to the table from an expertise angle. But I also know what you bring to the table from a personal angle, and that’s something that’s sorely missing from many others (especially male contemporaries and peers).

        Here’s to you and more like you :)

  • http://theartfulflower.blogspot.com/ Julie Pippert

    Way to end the year on a brilliant and good note. Your
    bullet points, supporting evidence and call to action are
    phenomenal. My fave points? Stop reacting to women trying to
    succeed, speak up and support, and create an editorial mission that
    seeks beyond the usual and includes…oh so that’s pretty much the
    whole post. Love it. Thank you.

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      Thanks, Julie – it was a delight to cross-post with Geoff, and agree, great way to go out for 2010.

      Here’s to less posts like this being necessary in 2011 and beyond – have a great one!

      • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

        Amen. It’d be nice to look at green fields in 2011.

  • http://www.shannatrenholm.com Shanna Trenholm

    Thanks Danny and Geoff for this *setting the record
    straight* post. Sounds like the 1980s (and earlier eras) all over
    again with women being overlooked or diminished for their
    contributions. What’s a gal gotta do these days? Don a red
    powersuit with massive shoulder pads? :) Ugh, I think not. Women
    have brains and skills in spades–we are here–just open your
    eyes… Cheers!

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Let’s forget the 80s, please God. The John Hughes movies are bad enough!

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      Hey, as someone who had a mullet with highlights and who wore jackets rolled up to elbows and chinos as pants, I’m all for the 80′s. ;-)

      Agreed, though, hard to believe we’re still talking about things like this in the 21st century…

      • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

        I just knew you had a mullet! So did I, but it didn’t look so good with the jewfro..

  • http://www.whatspinksthinks.com David Spinks

    I started to write a long comment here…

    It turned into this: http://whatspinksthinks.com/2010/12/29/lack-women-tech-problem/

    Great post with solid points. I wish you wouldn’t have focused so much on Arrington though. He’s not the problem, and while some of his points were certainly misguided, I think his general purpose was actually pretty strong.

    The stats you provide are interesting. The 40% of small biz in the US is female owned is a good one, but the link that you provide doesn’t show that stat anywhere. Did I miss something? The twitter adoption rate doesn’t really matter.

    I don’t think in this day and age that anyone questions the value that women can bring to the table. I think the issue is this notion that “tech is for men” which is just something that has existed to this point, and now we see it dying.

    In the end, the best person, regardless of gender, should get the job. All we can do is work to eliminate any bias that exists and continue to provide equal opportunity.

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Thanks, Dave. You can always go back to Allyson’s article for the original stats:

      I have to disagree with you on the Arrington post, it was an act of misogyny, defense and ignorance in my opinion, which triggered a cascade of similar acts. It was unfortunate, and a big step backwards, in my opinion. But if we all felt the same about this issue, there would be no debate. And thus it’s healthy to have these conversations publicly.

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      Hi David,

      I’ll jump over and read your post soon, mate, looking forward to reading it.

      Have to agree with Geoff – while Arrington may have hoped to have come across as fair, I don’t think he came anywhere near in succeeding. His tone – as it is in many of his own posts – is condescending, and that doesn’t really help his cause when he is trying to be fair.

  • http://adelemcalear.com Adele McAlear

    You are right, 2010 has been the year where the gender issue has been in my face more than I ever thought it would be. It’s bad enough that we’re a decade into the new millennium and we’re not driving flying cars, but to have a conference producer look me straight in the eyes and tell me that they couldn’t find any women who could hold a stage and speak about marketing is disheartening, to say the least.

    I don’t think that the imbalance is a result of conscious decisions. I think that like gravitates towards like and that there’s a laziness about finding new voices that permeates many industries, not just the conference scene. It takes a commitment to being aware of the imbalance and effort to change the it in order to improvements.

    Thank you Danny and Geoff for shining a light on what so many of us have been facing for years. And, thank you for your support.

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      I agree, Adele, it’s not conscious, but every time it comes up, men don’t speak up. We need to make the conversation one that more folks participate in and thrust it into the core of conversations online. Hopefully, that will resolve it…

      • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

        Having worked with you earlier this year, Adele, I know exactly the strengths you bring, and that conference organizer is missing out on great women like you and others.

        I think we might have more chance seeing flying cars before equality – true equality – for women. We can but hope it’s opposite, mind you…

  • http://edenspodek.com Eden Spodek

    Thank you not only for raising awareness of this issue from
    the male perspective but also providing examples of concrete

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      It’s important not just to highlight issues, but to suggest possible directions forward. Thank you, Eden!

      • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

        Just to add to what Geoff said, it’s easy to point fingers and blame, not so to (hopefully) offer solutions. Here’s hoping we can all move towards solutions from ongoing discussion next year and beyond.

        • http://edenspodek.com Eden Spodek

          @Geoff @Danny Agreed. Thanks for setting a positive example. There’s often a lot of mud-slinging without providing solutions for improvement. Your post will help breakdown barriers. The fact that you’ve written it together helps strengthen your POV. However the fact that commenters on both your blogs are written almost entirely by women is somewhat disconcerting.

          • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

            Yes, more women than men, but we’ve had at least 8 to 10 comment online in other areas, all positive. That is more than usual. Progress always begins with the few.

  • http://www.ninja-radio.com/ ninja

    of course having the boob article written by a woman makes it alright…not.

  • http://LiveYourTalk.com Jill Foster

    In the voice of Yoda: “Valuable this post is.” Yet I crave an added dimension to the discussion regarding ownership. Yes, there are barriers to opportunity in & beyond the tech industry for women. And conference speaker selection committees in general would do well to assert a hearty raising of consciousness.

    At the same time, I’ve seen brilliant minds – women – who avoid submitting to conference panels for speaker consideration. “I’m not good enough” – they say, despite their background & enterprises oozing fantastic results. Or they avoid exercising their expertise in front of audiences because of fear to speak in public.

    As much as we hope 2011 sees “forward progress” for women’s perceived street cred in tech, may our vision not stop there. May it also be a year of unparalleled ownership where women find their own antidote to fear — and assert their expertise and means to make that expertise clearly known.

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Thanks, Jill. There are many aspects to this solution. Part of it is not submitting, but part of that is the way the speaker solicitation process is built. It’s a bit geared towards one gender, IMO. And since you mentioned it, when are you going to submit your Ignite preso?

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      That’s a good point, Jill. But is that the woman lacking confidence in her abilities, or lacking the confidence that her submission will be looked at fairly by The Old Boys Club?

      I know what one my money’s on… ;-)

  • http://tinynibbles.com Violet Blue

    Danny and Geoff – all due respect, but – did you even read past my headline?

    My article calls BS on Arrington, Wired, Kara Swisher, and the like, and yet you lump me/my article in with them as if the article agrees with them. That is simply incorrect. It does not.

    Read the comments from many, many women in tech who thought the piece was a breath of fresh air for telling Arrington off, among others.

    The article is about people making a lot of noise who only *pretend* to care about the issue, while showing the reader that the people making the most noise don’t even understand what the issue is. They don’t know *why* gender balance is good – only that it is desired. That is flawed thinking if we are to work toward solutions.

    The solutions are many; such as hard data reinforcing the positive impact of women in leadership roles – which is at the end of my article. Did you even read that far?

    Can I also ask what the swipe at Robert Scoble is about?

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Violet: I read your article, and think it still belongs here as cited. For almost 30 paragraphs, this post railed on women discussing the tech matter and not citing stats. Or solutions. Or whatever the intent was.

      While I respect that you wanted the post to call BS on Arrington, Wired, Swisher and pretenders, it reads like the opposite until the very end. Finally, it got down to citing statistics as a solution, which is great, and has been done before your post by Allyson Kapin (who runs with Women Who Tech teleseminar) and others, as noted here right away.

      If the post cut the first 30 paragraphs and had started there with the stats, maybe it would have made more sense to me. Instead, it seems like a rant about “Women Whining,” per the title. As such, it was a backwards step, not a forwards one.

      As to the Scoble thing, he did the same thing as Arrington in a tech group, and said there were no women in tech (or 10%). He has since agreed to work with women to help the matter.

      Thanks for coming by to clarify your point of view.

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      Hi Violet,

      I think Geoff covered the reply I was going to offer. I read the comments, and agree, there were a lot who thanked you. Yet the article was very much a two-part one, and part of me wonders if some commenters skimmed, saw the gist of the first half, and posted their comment.

      That’s not a slight on your readers – more a statement of how many people read blog posts, and how much attention they give to the complete story. That’s on any blog, not just yours, or Arrington’s, or Swisher, etc.

      Cheers for sharing your take on the post.

  • http://www.womenwhotech.com Allyson Kapin

    Thank you Geoff and Danny for teaming up to write this post. I just wanted to respond to a couple of the comments people posted here. I don’t think this issue is any one person’s fault. I fault the education system for not encouraging young girls at a young age to be excited about science and math. I fault people in a position of power (from “A-list bloggers/influentials” to conference organizers, etc) who fail to recognize that the lack of diverse perspectives in the tech sector is a major problem and for stuffing their heads in the sand. I fault those awesome women who I think have a lot to say and do for not being aggressive enough and marketing the hell out of themselves. Nonetheless, I still have hope that we can change the ratio. The tech world has some of the most creative, tenacious and resourceful people who have profited from these very qualities. Giving up is not part of their nature when they really care about achieving a goal or solving a problem that is important to them. Of course they need to recognize the problem first. :)

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Well said, Allyson.

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  • http://thesocialjoint.com Lucretia Pruitt

    Interesting post guys. Sorry I missed it’s golive.

    I do think you’re a little off the mark criticizing Scoble. We’ve had a couple of conversations offline on this topic over the past couple of years and he said something I’ve always found very insightful on the matter.
    When surrounded once by a Tweetup in Boulder that was 95% male, he said to me “You know why you are successful at what you do? In part just because you show up. It reminds me of earlier days in the Valley when we’d have these events that were open to anyone – the women who didn’t expect someone to hold their hands and go with them? The ones who showed up all the time? They’re the ones you see leading things in Tech out there.”
    He listed off a number of women that ‘showed up’ who yeah, are the kind of women I look up to & respect. I’m *not* going to list them, because I have a thing against lists (which I will get to in a moment.)

    Sorry – but he’s a huge supporter of Women in Tech and always has been. There is something to be said for showing up. I’m working on submitting more proposals to more events that I am qualified to speak at. Because that’s *my* part of showing up.

    I’m really glad I managed to miss being on any of the lists here despite knowing both of you – because it feels a little like “Look! See!! She’s smart! She’s a Woman in Tech!!”
    If you had managed to write this without needing to resort to any lists? I’d be a little more willing to give it weight. But if you actually can’t make the argument without needing to point out women that disprove the example? Then you’re actually conceding that we’re not doing a good enough job of showing up.

    Neither of you would write a post pointing out specific Men who ‘disprove a rule based on their gender’ – so to be perfectly frank? While I get the intent, this is a massively sexist post. It’s just less direct than what Arrington wrote. Next time? Don’t point out the Dancing Bears.

    • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

      Well, I guess we agree to disagree, Lucretia. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. I would still write this post today and feel good about it. Thanks for your feedback though.

      • http://scobleizer.com Robert Scoble

        When have you EVER called and asked me about my opinions on
        this topic? Oh, you got your entire opinion of me from one comment
        in a Techcrunch thread. Really? And people wonder why we aren’t
        having a good conversation about this issue and why progress is so
        damned slow. Look in the mirror. Next time, do your homework before
        you throw me under the bus for one comment that you took out of
        context and didn’t understand. My phone is +1-425-205-1921 and you
        should have called to get my views before doing such a biased and
        incendiary post and on a topic that has such deep consequences for
        participants in the public view. You did DEEP harm to the topic
        here. How many people are watching and learning “we better not talk
        about this EVER because then Geoff will throw us under the bus?”
        Lots. I’ve done my homework on this issue and am on the right side
        of the line. I really hate the kind of posturing and discussion
        that folks have on both sides of this topic. It’s sad that my niece
        has so few examples of people doing good work on this cause and
        this is definitely not one of them. Sigh.

        • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

          Robert: At the time you first expressed your anger on this
          topic, I offered you the opportunity to say more, and all I got was
          the cinchcast. As OUR posts reflect, we acquiesced and updated. I’d
          like to hear more about your views and how to resolve the situation
          instead of rhetorical shots. If you’d like to do a guest post on this humble blog you are welcome to.

          Both Danny and I actively work to
          resolve the matter every day in our professional lives. I assure you we are not posturing.

        • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown


          Pretty surprised by your angry tone here, considering the post was updated on your request to Geoff.

          With regards bias, sometimes that gets confused with defense – if there wasn’t any bias to start with in the tech world (something you cover in your podcast), then there wouldn’t be the need for defense.

          • http://scobleizer.com Robert Scoble

            It was because this reply was posted after the update was made. Seems clear that Geoff has a personal problem with me and isn’t treating me fairly. But, I guess we’ll have to work that out and I’ll consider doing a guest post or something like that. Mostly I want to figure out where the anger is coming from so I can nip that.

          • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston


            If it’s not evident from my direct interactions with you both publicly and privately, let me just state that I do not have an axe to grind with you. I like you actually based on our personal interactions, and it’s those interactions which continue to foster my willingness to have a conversation with you on the topic. I just call ‘em like I see ‘em, and you cried foul. We’re working to resolve that.

            We sent you the source material this morning, giving you an opportunity to clarify statements that we based our comments here off of… If you agree, we will publish your answers as a stand alone blog post. As a blogger (not a journalist), I am open to other suggestions to rectify the situation, but will leave the current blog post as is based on the material sent to you.



      • http://thesocialjoint.com Lucretia Pruitt

        I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get back. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t replying in an overly visceral manner.

        I appreciate your candor. I appreciate your passion. I appreciate that you are intelligent, insightful and articulate. I also appreciate that you are willing to agree to disagree on this. Basically? Thanks.

    • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

      Hi Lucretia,

      With all due respect, obviously I disagree with you. I’ve written a ton of posts and shared examples before of guys doing great things (and will continue to do so).

      I don’t think sharing names of people doing great stuff is “conceding” – I always thought conceding was giving up to a point, as opposed to here where it’s proving a point.

      • http://thesocialjoint.com Lucretia Pruitt

        Thanks Danny. I will take into consideration the intent rather than my interpretation of the action. Your intent weighs considerably more.

        I apologize for any misconstrual of it.

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  • http://www.astramatch.com/blog pemo

    Sorry I’m late to the party. Just wanted to thank you for your positive rant on Women Entrepreneurs. I have been doing video interviews with venture capitalists, angel investors & women founders on the shortfall in funding for women to heighten awareness & highlight some of the amazing women entrepreneurs. My current post is with Wendy Lea, CEO Get Satisfaction, who has an amazing & inspirational story http://www.ezebis.com/venture/wendy-lea-ceo-satisfaction-challenges-venture-funding/
    Positive & authentic feedback adds up to a better playing field for female startups.

  • http://www.thestylegeek.com Jennifer Prentice

    I too apologize for being late to the party. I work at Experts Exchange, a California-based technology Q&A site. I write a tech blog for the company and when people post comments about me or about one of my posts, they often refer to me as “Mr. Prentice” even though my clearly female name is explicitly stated on the blog’s home page. I had the pleasure of meeting Marissa Mayer yesterday and hearing her speak. Her talk got me thinking about how women can have a unique impact on what is a currently a male-dominated industry. You can read my article here: http://xprt.it/g86qMI

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