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

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.

Winning Online Competitions: A Coalition of the Giving

pepsi-refresh-optimism1.jpg

Zoetica has decided not to counsel potential clients on how to win contests like Pepsi Refresh, but many of you are asking for tips. That’s why when the opportunity came up to publish this guest post by Dan Morrison, CEO of Citizen Effect, I said yes. Hopefully, some folks will find it useful.

Philanthropy competitions are the new fad and mode for giving away millions of dollars to innovative organizations trying to save the world. Last year the Chase Giving Challenge gave away $5 million to 100 nonprofits and this year Pepsi allocated $20 million of its Super Bowl ad budget to launch its Pepsi Refresh Project that is giving away a total of $1.2 million a month to innovative ideas that will save the world.

While most of you have never heard of Scott Beale and Atlas Corp. you need to for two reasons. Atlas Corp is creating a new spin on the Peace Corp that will benefit your organization, and Scott is kicking your butts in these online giving competitions.

In the last 2 years, Scott and Atlas Corp have won $325,000 from online competitions, including $125,000 from the Chase Giving Challenge. And he just did it again by winning one of the ten $50,000 prizes from the Pepsi Refresh Project. This is impressive. But it is borderline unbelievable when you consider Atlas Corp’s 2009 budget was $400.000, they only have 1,700 friends on Facebook, 1,215 followers on Twitter, and an email list of about 12,000 people.

So how did they do it? Scott’s plan to win the Pepsi contest was ingenious and will likely have Chase, Pepsi and other online contests rethinking their rules in the future. Introducing the “Coalition of the Giving.”

The recipe for forming the Coalition of the Giving is simple: part good-hearted collaboration, part reality-TV show Survivor, and part persistence (or spam, depending on your threshold for receiving emails, Facebook updates and Tweets).

The Pepsi Refresh Project included hundreds of ideas from all over the country and Scott knew he would need more than Atlas Corp supporters to win. So how could Scott get people to vote for Atlas Corp that had never heard of them before, much less care about their mission?

Easy, ask another organization competing in the Pepsi Refresh Project to market Atlas Corp to their supporters. This was possible because every voter was given ten votes a day, but each voter could only vote once for a specific organization. That left nine useless votes… unless you could form a coalition and trade votes in a “I’ll vote for you if you vote for me” arrangement.

Scott found six other organizations competing in the contest (two vying for $50K, three for $25K, and one for $250K) and told them that every time he asked someone to vote for Atlas Corp, he would also ask them to vote for everyone in the coalition, as long as they did the same. Here again, Pepsi’s rules worked in Scott’s favor because there were ten prizes of $50,000, so it was not a “winner take all” competition and open to benefiting a collaboration.

Pepsi does not share the number of votes, but let’ assume that 70% of Scott’s supporters still only vote for Atlas Corp. That means that 30% of his supporters will vote for other coalition members. Thirty percent does not seem like a lot but multiply that by six and consider that everyone can vote every day. If Atlas Corp is able to pick up ten voters that vote every day through the coalition, that is 280 votes over the course of the February contest. That may not allow someone to go from worst to first, but it is highly likely that it can move you from a contender to a winner.

The results tell the tale. Six of the seven coalition partners won, that is a combined $225,000 for the coalition.

The strategy was ingenious in part because it was selfish as much it was selfless. Rather than just a “vote for me” play, Atlas Corp adopted a “vote for me and consider these other guys,” play. The better the coalition members did in the standings, the stronger the incentive was to continue with the plan and not defect because if they did, they would be dropped from the coalition and loose all those potential votes.

I am not sure voting contests are the most efficient way to allocate millions of dollars for innovative ideas since they reward innovative voter mobilization strategies rather than innovative projects. But at least in the case of Atlas Corp, both were rewarded, and we all learned a lesson that sometimes collaboration is better than competition. Thank you Scott and best of luck in the next competition, we will be watching.

For more information on Atlas Corp, email Scott Beale at scott@atlascorps.org and learn more about Atlas Corps at www.atlascorps.org. For more information on the author, email Dan Morrison, CEO and Founder of www.CitizenEffect.org, at dan.morrison@CitizenEffect.org.