This Thursday night is the Women Rock It event in San Francisco highlighting inspiring women and conversations about how they became successful. Speakers include Deborah Lindholm, whose foundation has helped over 300,000 women work their way out of poverty.
“The event is both inspirational and practical, and will be the first of many Women Rock It’s we will be producing around the country and beyond to encourage women to start businesses and pursue what they love to do,” said online marketing wizard Evan Bailyn, one of the co-producers of the event. “Eventually we will be getting even more deeply practical to complement the inspirational nature of the event by partnering with high-level mentoring programs and granting scholarships to women.”
In a revealing post, Evan discussed who he and co-producer Hyla Molander both shared how their failures and fears inspired their successess: “When you get into a room with people and one person admits it, suddenly all the walls come down. Suddenly it’s OK to admit that you’re scared.”
This event is spot on. In working with many people and supporting several women’s causes over the years (such as the NextGen Tech Women Fundraiser), fear, self valuation and failure are huge detractors. Working through those real issues — issues that every human being faces in business and life — are critical to success. Talking about how common these problems are, and how others have worked through them can make a huge difference.
10. Women garner just 9% of all angel investment funds, yet they have the same approval rate for applications as their male peers. Educating women to succeed in this market needs to happen!
9. There is an attitude within women’s conversations on the topic that they are meek, don’t share ideas in meetings, routinely discount ourselves, are bad at math and science, and are responsible for twice as much of the housework than men and three times the childcare. Blogger Lisa Barone explains why this is not every woman’s attitude.
8. Sunday is Mother’s Day and what better way to celebrate the great woman in your life then a donation to support tomorrow’s great women?
7. Some male investors still believe that women will neglect their businesses in favor of their children (while men are better at abandoning their kids for business?). See how Paige Craig worked through his prejudices and invested in a female founder.
6. Women-run tech startups generate more revenue per invested capital and fail less then those led by men, according to New York Entrepreneur Week. Hmm, makes you think that matching 14% angel invest rate is off.
5. Within our own little corner of the tech sector, women are often denied speaking engagements. Men dominate! And that is in spite of the fact that a strong majority of social media communicators are women.
4. The gender wage gap is not expected to pull even until 2057. Yes, 46 years from now. Today, women have to work 2.6 hours more per day to achieve the same wages as their male counterparts. Yeah.
3. “Wishful thinking and arguing about female founders, entrepreneurs or gender roles is overriding recognition of the powerful role that the female consumer is already playing in technology.” Read the ensuing stats on women’s incredible use of technology as posted by TheIceBreak CEO Christina Brodbeck.
2. “Companies, including information technology, with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 66%,” according to research by Catalyst.
1. And most importantly, Network Solutions is matching your donation (up to $1000)! What better reason do you need than twice the giving power? Donate today!
Following up from the joint blog post, “Why Tech Already Has Women…” co-authored with Danny Brown, noted tech blogger Robert Scoble felt the critical remarks in the post were unfair. After discussion and sharing our source material, he agreed to answer five questions and clarify his views. Thank you, Robert, for addressing this criticism directly, and for taking the time to answer these questions.
Q: Please state your opinion on these statistics: 40% of U.S. companies are started by women, but only 10% of VC backed companies are led by women. This is in spite of statistics that show: Women-run tech startups generate more revenue per invested capital and fail less then those led by men, according to New York Entrepreneur Week. “Companies, including information technology, with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 66%,” according to research by Catalyst. Making matters worse, Silicon Valley seems to be contracting on minority and women leadership. Why is this happening?
Scoble: I focus on fact #3 in Why Men Get VC Money and Women Don’t... and the thing that I’ve noticed is that people who are technical get ahead in Silicon Valley (and in China or India or Israel, for that matter). The problem is that we’re graduating fewer women in Computer Science than ever before and THAT is the #1 problem we need to take on. And let’s not even talk about other traditional minorities. There the story is even worse.
There are a number of reasons for that, but #1 is happening in our engineering schools. If women continue to choose non-tech careers this problem will continue no matter how much we yell and scream about it.
The other things are definitely influences we need to pay attention to.
But let’s go back to 2001. I held an open-to-the-public dinner for bloggers. Nearly everyone in the industry showed up, but only two women did. This was an open-to-the-public dinner, not some private boys club. In that small room at Dana Street Coffee were also Biz Stone and Ev Williams, but also Mena Trott, co-founder of SixApart. Also Dave Winer. Brad Fitzpatrick. And lots of others who went onto great careers. This was the event that if you were there, you got access to people who went onto change the world. But mostly men were there. Can we change that? I don’t know how, especially when the numbers of women coming out of college just aren’t high enough.
Q: From remarks you made in the Facebook Group Tech Leaders and Influencers (Nov. 20 and 21) it’s clear that opportunities like O’Reilly conferences and your interview series are not interested in highlighting women unless they are CEOs of hot startups, currently . Yet you admittedly say, “What I do is the feeding system for conferences like the O’Reilly one” and in your words exactly, ‘I am not willing to overrepresent one group just to fix this problem.” How can women succeed in tech if the conferences, media and bloggers don’t give potential CEOs an opportunity to shine?
Scoble: I didn’t realize that succeeding in tech required conferences, media, or bloggers? Instagr.am, done by two guys, has been very successful and would have been successful without any of that. They didn’t announce their product on stage. I never knew about them before they showed me their product (and I didn’t write much about it the first few days, yeah they got into Techcrunch but they would have been successful anyway — many apps get successful without being in the blogs. GroupOn’s CEO said he even avoided blogs and conferences and he built a company with a value of billions in 18 months.)
So, I challenge your assertion. Conferences usually REWARD success. Look at SXSW. Does anyone get on stage BEFORE they build a world-changing company? No way.
My show? It’s a bit different. I’m looking for new companies that no one has heard of before. But that means talking to the founder or the CEO. Why? Because they are the ones responsible for the vision of the company and that’s what I want to talk about. I’m not a show about the janitorial staff. Or the marketing department. Or the accountants. I want to understand how the company is going to change the world. Only one person should speak about that on behalf of a company: the CEO and founders. Now, sometimes they bring others along to help explain their vision. A high tech company might bring along an engineer, for instance, to further explain the technology in a chip, or something else.
Q: If a woman is employed in a tech company, but is not a CEO or not a programmer does that make her any less a member of the industry or qualified to talk about the business of technology?
Scoble: Yes. The CEO or founder is the keeper of the vision and has the best view of the business. No one else does. It’s why I don’t speak for Rackspace very often. That’s the CEO’s job.
Q: When suggestions in the aforementioned Facebook thread were made about how you can help women in tech, you said, “To be honest, though, I am not that interested about the topic… I’d rather interview the few women that are running companies.” Totally understand this. As a blogger and entrepreneur, it’s hard to get told what to write or do. Given the time that has lapsed since the thread, have you decided to do anything in the immediate future above your current content direction to help women in tech?
Scoble: Yeah, since that thread happened I started a party series to help networking happen (it’s private and small, but 70 people showed up to the second one) and I’m doing that with two women and we’re working to keep the gender mix as equal as possible. Also, there are other groups I’m involved with who are bringing women and men together for better networking.
I’m looking for what I can do in education, too. I have two young sons and our education system sucks, even for boys, so this will be something I’ll spend more time on.
Q: What are your suggestions to better the glass ceiling in the technology sector?
Scoble: Promote better role models for women (I’m always looking for great CEOs. Look at Victoria Ransom, for instance. She’s doing great). By the way, we’ve had women CEOs at HP, eBay, and Yahoo, so I don’t think the problem is a glass ceiling. It’s more nasty than that. Many of the men in this industry treat women with disdain. Just look at the comments on some of the YouTube videos with women in them. Solving that problem is something above my pay grade, although I try to fight those attitudes when I see them.
By the way, one way I am helping is being open to all. I’m sharing a car ride down to CES with an influential woman in Silicon Valley (she runs a fabulous networking event here) and that happened because I put my phone number on my blog (it’s +1-425-205-1921 ) and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org — I’m looking for companies who are building world-changing technology and hope more and more of those in the future will be done by women.
About Robert Scoble
Cited from Wikipedia: Robert Scoble (born January 18, 1965) is an American blogger, technical evangelist, and author. Scoble is best known for his blog, Scobleizer, which came to prominence during his tenure as a technology evangelist at Microsoft. He currently works for Rackspace and the Rackspace sponsored community site Building 43. He previously worked for Fast Company as a video blogger. He is also the co-author of Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers with Shel Israel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s late in another summer, and another thought “leader” has said that the blame for the lack of female speakers (or success) should be laid squarely on the shoulders of women. While there have been several great direct responses to this latest link frenzy, I felt that instead of participating directly (like I did last summer), the best commentary I could make is to outline how as a conference organizer I successfully garnered approximately 50% female speaker rates for all three BlogPotomacs.
First, I co-organized the first BlogPotomac with Debbie Weil, and together we set the precedence for the event series. We mindfully decided that at least three of the seven speakers will be women. This seemed like the right thing to do, especially considering that there are more women in communications than men. We wanted to represent our stakeholders with a group of speakers that at least came close to matching our audience.
Each of the three BlogPotomacs had predetermined topic areas, and speakers were matched to the topics. In almost every instance there were natural choices that made sense. A couple of times the would-be speaker was not available. So we found someone else! In one case, I held the spot for two months until my networking yielded the speaker.
But I didn’t give up. And when men asked for speaking spots (women rarely solicited a speaking spot, in fact I cannot remember one), I said no. I did not want the loudest chest beater. I wanted quality lady speakers, was committed to achieving that result, and would not be distracted.
So, the morale of this story is as a conference organizer, it’s a conscious decision to either have women or not. As I told my friendAllyson Kapin, “If you spend time in a homogeneous social network like Silicon Valley’s VC community, then you will only get white, male venture backed candidates. It’s your job to go beyond the comfort zone. Victimization may be an easy out, but it won’t stop the criticism of your inability to break out of limited social circles.”