Rosie the Riveter


Women do it Better than Men — Zenger Folkman

The evidence would say so, but perception would differ.
I read the new survey by Zenger Folkman “Women do it Better than Men”, as featured in the Harvard Business Review last week, covering the differences in leadership between men and women this morning with a heavy heart…

The good news is that in 12 of the 16 categories women were ranked higher than men by their peers, their bosses and by their direct reports. And not only on the traditional softer areas like nurturing.

“Specifically, at all levels, women are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. And two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree — taking initiative and driving for results — have long been thought of as particularly male strengths. As it happened, men outscored women significantly on only one management competence in this survey — the ability to develop a strategic perspective.”
“Why are women viewed as less strategic? This is an easier question to answer. Top leaders always score significantly higher in this competency; since more top leaders are men, men still score higher here in the aggregate. But when we measure only men and women in top management on strategic perspective, their relative scores are the same.”

 We know women are at least as good leaders as men, and yet 78% of top management is male and 67% of the next level down are men. For many CEO searches there are never even any women candidates on the list so having a woman at the top is not an option. It’s just still very hard for women competing to get to the top of companies. Women quoted in the article speak to the need to work harder to prove themselves and the constant pressure to never make a mistake.

 I gave a talk at the engineering school at San Jose State University last week and less than 10% of the students in the room were women. Of course I took the opportunity to talk about FirstRain and our fantastic technology – and asked them to apply for a job with us when they graduate if they are great software engineers. But I also spoke about the need to build teams with women in them, and how that takes deliberate action to build a culture that is flexible and supports diversity. And as I looked out across the room I wondered if my words have any impact?

I am teaching at Berkeley Haas School of Business late this afternoon – talking about How to plan Resources for your new company. There will be 200-300 students and since it’s a business school maybe 30% will be women, and this time I don’t plan to talk about gender diversity, and yet diversity itself is a way to get maximum value out of your resources so maybe I should.

I read the study with a heavy heart this morning because, despite all evidence to the contrary, the perception is women are not as good leaders and when they get to the top they are bitches. It’s portrayed in the media, it’s rife in the comments in the article, in movies women are not portrayed as leaders and in corporate America I sit in conversation after conversation where “he” is the default pronoun. I get tired of saying “he or she” against the headwind.

But maybe it’s just Monday morning and I don’t have my girl-riveted metal armor on yet for the week. Time to suit up!

Career Advice

Engineering is the way to bring jobs back to America

We are facing an ongoing threat to America’s global economic leadership and increasing the number of engineers in our workforce is one powerful way we can change our destiny as a country.

In Silicon Valley we have one engineering job open for every two engineers that are employed – this means it is hard to find enough qualified workers and so companies move jobs offshore to India and China where they graduate many more engineers than we do. Today we simply do not have enough people trained in the “STEM” areas to staff the technology build up that is happening (STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

When Steve Jobs met with President Obama earlier this year he made this case strongly. From Walter Isaacson’s new biography… “Jobs went on to urge that a way be found to train more American engineers. Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, he said, and that was because it needed 30,000 engineers on-site to support those workers. ‘You can’t find that many in America to hire,’ he said. These factory engineers did not have to be PhDs or geniuses; they simply needed to have basic engineering skills for manufacturing. Tech schools, community colleges, or trade schools could train them. ‘If you could educate those engineers,’ he said, ‘we could move more manufacturing plants here.’ “

But today not only do we not graduate enough engineers, women are a huge untapped resource. Less than 10% of our computer engineering graduates are women, and less than 20% of our total engineering bachelors are women – a criminal loss of potential contribution from half our workforce.

Technology is an area that is a wonderful example of American leadership. Leadership, innovation and the place where we can say “Made in the USA” with pride. Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook – all are growing, innovative global technology leaders. All are changing the world today in dramatic ways. All are essentially American and all need more engineers. Google and Microsoft both invest heavily in change agents like the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology precisely to change the ratio of men to women in engineering and so produce more qualified engineers to grow their businesses.

Just as in the Second World War we had a national shortage of skilled workers for manufacturing, today we have a critical shortage of technology workers. Women and education are the two keys to the solution.

Seventy years ago the Rosie the Riveter campaign moved 6 million women into the workforce. These women were trained and they showed that they could do the work – building the planes, ships and munitions necessary to win a devastating war.

Senator Gillibrand of New York talks about a revival of the Rosie the Riveter campaign to galvanize women to become more empowered and she speaks about the need for women to get Off The Sidelines and get more involved in politics. She’s right, and it’s bigger than that. The low percentages of women who graduate with technology degrees in the US shows the untapped resource. Getting women involved and into technology creates more jobs for both men and women in manufacturing and the ecosystem around the technology jobs.

We are in the middle of a 100 year technology revolution, analogous to the industrial revolution that dramatically changed the Western way of life through the 18th and 19th centuries. This technology revolution is taking us through a series of engineering inventions – the computer, the microprocessor, software applications, the internet, mobile devices and there is more to come we can only imagine.

It’s time for Rosie the Engineer and Robert the Engineer. I’m a Silicon Valley high-tech CEO and I see the need first hand. We need our political leadership to invest in STEM education, and especially for our girls to bring them into the technology. It’s time to put programs in place to motivate our students to get technical degrees so they can get jobs when they graduate. We need engineers, the technology jobs pay more, and they create more jobs in America for everyone.