Tag

women’s equality

Equality

Is 2019 a turning point for women executives?

On International Women’s Day today I find myself asking could it be that the momentum is finally building to escape velocity? Escape from a world where the majority of corporate power is held by white men? It feels like it.

The new California legislation requiring the boards of companies who have their headquarters in California to have women on their boards may or may not be constitutional but for the first time it is absolutely forcing the conversation. I’ve been raising this issue for many years now and for the first time I feel the wind at my back. I am now getting frequent inbound inquiries asking for suggestions of women I know who would be qualified as board directors, sometimes even from men who have been die hard opposers to the need or benefit of adding a woman (or one woman more than me) to their boards.

As any recruiter who has been working on getting women onto boards for a while now will tell you this is not a supply problem. There are plenty of highly qualified CxOs who are female and interested. It’s been a demand problem, especially when the easiest objection to put up is the director must have prior public company board experience which perpetuates the bias to older men. Now it’s finally changing.

We are also seeing, on the heels of the #MeToo movement, that executives who sexually harass their employees, or have affairs within their company, are no longer tolerated. Even a couple of years ago this was not the case as I saw to my dismay but it’s clear now the objectification of women in the highest corridors of power holds them down. Some of the most senior executives are now being brought down by their failure to respect the women around them. It’s about time.

We have the largest number of women in the Senate and in the House of Representatives in history – potentially energized by our current political environment – but maybe also because women are finally coming into their own politically.

And maybe, just maybe, the toxic conversation towards women that we see at the highest level of our government is the dark just before the dawn. Are women finally reaching into enough levels of power that the resistance to us sharing power is having its last, blustering hurrah?

I choose to believe so.

The movement to put women onto boards is profoundly important. In no way will this lower the quality of directors (as several men have told me) but will instead improve the quality of the conversation and the financial results of the companies. Less group think, less clubby agreeing. More diverse input and, I often see, less of the old and tired conventional input. Women who have made it to the top of their game in 2019 have had to work harder and be smarter to get there – they are often over qualified before they come to the table. If a woman graduated in the 1980s or 1990s I guarantee she has at some point had to out-work and out-smart the men around her to get ahead. The unconscious bias has been powerful and unrelenting but when you meet women directors and CxOs today they are impressive because they have had to be to get to where they are.

I believe, more strongly than ever, that we need to create a world where women have equal opportunity with men. As today’s campaign theme says #BalanceforBetter. Balance so women have equal economic opportunity to make money and lead enterprises. Equal opportunity for political power. This is how we create stronger societies and lasting peace.

And I believe the tide has turned, the momentum is building, and we are entering a world where power can be shared across genders.

Photo: Herculaneum © 2011 Penny Herscher

Equality, Leadership

It’s time for economic equality for women: WE2

Sometimes it’s just time. I am more deeply convinced now in 2018, than ever before, that the long-term path to a more sane, peaceful world is equality for women in society. The research is conclusive. Investing in girls and women transforms economies, and healthy, growing economies are more peaceful. But I am not a politician, I am not a Sociologist, I am a tech executive and so I need to practice what I know in order to do my part.

Women, and men, need to invest in women. Invest in education, opportunity, and advice. Put the time, focus and effort in to help women build businesses and careers that give them independence and equality so they can themselves invest in their society. And no more so than in the places where peace and hope and dignity are a daily challenge. Even in Israel, second only to Silicon Valley in startup funding, the statistics for women entrepreneurs are crushingly low.

I held a Salon at our home in the heart of Silicon Valley last Summer on Women Led Startups in Israel and Palestine (I choose different topics of interest to my  network of  SV women 3-4 times a year). The evening was a panel of four women in our garden: two entrepreneurs from Israel, one from Gaza and a Mercy Corps board member who has been focused on Palestine – followed by a discussion and Q&A. It was dramatic, inspiring and very thought provoking. The challenges of building a business as a woman in Silicon Valley have nothing on doing it in the Near East!

WE2 – Women for Economic Equality – was born from that evening. In a moment of passion I asked for volunteers to come with me to mentor women in Palestine and Israel and as a result we now have a delegation of Silicon Valley executive women visiting Tel Aviv, Gaza, Jerusalem and Ramallah in January.

It’s a mentoring delegation. We have a broad set of experiences between us as entrepreneurs, leaders, engineers, lawyers, recruiters and product designers and plenty of experiences, good and bad, to share. Together we believe women achieving economic equality is essential for sustainable peace. We’ll be meeting with female entrepreneurs, executives, VCs, board directors and business leaders, and supported by partners on the ground in each location. We’ll hold panels and small group mentoring sessions, one-on-one coaching and business plan reviews; we’ll share our career learnings and listen to the experiences and resource needs of the women we meet. And we’ll do it in the three, very different, regions of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. We are not political, we just want to invest in women.

Hopefully this is the first of many to different parts of the world where women want to build economic independence (so ping me if you want to participate in the future). And if you want to follow us you’ll find updates on this blog, and on my social media.

Equality

Hey Mr Waiter! Don’t insult me at the table

Insult can be about blindness as much as it can be overt.

Case #1: My husband and I are at a lovely restaurant. The wine list is put in front of him. He hands me the wine list, I chose a wine, and I tell the waiter when he comes. The waiter returns with the unopened wine, opens it and asks my husband if he wants to taste it. Bret has seen this movie before. He usually smiles at the waiter and says “My wife ordered the wine, if you want a tip I suggest you let her taste it”.

This scenario used to happen every time we went out to dinner. But after 30 years of marriage it happens about 1 time in 20 in California now, but still almost always when we are in Italy. Waiters of Italy take note – my husband knows how to say it in Italian too.

Case #2: I am out to dinner with a friend, who happens to be male. When you work in a male dominated industry like tech, and you make most of your friends through work, this happens often. We’re at the end of the meal, I signal to the waiter that I’d like the check, and the waiter brings the check to my male friend. We tussle over who’s going to pay and, if I win, I place down my card. If the waiter isn’t on the ball (or checking the name) he still brings the check back to my male friend.

This second scenario is a source of great amusement to one of my friends who thinks I shouldn’t be allowed to pay anyway because I am “a girl”. He, of course, says it just to get a rise out of me. But I win enough times with him, but when I do it, and the waiter returns the check to him, it makes his teasing laughter that much more annoying.

Ah, but life is short. I’ve now become skilled at gently telling the waiter his (or her!) mistake and letting it go. But I look forward to the day when waiters are trained to be gender-blind.

Image: Agent-Hope on Deviant Art

Equality

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.”
and
“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!

Equality

Girls and 1000 tech jobs in Nashville

We have a real problem with jobs in tech. We have more jobs than qualified people.

This is not in the news today because for much of the US population there are not enough jobs. Not enough jobs that people are trained for. And yet in Silicon Valley we have 1 tech position open for every 2 that are filled. Hiring great technical staff is tough and increasingly expensive.

But this is not just a California problem. At the Nashville Technology Council’s annual meeting last week the theme was Diversity – and all the discussion was around education and attracting IT workers to Nashville. They have 1,000 open positions and not having enough IT workers is a real, commercial problem for them.

Commissioner Hagerty, in his warm up speech, talked about the need for technical education in their schools and local colleges. Followed by Mayor Dean who covered many of the same themes and a sense of urgency about education investment. The Nashville Technology Council has a mission to “help Middle Tennessee become known worldwide as a leading technology community, the Nashville Technology Council is devoted to helping the tech community succeed.” – and their main focus this year is Technology Workforce Development.

It was really fun for me to speak to this group and their membership. 500 people, all of whom care about technology jobs in Nashville.

Here’s my talk. I cover the urgency of the need to get more women into technology and the changes we can make to help women stay in technology. Today, even if they start out in the technical field, half of our tech women leave tech in the first 10 years – they either leave in college or they leave early in their careers. It’s just too hard and too isolated.

But it does not have to be this way – and that’s what I talked about. We have to solve this problem as a country. By 2016 we will only be producing 50% of the tech staff we need as a country. Today less than 50% of our workforce (women) hold less than 5% of the leadership of the technology industry.

This is such a waste of talent. It’s a competitive, bottom line issue for any company that needs tech workers – whether they are in health care, energy or computing.

We’ve solved it at FirstRain. We have women in leadership positions in engineering – and we have a very flexible work environment. We can solve it everywhere, and as a country, if we want to.

Equality

Techcrunch, Penelope Trunk and the damaging stereotype in pursuit of traffic

When someone takes a strong, clearly personal position and claims it is the majority is it journalism, controversy for it’s own sake or an unprincipled pursuit of traffic?

Penelope Trunk’s recent blog Stop Telling Women To Do Startups is one such example that begs the question. With statements like :

“Here’s a post by Tara Brown wondering why women don’t comment on VC blogs. Here’s the answer: Because women don’t care.” We don’t? All of us? Are you sure? Maybe we are just very focused in the use of our time as we run tech companies.

“Women can do startups. The thing is, most don’t want to.” Do you know these “most”? If you lived in Silicon Valley you’d know many, many women do want to. I mentor them continuously.

“For the most part, women are not complaining about the lack of VC funding in the world. They are complaining about the lack of jobs with flexible hours.” Are you not listening to the number of women trying to figure out how to break in?

I guess this type of “stop changing things we are quite happy not having equal opportunity” thinking is not new.

In 1852 the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin played a strong role in the anti-slavery movement by popularizing the discussion on the wrongs of slavery. In response the pro-slavery South published a series of novels romanticizing that slaves were happier and better off being slaves than being free.

In 1913, as women campaigned for the vote, Helen Kendrick Johnson wrote Women and the Republic, stating the reasons why women did not want the vote – “Because the influence of women in social causes will be diminished rather than increased by the possession of the parliamentary vote.”

In no way do I equate the issue of equality of opportunity for women in tech startups to the struggles of the anti-slavery movement or women’s suffrage but come on Penelope, do you need to, in our own little world, repeat the pattern and stereotypes?

Today less than 5% of venture capital goes to women led startups. Startups are not only fun they are also a way to create products and personal wealth. It makes sense that women want to get funding too. And they should be encouraged to try if they are interested.

For many women, maybe not you, career and family go hand in hand. You snark at Sheryl Sandberg but she, like me, and many others, is having both a vibrant career and children. Many of us enjoy the challenge and the role model we create for our kids – oh and by the way have happy, normal kids.

Don’t stereotype us with generalizations like “I think you’d be really hard-pressed to find many moms with two young kids who wants Sandberg’s life. Which is why women are not “leaning into their careers” like Sandberg says they need to in order to get to the top.” Many women ARE leaning into their careers and I take my hat off to them. I know it’s hard but it’s also fun, rewarding and creates more opportunity for the next generation of women.

But maybe this is about ad traffic? Maybe this is about creating a platform for yourself as a speaker and a blogger ? If so your strategy is working. But you are doing a disservice to the women working hard to build an equal role for themselves in the male dominated field of technology.