Tag

WSJ

Equality

Someone should have protected Tom Perkins


Yes, Tom Perkins’ letter to the WSJ was shameful, but now, 48 hours later, I too feel shame.

If you missed it you can read his letter to the Journal here, and then his follow up here. The Twittersphere lit up, everyone piled on (including me) that his comments were stupid, and the rants of a now irrelevant old man, and tone deaf about the gap between the 1% and the 99%, and an insult to the Jews, venture capital etc. etc.

But this morning I am wondering how did his family, or the WSJ for that matter, let this happen? Tom Perkins was born in 1933. He was alive when Kristallnacht happened. I am sure, if asked 20 years ago, he would not have said these things even if he thought them! He would have known it was reputational suicide.

I spend a lot of time around old people these days, and I am grateful for the time with them. On one side we have Alzheimer’s and on the other we have healthy, honest-to-goodness old age. And I’m learning that, as people age, the self-governors can come off. My father and his friends can sometimes say things that make me cringe, and that I know they would not have said even ten years ago. But they’re older and less tolerant, and frankly care less about what other people think. So they speak their minds and sometimes reveal prejudices that they were taught as children in the 1930s, which they suppressed as thinking adults, and which are re-emerging as they age. Sometimes idiotic, sometimes upsetting, but often just raw and unfiltered.

But Tom Perkins is considered a fair target because he’s a billionaire. Because of who he is, and because of his prior role as both a founder of the venture capital firm that bears his name (Kleiner Perkins) and a former board member of News Corp., he was given the platform to speak his 82-year-old mind. And, unlike conservative friends at a private dinner, Tom Perkins was allowed to embarrass himself in front of the world—and to destroy his reputation in a single day.

But should he be a target? Should we not remember his age? Or if he is still a target in our society, then surely someone should have stopped him?

Yes he’s rich, and has been crass with his wealth, and offended a lot of people, but now he’s at an age where his mind may be weakening and his judgement may very well be off. He is no longer in power. He’s not on HP’s board, he’s not involved in KPCB in any way, he’s out of the picture. I’d feel differently if he was still driving companies and investments, but he’s not. The WSJ should be ashamed for publishing his letter, realizing how tone deaf and inflammatory it was — chasing clicks at the expense of an octogenarian.

And I hope his family now knows they need to protect him from humiliating himself in public.

Equality

Queen Bees or a Stiletto Network?

I was disappointed by the drivel written in the WSJ on Friday The Tyranny of the Queen Bee. It is just not reality, and reinforcing a negative stereotype at the same time. The WSJ should know better.

The thesis is that because there are so few women in power they hang on to the power as Queen Bees and bully other women… “Four decades later, the syndrome still thrives, given new life by the
mass ascent of women to management positions. This generation of queen
bees is no less determined to secure their hard-won places as alpha
females. Far from nurturing the growth of younger female talent, they
push aside possible competitors by chipping away at their
self-confidence or undermining their professional standing. It is a
trend thick with irony: The very women who have complained for decades
about unequal treatment now perpetuate many of the same problems by
turning on their own.”

The referenced research is thin at best, and frankly the behavior described in the article is just not my experience at all. There are so few women at the top in tech that I have found they support each other. Pretty overtly. Not that a woman will promote another woman because of gender, but they will spend time, coach, encourage, and generally put a hand out and say “join me when you’re ready”.

Our reasons are selfish. There are just not enough talented people trained in STEM in our workforce and we need more of them. Helping women get in and stay in technology and tech management is essential for us to be able to grow. We don’t have a scarcity of opportunity – we have a scarcity of trained talent!

Dr Drexler your opinion that “female bosses are expected to be “softer” and “gentler” simply because they are women” is also just not reality in Silicon Valley. I’ve been a Silicon Valley tech executive for more than 25 years now and no one who’s ever worked for me would call me soft. Compassionate when needed, but a hard ass. And I am not unusual – for women in power here I am more the norm.

I’m really looking forward to Pamela Ryckman‘s new book Stiletto Network, coming out in May (you can pre-order it here). Pamela did extensive research over the last year on how executive women help each other. Publishers Weekly just gave it a rave review saying:

“In an upbeat tone and energetic style, we learn how these successful women are coming together in intimate groups, where they embrace fashion, capital structures, and deals. Emboldening, encouraging, and entertaining, this book is essential reading for any woman who wishes to further her career while remaining true to herself.”

Now of course I’m briefly mentioned in it, so in a narcissistic way I think the premis of the book is right (although I have not read it so who knows – maybe I am a Queen Bee – but I doubt it!).

It’s really important now that we talk about the reality of women in power, especially here in tech, and not keep reinforcing the negative stereotypes. Women are a huge, latent force being unleashed. At Dreamforce last year Salesforce.com hosted a Girly Geeks panel which I was on. It was crowded out, more than 1,000 women came and Salesforce had to cut off their own employees to make sure enough of their customers and partners could come. The energy, drive and passion in the room was pallpable.

There is a tidal wave coming of women in power and women helping women. It’s happening!

Image: lollonz.deviantart.com

Equality

Golf is an old man’s game (in Silicon Valley at least)

It’s different here. Yes it’s not perfect, but it is so different. We don’t care if Mark Zuckerberg wears a hoodie, men don’t wear ties here and the last point in Julie Steinberg’s recent WSJ article on the Nine Rules Women Must Follow To Get Ahead  — that as a woman you need to “Dress well and play golf” is just out of touch.

Successful young people (men and women) in Silicon Valley certainly don’t need to play golf here to get ahead.

In 25 years of being a high tech exec I have played golf only once – and then it was only because the sales team begged me to – and they hired a pro to play with me so all I did was putt (I think they didn’t want me to slow them down!). I have never, ever felt I needed to play golf to get ahead. Even with the older golf playing execs I worked for I found they still liked to go out for a drink or a great meal to bond.

In today’s Silicon Valley the bonding hobbies are younger men’s hobbies. You are more likely to be bonding over the benefits of a titanium racing bike frame than over titanium clubs. You may well want to be able to discuss fine red wine. You will definitely need to be able to bond over tech gadgets and geek out on how many LEDs are in the new iPad.

And what I find so exciting about the under 35 generation here is that you are also very likely to bond over family. What little Katie is doing in school, where little Tommie likes to go camping. I see a generation of young nerds coming up who, while they still outnumber the girls 4 to 1, are very much more engaged in their homes, their families and their outdoor hobbies than the prior generation of executives where the old boys club and golf are much more prevalent.

So don’t pay attention to old school advice about having to play golf. Instead make sure you work hard, impact the business and either be the executive, or understand the next generation of execs coming up because they are the future.

But note: I have a few girlfriends who love golf – now that’s a good reason to play!