This weekend, I came across two articles that made me step back for a moment. The first was the Wall Street Journal’s blog post, “Addressing The Lack of Women Leading Tech Start-ups.” In the post, WSJ tries to address the question of “Where are all the women in tech?” They mention that there is no shortage of opinions about the issue but the core of the article isn’t really being addressed. It must be noted overall that equality has come a long way even in the short time that I have been in the professional world. Where the disparity seems to be is why there are so few women in the technology industry.
The next article I came across was a TechCrunch response by Michael Arrington entitled, “ Too Few Women In Tech? Stop Blaming The Men.” In the article, Arrington tries to sympathize with the issue but is fed up with the blame game. Can you blame him? I don’t.
Below is an infograph compiled by Socialcast.com that looks at a number of dimensions in the technology industry comparing male vs female ratios. A few key insights:
- According to Dow Jones VentureSource, 11% of U.S. firms with venture-capital backing in 2009 had current or former female CEOs or female founders. — Not great, but a good start.
- Women hold more than half of the professional occupations in the U.S. despite comprising 24% of the high tech workforce.
- They are extremely efficient operators – “Venture-backed startups run by women use, on average, 40% less capital than startups run by men.” – NY Times.
- Females had revenues 12% higher than male lead companies and used a third less capital to achieve those results.
Though I run what is the largest community of entrepreneurial women in the world, I usually find myself in meetings with all men, and I’m not even in technology. So, it’s apparent that some changes need to be made. But instead of pointing the finger, we need to work together and discover some viable solutions. Here are 7 Simple Ways We Can All Help Women Win as Tech Leaders:
1) Segregation Is Not an Option: Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Segregation…not only harms one physically but injures one spiritually…It scars the soul…It is a system which forever stares the segregated in the face, saying ‘You are less than…’ ‘You are not equal to…’” An example of segregation gone awry has been TEDWomen. Though TED meant well with TEDWomen, it is just exacerbating the issue causing for controversy around its inception. As Michelle Tripp questions in TEDWomen: Brilliant or Belittling?, “Every speaker on TED is different and unique… different nationalities, different ages, different educations, different genders. In past events have women’s speeches been less innovative and dynamic? Is women’s thinking less relevant to the broader audience?”
Though their intention may have been good, Instead of separating by gender, why not highlight more women within your normal series and channels? Any time we segregate, we end up being a part of the problem, not the solution.
2) Start Early: Leslie Poston, a mentor with the National Strong Women in Tech initiative believes that mentorship needs to start in the elementary schools. “It has to start early. Start at the 4th grade level and keep girls in tech classes and science classes throughout their education.” “Absolutely,” says Cory Mann the mother of two elementary-aged girls. “I think a focus in elementary school where girls can excel at math and science is key. Once kids are in college, and even in high school, they become more aware of the financial rewards of tech jobs, but it may be too late to change the cultural bias of their class instruction.”
3) Invite More Women to Speak: I am always amazed at how few women are on panels, speaking at conferences, or on lists of people to follow. Instead of creating separate lists for women or even separate conferences, just include them in your initial invitations. Balance panels and speakers with expertise from both genders. Not only will this encourage more women to apply for speaking engagements, but it will encourage more women to attend.
4) Women, Do Something About It: Women are equally to blame for the current landscape. If you feel that it’s an issue, then ask yourself, “What can I do to help change this?” Talk means nothing and can make it worse instead of better. You want a change? Then BE the change!
5) Mentor a Woman: We are all looking for mentors; looking for people who have done it and can get us excited about an industry we’re interested in. No matter if you are a man or a woman (in the tech arena or not), make it a point to mentor a young woman who is trying to figure it out.
6) Career Options: Christina Inge, VP of Social Media at AMA Boston suggestions making women more aware of career options. “Many young girls and women are not aware of the plethora of career options within tech. By educating them on the varying roles and capacities within the industry, there is still a subtle steering of these young women towards tech.”
7 ) Get Over Yourself! Put Yourself Forward! As Eileen Burbidge states in her TechCrunch post Want more women in tech? Girls, just do it. And everyone, quit the patronizing, “I don’t think most men in tech are adverse to working with more women (quite the contrary), but I don’t see enough women putting themselves forward or taking advantage of opportunities available.” Reach out, get to know people, and do NOT take NO for an answer. There is always a solution, and little things make a huge impact.