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Women In Technology

4 Nov, 2010 By: Tara Hunt imageSource

Women In Technology

In an excerpt from Tara Hunt’s Women Who Risk: Making Women in Technology Visible blog, she asks hard questions, beginning with the (wrong) assumption that women are significantly underrepresented in the growing Information Technology environment.

In the tech community, questions about female contributors continue to be asked: “How many women are in the industry? What areas are they finding the most opportunity? Any good tech bloggers? Speakers and writers on IT issues? Are women really interested in developing new technology? Does the nerdy stereotype discourage young women from becoming geeks themselves?” The list goes on.

Women are present and in droves. On a trip out to an internal Yahoo! Hack Day a few years ago, I was surprised to enter the final presentation room and find that over one third of the presenters were female. Not only were there a surprising number of females presenting, the winning team also happened to be made up of two females. The winning hack was the ability to transfer your Yahoo! Travel data to your iPod for easy portability. A geeky answer to a very human problem. That was then, this is now, and more women are entering the IT space every day.

The Innovators
The grassroots hackers who come up with brilliant new startup ideas at the all-night hacker fests are celebrated highly; they grace the covers of BusinessWeek Magazine, headline the Web 2.0 conferences, and are elevated to folk hero status for other developers in the industry. But very rarely do we hear about an individual engineer within Google or Yahoo! who has come up with a something new. In a culture that celebrates the individual (even though none of us works in a bubble), the female geeks are being absorbed into teams.

Yet I’ve located some women: they are mostly at the big companies doing all sorts of cool and innovative things. They are in excellent, prestigious positions. But that isn’t the entire picture either. There are quite a few, individual women who are risk takers. These are women who leave the comforts of salaried, benefited work at the big companies to go and lead startups.

My favorite example to use for this is Sandra Lerner, co-founder of Cisco Systems. Yes, THE Cisco systems. Sandra, known as Sandy to her friends, holds a master’s degree in Computer Science from Stanford and co-founded Cisco with her then-husband in 1984. Sandra Lerner is a woman in technology (and now as an investor) who has taken risks for years in a big way. Yet, when I talk about her, it is very rare that anyone has heard of her.

If you look around, you’ll see that there are many Sandra’s.
Some of the hottest companies of early Web 2.0 (and before) were founded or co-founded by women: Flickr (Caterina Fake), Blogger (Meg Hourihan), SixApart (Mena Trott), Mozilla (Mitchell Baker), Guidewire Group (Chris Shipley), and Adaptive Path (Janice Fraser). In fact, there are many women who currently are responsible for startups and a seemingly endless list of women founders (and co-founders) that is extensive. In fact, right now many entrepreneurs or “risk takers” are out on their own; some of them are up all night coding and many of them are knocking on venture capitalists’ doors.

Review & Respond
Many female contributors clearly exist in the technology space and are progressing in numbers—yet a small number of women question their approach or ability to make significant contributions without some underlying need to compromise factors elsewhere. We need to consider these concerns and impediments and address them so as to eliminate or reduce them.

I compromised but ended up invisible. There has been a perpetual cycle of assumptions that led to women becoming or feeling invisible. In the media. At conferences. In general discussions. The need to compromise or be the self-appointed peacemaker is also deeply ingrained. Thankfully, more women are standing up for themselves today and claiming their piece of the business pie. For every new magazine on the newsstands filled with young, white males talking about their latest startup, today you’re seeing women in the mix, gracing covers unlike before. Yet there should be more. We know that all innovation, regardless of gender, should be showcased for its valid contributions, based solely on its own merit.

The need to be more successful.
We need to re-examine the way we measure success in the technology industry. We have tended to celebrate the logical, linear, quantitative statistics (such as raw numbers and dollars) which is simplistically represented as “masculine” successes, rather than the assumed “feminine” measurements that are more anecdotal, relational, and qualitative. Of course, we need a balance of the two, but many of the magazine articles, conference brochures and the way we even blog about companies point to their prowess on numbers of users, money in the bank, size of acquisition rather than the depth of the relationships and connections. We appear to care more about size than substance when we report this way.

There is also a very aggressive attitude in venture capital. We have specific expectations set on how to conduct business and interact with that world. Yet the self-funded or the angel funded companies grow smart, not just grow large as they have less pressure. This matters to the barriers to entry for those with different approaches to growing a company, and, quite often, it is women who find this barrier antithetical to their goals. Many of the female entrepreneurs I’ve worked with have a much more personal approach to growth.

If there is anything that the grassroots, collaborative modeling of Web 2.0 has taught me, it is that for anything that was once thought to be a best practice, you can find better alternatives just by looking deeper. More and more people are doing this and realizing that the old ways of doing business inherited from Web 1.0 are just not cutting it in the more popular community-based, connected world of social networks. The more feminine values such as relationship building, openness, communication and cooperation, are growing in popularity for everyone, not just the female entrepreneurs. Many of these values come from the egalitarian outlook of open source, but I also believe they are highly influenced by the diversity of our customers.

Now, when someone asks you about women in technology, you have a ready-made list of achievements and info to rattle off to them!

Some of the hottest companies of early Web 2.0 were founded by women.

Women in the Workplace
The numbers are pretty convincing. Does your organization have a plan for sourcing, recruiting, hiring and retaining female talent? It looks like women in the workplace and marketplace is only growing, along with being a huge potential goldmine to draw from. Did you know that:

Women in Business

  • Women business owners employ 35% more people than all the Fortune 500     companies combined

  • Women in business will invest $44.5 billion in high tech products this year

  • 65% of women in senior management positions have children

  • 60% of US women work outside the home, earning $1 trillion each year in     aggregate

  • Of a net increase of the workforce between 2005 -2010, 69% are projected     to be women

  • 99% of working women describe equal pay for equal work as an extremely     important aspect

  • Almost one-third of women say their current job doesn’t provide equal pay for equal work

Source: Chicago Tribune, U.S. Federal Government, AFL-CIO, WOW Facts 2001 - Business Women’s Network

Women & Wealth

  • Women own more than 47% of the stocks available

  • Women are projected to acquire over 85% of the $12 trillion growth of U.S. private wealth between 1995 and 2010

  • Women in the U.S. spend more than $3.3 trillion annually (purchasing     power)

  • Of working married women, 48% provide half or more of the household     income

Source: Marti Barletta of TrendSight Group, Women and Diversity

Women & Business Ownership

  • Today there are 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S.,     representing nearly 40% of all businesses

  • Women employ 27.5 million people and generate more than $3.6 trillion in     sales

  • Women are starting new firms at twice the rate of all other businesses

Source: U.S. Federal Government,Department of Labor

Women & Education

  • Since 1984, the number of women in graduate schools has exceeded the     number of men.

  • Women earned almost 35% more Master’s degrees conferred in 1996-1997     than men

  • Women top-ranked in professional schools in:
        Engineering 15%
        Business 30%
        Law 44%
        Medicine 47%

Source: Top-ranked schools by U.S. News and World Report, Department of Education

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