This article has been brewing in me for a while. I credit some of the biggest wins in my career to the most diverse and smart people around me. Best decisions are made after hearing a broad range of perspectives. You can’t do that in an echo-chamber of people who are exactly same as you and think like you.
As you have seen me tweet, post, and speak in public, I am just not OK with the low numbers of women we have in technical fields and in senior leadership ranks. Though there are more females than males graduating from colleges, browsing most “About” pages of startups, and especially tech companies, will still show you that white or Asian males dominate the teams. I admit my One Mighty Roar team is there too, and I am not OK with that. I am not willing to accept the status quo and frankly I believe I can do something to give my now 11-month old daughter more options for her career. Would not have joined One Mighty Roar team, if they didn’t feel the same.
For the last several years, I made it a point to gather information directly from two highly under-represented groups: males and female African Americans and females of any ethnicity and age group. I am still working on the 1st group, because I got to talk to maybe a handful so far. But where I feel very strongly that I am getting a very nice sample size of data and views is with the 2nd group – females. This is the collection of patterns I have noticed in hundreds of my conversations:
Lack of female role models is really hurting recruitment and retention of females in technical fields and leadership. I have long lost count of how many younger women I know who told me that they prefer to have male mentors and male bosses since many senior level females had been hostile to them. It is as if those ladies, who have made it, have no interest in helping the new generation of females. I have seen it myself first hand, and it bothers me. Battling through cultural and business norms/stereotypes is hard enough and it is beyond me why you would not want to help one who is walking down the same path you did. Fortunately, new generation of female leaders is emerging fast and they don’t seem to have same disdain for being a role models. They are not only willing to mentor, but they are setting up great organizations that teach the necessary skills.
Do not judge sentiment towards women in startups based on forums, article comments, Twitter, etc. Anonymously people always act like animals, male or female. Those most disgusting in their attitude are also those who are the biggest losers. I know of more companies, where men are huge advocates for women than those I call “sausagefests”. We got your message and you can help us build better companies that have gained undeniable strength in diversity. Join a company where founders have the maturity and foresight to hire adults (age has nothing to do with it, it is all about demeanor), and you WILL have great professional experience.
Stop accepting social norms and limitations! We, men, can’t do it for you! It really drives me up the wall, when I have a female I am mentoring, managing, or advising coming up with any excuse why she should not do something for herself. Not too long ago I was talking to a founder of a reputable company, who gave me bunch of reasons why she should not take credit for and be vocal about the success of the business. She only conceded when I asked her who would get all the blame if something massive failed. Same goes for asking for more responsibility, more help, better pay, different schedule, time off, etc.. If you don’t ask, you will not have a chance to get a yes. Speak up! Stand up! Get what you need! If you work with me, this issue will be the 1st one I will address and work to eliminate, because I want to work with an equal. Nobody should be in the business of mind reading.
Bottom line, though we have our share of misogynistic assholes in our midst, I believe the majority of us men were raised right and we want for you what we would want for our mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters – opportunity to succeed and respect.
Photo credit: Chris Metcalf