One of the top five issues I’m passionate about is the need to increase the number of women executives, techies, scientists, and entrepreneurs. Why does this subject get so much of my mental energy?
- Progress is too slow! We are raising the next generation in an environment where women are still impeded by their gender. Parents only want the best for their children, and we need to make sure our girls are judged on their merits.
- There is extensive scientific proof demonstrating that male-dominated teams are less efficient and less innovative than those with a healthy dose of ladies to break up their groupthink and egos. My favorite example is this paper by The London Business School – “Innovative Potential: Men and Women in Teams” (PDF)
- By failing to bring more women on board in visible roles and making sure their voices are heard, we are missing an incredible pool of talent since we’re only really tapping into 50% of the market.
- The biggest issue is when female executives, entrepreneurs, techies, and scientists have to waste mental energy dealing with the crap caused by misogynistic behavior. Men consciously and/or subconsciously create barriers and discourage women from joining their teams. E.g. VCs not investing in female-led companies, professors discriminating against their pregnant female students, techie men looking down on their female counterparts, etc.
Here are my three biggest calls for change:
- Child rearing is the responsibility of both parents. Written and unwritten policies and expectations keep men away from truly participating in parenting.Time off, flex schedules, day care, etc. need to be highly promoted to male employees. I have seen plans like these in action and I know the results are spectacular. Without this change, other efforts have no chance.
- Any educator who dares to say women aren’t good at sciences or technology should be fired. We’ve been tolerating this hate speech for too long. We have missed out on great minds due to this garbage.
- Scandinavian countries are on the right track and have made changes through legislation (check out this article on Norwegian and Danish progress). We are behind the times and should also implement legislation. Since tax-paying women comprise 50.7% of this country, this should be reflected in the makeup of senior leadership teams of companies receiving any government business. Time to do an executive rank check or there will be no federal dollars for you. No effort by a school to attract women into fields heavily dominated by men? No federal funding for you either. Enough carrots, it’s time for sticks!
What else can we do?
- Our ranks will not become more diverse until we men genuinely open our networks and make a conscious effort to include more women in them. Connect outside of your usual “fishing grounds”.
- 99.99% of “diversity” efforts HR creates are BS because the vast majority of these policies are garbage just designed to keep the lawyers away. Ourfrat boy culture needs to be changed by the participants first – it starts with you! We built the “glass ceiling” and we can’t expect women to dismantle it on their own.
- Due to our upbringing or egos, we men create an environment that keeps civilized women away, because many of us deep inside know they can do anything we can do as well, if not better. This attitude needs to go!
I have to give credit to several others who have highlighted this subject recently. Jeff Bussgang addressed why there are not enough female VCs (see his article The VC Gender Gap – Are VCs Sexist?) and the sharp-tongued Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe addressed networking for women (see this article). I hope that by the time the next generation of girls comes of age that things will be much improved.
UPDATE 1/15/10: Jason Evanish (co-founder of Greenhorn Connect) pointed me to a great resource on their site – Resources for female business women, executives, and entrepreneurs in Boston area.
UPDATE 2/20/10: I have recently found a great whitepaper with research by Illuminate Ventures. Defintiely a worthy read. Here is a quote: “Organizations that are the most inclusive of women in top management achieve 35% higher ROE and 34% better total return to shareholders versus their peers – and research shows gender diversity to be particularly valuable where innovation is key.”
UPDATE 2/28/10: I have to mention a fantastic article Eric Ries has posted on his blog called: “Why diversity matters (the meritocracy business)” Eric does a great job explaining why diversity is a great measure of how meritocratic your organization is.
Photo credit: ayeshamus