Boston VC Firm Invests in Working Mother

Boston VC Firm Invests in Working Mother

Boston VC Firm Invests in Working Mother

Venture capitalists are all about the money. I say this in a good way: they do the math. So when the founder of the boston venture capital firm OpenView Scott Maxwell lays his bets on a working mother — a story reported by Dylan Martin of BostInno —  I pay attention.

Devon McDonald Open View Ventures

Source: BostonInno http://bit.ly/2yXsvHr

The Maxwell Curve

Boston VC Scott Maxwell is known for the Maxwell Curve. It depicts how Scrum team productivity actually decreases as teams work longer hours in a given week. Clearly, Maxwell is a guy who obsesses about the relationship between productivity and profitability. It makes total sense when you examine his actions supporting a woman partner at his firm.

Maxwell Curve. Courtesy Jeff Sutherland. http://bit.ly/2jmsqI9

Maxwell Curve. Courtesy Jeff Sutherland. http://bit.ly/2jmsqI9

Here’s where it gets interesting . . .

Smack dab in the middle of Devon’s second maternity — about the time many working mothers at the partner level feel unrelenting pressure to cut their family leave short — founder Scott Maxwell advised her to stay the course. He pointed out that she had an opportunity to “be the example” for the other women in her wake. Devon McDonald remembers him saying:

“You have to be the example and show that family comes first . . . so that future women who have babies here don’t feel the pressure that they can completely kill themselves, particularly when they’re adjusting to this major life change.”

I’ve never met Scott.  After this, I’d enjoy having a conversation about his decision to invest in Devon in this way. The Maxwell Curve tells me he is not simply doing it to be a nice guy. He’s doing it because he believes he’ll enjoy a significant return on his investment.

It appears that strategy is working. We wrote this post a couple of years ago. If you check Devon McDonald’s LinkedIn profile, she remains a valued partner at OpenView Venture. OpenView’s website reports that she “sits on the firm’s investment committee and oversees OpenView’s Growth team, a group of Research, Sales and Marketing Strategists responsible for helping its portfolio companies acquire more customers and scale at an accelerated rate.”

Not bad, Devon. Keep on raising the bar. You’re killing it.

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How to Support Women Colleagues Like Bradley Cooper

How to Support Women Colleagues Like Bradley Cooper

How to Support Women Colleagues Like Bradley Cooper

Actor Bradley Cooper has a way of taking a woman’s breath away. But now he’s topped himself. LennyLetter is reporting How Bradley Cooper Is Helping His Female Co-Stars Negotiate Higher Pay.

The newly launched newsletter was founded by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner of the HBO’s hit series, Girls.  The newsletter already had captured the nation’s attention by publishing an essay written by actor Jennifer Lawrence about unequal pay for female actors in Hollywood. (News flash: it isn’t equal.)

Then Bradley Cooper weighed in.

Bradley Cooper

By Ian Smith from London, England (Bradley Cooper) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bradley Cooper is an Ally

The American actor and producer has been nominated for four Academy Awards, three for acting and one for producing. He has a Tony Award.  People magazine has named him the “Sexiest Man Alive”, rounding out his collection of honors. What makes him sexy to women is that he gets us. He sees us for who we really are. Better, he knows our true value.

LennyLetter has reported the following:

To support Lawrence’s efforts—and those of all his female co-stars—Cooper is planning to take preemptive action by leveraging his own salary in favor of theirs for all films he’s considering. According to Reuters, the actor “has begun teaming up with female co-stars to negotiate salaries before any film he is interested in working on goes into production.”

In other words, Cooper did to Hollywood’s male-dominant status quo what he did to Christian Bale’s comb-over in American Hustle.

Way to go, Coop!

 

As someone who heads a retained search firm that does I lot of work in diversity recruiting at the board and C-levels, I wonder what kind of impact Bradley Cooper’s equal pay advocacy will have.

Will other Men Follow Bradley Coopers Lead?

Will senior executives (who happen to be men) support their colleagues (who happen to be women) in similar fashion? Women certainly don’t need permission to stand up for equal pay for themselves. But allies like Cooper do help. Yet in order for men to help us, first, we must help ourselves. Women must know their true value before men can recognize it and advocate for it.

In this particular case, first Sony was hacked, leaking internal documents that revealed the wage disparity between Jennifer Lawrence and her male co-stars. (You can review the Sony hacks documents yourself on WikiLeaks.) Sony hacks was Jennifer’s wake-up call:

When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself.”

In her LennyLetter essay entitled Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co‑Stars?, Jennifer reveals she had to come to terms with standing up for herself. She believes she failed as a negotiator because she gave up too early. The reason? She wanted to be liked.

I didn’t want to seem “difficult” or “spoiled.” At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being “difficult” or “spoiled.”

Jennifer’s  worries are not unfounded. She suspects her male co-stars were likely “commended for being fierce and tactical”, while she was “busy worrying about coming across as a brat”. In fact, there is evidence men and women are viewed differently at the bargaining table.

Again, this might have NOTHING to do with my vagina, but I wasn’t completely wrong when another leaked Sony email revealed a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a “spoiled brat.” For some reason, I just can’t picture someone saying that about a man.”

I bet she also didn’t picture a man like Bradley Cooper stepping up to champion her equal pay cause. But he has. In doing so, he has made it okay to advocate for being fair.  Bestill my heart.

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A Lesson in Gender Diversity: 3 Women Who Saved Best Buy

A Lesson in Gender Diversity: 3 Women Who Saved Best Buy

A Lesson in Gender Diversity

Best Buy offers us a lesson in gender diversity. The best man for a job is a woman, times three.

Financial Officer Sharon McCollam, President eCommerce Mary Lou Kelley, and US Retail President Shari Ballard have architected the turnaround of Best Buy under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Hubert Joly. They serve as three shining examples of women leaders that saved the day by saving Best Buy — when turnarounds are not for the faint of heart.  Fortune Magazine tells the story and it is a good read.

Women Who Saved Best Buy

Source: Fortune http://fortune.com/2015/10/25/best-buy-turnaround/

Despite the store’s gadget-geek stereotypes, Best Buy’s leadership team is largely female: Women run operations accounting for 90% of its revenue. Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly was inspired by a McKinsey colleague’s gender-diversity research—on which Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is partly based—and decided to give women leaders a shot. His investment has paid off, big time.

According to Fortune Magazine,

On the eve of its 50th anniversary, Best Buy—bogged down three years ago in mounting losses and management disarray—seems to be back on track. The largest consumer-electronics retailer in the world (No. 72 on the Fortune 500) and the only surviving U.S. nationwide chain, Best Buy has redesigned most of its 1,433 U.S. stores, put its retail employees through retraining boot camp, become a force in e-commerce, and excised $1 billion in annual costs. Earnings have beaten Wall Street’s expectations for 11 quarters in a row; since December 2012 its stock has roughly tripled. “Best Buy is one of the most impressive turnarounds in retail over the last decade,” says Scott Galloway, marketing professor at NYU Stern and founder of brand-research firm L2.”

Fortune Magazine reported turning around Best Buy was particularly validating for chief financial officer Sharon McCollam (pictured on the right above), a veteran of Williams-Sonoma who was lured out of retirement by the CEO.

“She implemented a rigorous budget; overhauled Best Buy’s IT, supply chain, and logistics; and even inspected stores with a “white glove” dust test. By the time the holidays were over, she was confident that she had engineered an enduring revival. “

Where Are the Women Today?

With that accomplishment firmly in place, Ms. McCollam stepped out of that role back into retirement, where she continues to guide corporations at the board of directors level. She joined Hallmark Cards, Inc.in that capacity in 2017.

President of ECommerce Mary Lou Kelley (pictured on the left above) continues to serve at Best Buy as does Shari Ballard, Executive Vice President and President of Multichannel Retail (pictured in the middle above). Their continued tenure and success at Best Buy serves as examples the value women bring to the executive suite

The Good Fight

Why do I keep writing about women diversity at the senior executive level? I head an executive search (The Good Search) and recruiting research (Intellerati) firms help companies become more diverse at the board and C-level. Most companies want to be more diverse: they simply don’t know how to get there.  Successful diversity initiatives require that we begin with the realization that yes, women can do this. Best Buy gets that and the company has benefited mightily. CEO Joly put it this way:

“If it had been Lehman Sisters instead of Lehman Brothers, maybe it would not have been the catastrophe that it was.”

Make Your Next C-Level Hire a Woman

Make Your Next C-Level Hire a Woman

Make Your Next C-Level Hire a Woman

More companies are committing to gender equality. That’s the good news, according to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2017. The study was conducted in partnership LeanIn.Org and examines data from 222 companies with more than 12 million employees, from a survey of more than 70,000 workers, and a series of qualitative interviews. However, the good news comes with a caveat.

“Despite this commitment, progress continues to be too slow—and may even be stalling.”

Though women make up half the population, it is still unlikely that you will make your next C-level hire a woman. Women should have even odds. For someone who’s been involved in diversity executive recruitment efforts at leading technology companies, the above does not surprise me. It doesn’t even scan as news. But the study managed to tease out the reason why progress has been so hard. In a nutshell, we’ve grown comfortable with the status quo. We actually believe if we have one or two women on an executive team, we’ve got diversity covered. We can’t fix something if we don’t believe it to be a problem. The study goes on to explain:

“One of the most powerful reasons for the lack of progress is a simple one: we have blind spots when it comes to diversity, and we can’t solve problems that we don’t see or understand clearly. Many employees think women are well represented in leadership when they see only a few. And because they’ve become comfortable with the status quo, they don’t feel any urgency for change.”

If I scroll back to basic concepts I learned in psych courses, people generally are comfortable with the status quo, even when it works against their best interest. If that status quo is discriminatory, that may not register. Moreover, change is scary. The study did uncover areas that men can address. For gender diversity to happen, men need to become allies. To date, they don’t quite understand all that keeps women from advancing.

“Further, many men don’t fully grasp the barriers that hold women back at work. As a result, they are less committed to gender diversity, and we can’t get there without them.”

Moreover, race and ethnicity need to be considered. Women of color face the greatest obstacles because racial and ethnic discrimination is layered up gender bias. So far, they’ve received the least support. “When companies take a one-size-fits-all approach to advancing women, women of color end up underserved and left behind.” In fact, the report takes a deeper look to understand the distinct challenges women of color face at the intersection of gender and race

The study found that inequality stars with the first promotion with women of color experiencing the most bias. From the outset, fewer women than men are hired at the entry level, even though women now comprise 57 percent of recent college graduates.

At every subsequent step, the representation of women further declines, and women of color face an even steeper drop-off at senior levels. As a result, one in five C-suite leaders is a woman, and fewer than one in 30 is a woman of color. Moreover, compared with the modest gains women made in prior years, there are signs this year that women’s progress may be stalling.

Women of Color Are Under-Represented in Corporate Pipeline McKinsey 2017

Source McKinsey

The study serves as a business case for why you should make your next C-level hire a woman. As Ms. Sandberg wrote in When Women Get Stuck, Corporate America Gets Stuck in the Wall Street Journal,

Women, on average, are not leaving these companies at higher rates than men. Rather, they face more barriers to advancement and are less likely to reach senior leadership positions . . . Women see an uneven playing field—a workplace tilted against them. Women are twice as likely to believe their gender will make it harder to advance, and senior-level women view gender as a bigger obstacle than entry-level women do.

Sheryl Sandberg

As the study confirms, corporations that lack diversity at the senior executive level have a hard time shattering the glass ceiling. The reasons are many. Ms. Sandberg, who also serves as COO of Facebook, explains only part of the problem has to do with women not leaning in:

The unfortunate reality is that women at every stage in their careers are less interested than men in becoming a top executive. Contrary to popular belief, this is not solely rooted in family concerns. Our research shows that even women without children cite stress and pressure as their main issue. This points to another possible explanation for the leadership ambition gap: The path to senior positions is disproportionately stressful for women.”

But to blame women for the lack of senior executive diversity — to conclude that women aren’t leaning in far enough or trying hard enough misses Ms. Sandberg’s ultimate point: there is a bias against female leadership:

To get more women into leadership roles, we have to address our culture’s discomfort with female leadership. Young girls are called “bossy” on our playgrounds, while young boys are expected and encouraged to lead. This dynamic carries over into the workplace, where women walk a tightrope between being liked and being respected—and men do not. This persistent bias creates a double bind for women that we must surface, acknowledge and fix.”

I happen to head a retained executive search firm (The Good Search) and recruiting research practice (Intellerati). We help corporations become more diverse where it counts the most: at the board and senior executive levels. Interestingly, from a global perspective, there is but one group that is under-represented in the C-suite: women. Yet when qualified women executives are included in slates of finalist candidates for senior leadership openings, all too frequently men get the offers. I’ve seen it happen time and again at the very corporations that say they want to be more diverse and that invest in programs promoting diversity.  I think I know one of the reasons why.  Women continue to hit the glass ceiling — despite the best intentions of concerned corporations — due to employee referrals.

Check Employee Referral Programs for Gender Bias

Employee referrals — often a favorite source of hires for corporations — have a way of undermining diversity efforts. They perpetuate the status quo. Birds of a feather not only flock together: they want to work together. Consequently, members of homogeneous executive teams tend to refer in more of the same. White male executives frequently recommend other white male executives through employee referral,  not because they’re overtly or consciously prejudiced. They do it because these are the guys they know. Once they do, those recommended candidates have the wind at their backs. Employee referrals typically bypass the screening and recruiting process that was put in place to ensure consistent quality and diversity. Candidates who are referred in by a team member are often introduced immediately to the hiring executive. So by the time the referred candidate is introduced to HR to fill out the necessary applicant paperwork, the white male candidate referral has become a runaway train.  In that scenario, rock-star executive women and diverse men are snubbed for lesser executives because the white guy has become unstoppable as a candidate.

Referrals offer a rich source of pre-referenced, often plug-and-play talent. For companies scaling quickly, referrals can make all the difference between filling the role in a timely fashion or having it languish unfilled as the rest of the team gets stressed out from over-work, missed deadlines, overdue product launches, and lost revenue. The opportunity cost for failing to fill senior executive openings is massive.

Use Gender Diversity for Risk Mitigation

There’s a legal cost as well. If you don’t put a stop to shortcuts for the white guy with connections in your employee referral program, you are putting yourself and your company at risk of being slapped with a discrimination suit due to disparate impact. You can get nailed even if you believe in diversity and actively promote advancing women and other diverse candidates into senior executive ranks. If you fast track your majority class through employee referral while giving unrepresented classes the third degree, that fact alone could very well come back to haunt you in court.

So what’s a hiring executive to do?

  1. Do a quick check to determine whether your employee referral program is torpedoing your diversity efforts.
  2. Educate those who refer prospective candidates to eliminate their inherent bias by advancing diverse candidates.
  3. Do not allow referred candidates to bypass phone screens and other processes required of other candidates.  For an opportunity to be truly equal, the playing field must be leveled.
  4. Identify, profile, qualify, and cultivate relationships with diverse candidates in advance of job openings. Make sure they are as well-networked into your company as the majority.
  5. Conduct competitive mapping to identify all viable candidates for a role to ensure inclusion of diverse candidates — prospects that all too often are overlooked.

 Make 50% Your Gender Diversity Target

Wherever women comprise less than 50% of an executive team, we have a problem. Women make up half the working population and, as logic would hold, should make up half of your leadership team. Yet when I stopped to think about it, I couldn’t think of a single Fortune 1000 corporation with 50% or more women at the senior executive level. (When you stop to think about it, can you?)

Naturally, I “googled” it to see if I could find such a diversity unicorn.  The National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) listed 2 companies in its 2015 Top 50 Companies for Executive Women with 50% women in roles reporting directly to the CEO: DigitasLBi and State Farm. However, that was as of February/March 2015.  When I double-checked the About page for DigitasLBi, only  25% (10 out of 40) of the listed leaders are women. So, DigitasLBi is not at 50% as far as I can tell. State Farm lists just the CEO on its Leadership Team page. Without transparency, it difficult to verify that half of State Farm senior executives are, indeed, women.  However, whatever the percentage, one thing is clear: with few exceptions, there is a case to be made for more women at the senior leadership level.

Become a Gender Diversity Booster

There are steps one can take to boost the diversity of women at the senior executive level. For example, our research division Intellerati conducts research to create diversity talent pools. We identify, profile, and qualify diverse executives to ensure inclusion in advance of openings. We help clients benchmark diversity best practices by conducting investigative research to determine the diversity of client competitors at the senior executive level.  We then analyze that information to glean insights about what strategies and tactics actually move the needle.

Disclose Your Annual EEO-1 Diversity Statistics

I’ve always found it strange that the federal government requires reporting of diversity statistics to the EEOC, but does not make that information public.  But companies can report their own diversity statistics, inviting in the sunshine and diversity consciousness. Case in point: Microsoft.  In December, CEO Satya Nadella released Microsoft’s federally-mandated diversity numbers in its EEO-1 form. He promised to do so after Rev. Jesse Jackson called on the tech industry to improve its diversity. In fact, a host of other tech companies, including Intel, have revealed their diversity numbers in the last year.  Ms. Sanberg recommends increasing transparency to help employees see that there is, indeed, a problem.

For other ideas, check out LeanIn.org and join a few of their circles. Check out Catalyst.org. Check out Women in the Workplace 2015, read the full report, and review their list of Things You Can Do.  In other words, do something. Whatever step you choose, let’s take that journey together.

 

Unconscious Gender Bias in Executive Search

Unconscious Gender Bias in Executive Search

The Unconscious Gender Bias Within

Unconscious gender bias at the senior executive level is real. In fact, it may be one of the primary reasons so many companies that want to be diverse have so few women at the senior executive level.

I head a retained executive search and recruiting research practice that does a lot of work in diversity.  We provide services to companies seeking to become more diverse at the senior executive and board levels.  In every instance, we work with good leaders who are dedicated to leveling the playing field for senior executive women.  Inevitably in our practice, we witness random acts of bias as good leaders attempt to become better.

Keep Reading!

Google Shows Men Ads for Better Jobs

Google Shows Men Ads for Better Jobs

Google Shows Men Ads for Better Jobs

Before I get to the study that found Google Shows Men Ads for Better Jobs, let’s try an experiment. In an ideal world where women make up 50% of the population, every other CEO should be a woman. Of course, our world treats does discriminate against women executives and other diverse professionals in the workplace. This we know. What we are just learning is that the unconscious bias has tentacles that reach into the tools we rely upon to do our work. To see for yourself, Google the term “CEO” and examine what comes back in Google Images.

(Waiting)

When I typed in the letters “CEO” and hit return, the Google Images page loaded the photographs below. They are overwhelmingly male. 85% of the images are of men, including silhouettes and cropped photos that indicate the person is male. 15% are female. That is nowhere near 50% it would be if there were no gender discrimination. Yet, that 15% is more than twice the percentage of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in 2017. According to Fortune, just 32 of the 500 companies listed in the Fortune 500 are led by female CEOs. That number translates to a paltry 6.4% of the U.S.’s biggest companies (by revenue). Remarkably,  6.4% is the highest proportion of female CEOs in the 63-year history of the Fortune 500. Clearly, we have work to do, more than we previously imagined. Before, we worried about humans discriminating against humans. Now, we need to worry something that is not human. Bots, algorithms, and platforms that stitch all that technology together may perpetuate bias as well.

Technology We Use Discriminates Against Us

We’ve reached a new state in our tech evolution. When we google, “CEO” and Google returns images that are overwhelmingly white and male, we tell ourselves that Google is just reflecting the world back to us — a world where discrimination exists.  We believe that the Google bots that crawl the web are color and gender blind. We trust the algorithms that answer our search queries are more objective than humans. One couldn’t possibly make an argument that Google’s search algorithm and its related ad-serving platforms are inherently biased. Or could you?

Google CEO images from a search for "CEO" 12/5/2017 at 7.24.25 PM

Google CEO images from a search for “CEO” 12/5/2017 at 7.24.25 PM

Google's ad targeting discriminates against women. It shows men ads for better jobs. Click To Tweet

Google Offers Men Ads for Better Jobs

According to MIT Technology Review — a story was highlighted by Gizmodo’s Kate Knibbs — Google shows men ads for better jobs. That’s right, Google ads offer you better jobs if it thinks you are a Guy. Google’s ad targeting may be sexist.

That means even if you Lean In, as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has advised; and even if you chalk up as many accomplishments and degrees as your male counterparts; you’re still not going to get as many intriguing, higher paying job opportunities dangled in front of you online as a male version of you. MIT Technology Review explained it this way:

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the International Computer Science Institute built a tool called AdFisher to probe the targeting of ads served up by Google on third-party websites. They found that fake Web users believed by Google to be male job seekers were much more likely than equivalent female job seekers to be shown a pair of ads for high-paying executive jobs when they later visited a news website.

Anupam Datta is the associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University who helped develop AdFisher. He believes the gender targeting disparity highlights the need for tools to uncover how online ad companies differentiate between people. Interestingly, AdFisher could not determine what in Google’s ad-serving ecosystem caused the discriminatory result.

How AdFisher Works

Professor Datta’s explains how AdFisher works in his 2015 study, “Discrimination and Opacity in Online Behavioral Advertising“:

“AdFisher, an automated tool that explores how user behaviors, Google’s ads, and Ad Settings interact. AdFisher can run browser-based experiments and analyze data using machine learning and significance tests. Our tool uses a rigorous experimental design and statistical analysis to ensure the statistical soundness of our results. We use AdFisher to find that the Ad Settings was opaque about some features of a user’s profile, that it does provide some choice on ads, and that these choices can lead to seemingly discriminatory ads. In particular, we found that visiting webpages associated with substance abuse changed the ads shown but not the settings page. We also found that setting the gender to female resulted in getting fewer instances of an ad related to high paying jobs than setting it to male. We cannot determine who caused these findings due to our limited visibility into the ad ecosystem, which includes Google, advertisers, websites, and users.

 

Why does Google Ads Show Men Ads For Better Jobs?

While Dr. Datta acknowledges opacity made it impossible to determine the cause of ad-serving gender bias, he did detail possible reasons.

  • The advertiser’s targeting of the ad
  • Google explicitly programming the system to show the ad less often to females
  • Males and female consumers respond differently to ads and Google’s targeting algorithm responds to the difference (e.g., Google learned that males are more likely to click on this ad than females are)
  • More competition existing for advertising to females causing the advertiser to win fewer ad slots for females
  • Some third party (e.g., a hacker) manipulating the ad ecosystem
  • Some other reason we haven’t thought of.
  • Some combination of the above.

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on Google to do something about its ecosystem that do that advertised job opportunities are offered equally to men and to women. Google has a stated corporate philosophy to do no evil in its “Ten things we know to be true“. Yet, it wasn’t Google, but rather Microsoft, that took action to address ad-platform bias. Microsoft has begun collaborating with Professor Datta to prevent gender bias and other troubling patterns in ad-serving on the Bing platform.

If gender bias is an unintended consequence of job opportunity ad-targeting, it means women executives and women technologists are at a disadvantage more than previously imagined. Women make less than men, on average, in their current workplaces. But that’s not all. Their future is also shortchanged because, so far, ad-targeting displays ads for better jobs to men. Professor Datta’s research serves as a cautionary tale of unintended consequence created by the technologies we use every day. I am reaching out to Professor Datta to find out what kind of progress has been made in the two years since his study was published.

Gender Diversity Study: Silicon Valley 150 Walk-of-Shame

Gender Diversity Study: Silicon Valley 150 Walk-of-Shame

Gender Diversity Study

The lack of gender diversity at high tech companies in the Silicon Valley has been the subject of much debate, but little progress. Few could agree on the diversity facts of record because no serious research had been done measuring how few women executives there are in comparison to their male counterparts.  However, a landmark gender diversity study has been released that tells us  just how bad the Bay Area bastion of tech maleness really is. The ground breaking study was conducted by the tech law practice of Fenwick & West and is entitled Gender Diversity in Silicon Valley: a Comparison of Silicon Valley Public Companies and Large Public Companies. In fact, the study finds that the paucity of gender diversity at the board level is likely  worse than you thought.  As Business Insider Reporter Lydia Dallett pointed out,

“In the 2013 proxy season, more than 80% of Silicon Valley 150 companies had only one woman director or none at all.”

In other words, public companies to large public companies not counted among the SV150, the difference is vast.

The law firm sifted through public filings for the proxy seasons from 1996 through 2013, tallying up the number of women serving on boards and executive teams of companies in the boards of directors and 40% have just one woman director.

Women Directors

 

The Silicon Valley tech companies are public companies, mind you, not tech startups. They each have, on average, 8500 employees.  S&P 100 companies  average 170,000 employees. However, when you compare the two,  SV150 companies seem as immature as a school boy who punches a classmate in the arm to show her how much he likes her.

Women Directors

The facts are now indisputable: women are profoundly under-represented at the senior executive and board levels in Silicon Valley. Of course, the question becomes what do we do about that? At a minimum, the law firm Fenwick & West suggests the following:

As anyone who lives and works in the high technology and life sciences industries of Silicon Valley can readily attest, Silicon Valley is quite diverse in terms of ethnicity and culture as well as in many other ways, drawing talent from across the United States and around the world. And, as a general matter, Silicon Valley companies embrace open-mindedness and meritocracy as core values and are interested in attracting the best, most talented workforce possible, in the belief that it is essential to the success of their businesses. We hope that the information in this study  . . . will spur and inform additional thought and discussion among the participants and leaders in the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

Dude, Where’s My Code?

Of course, any woman working in the tech industry has likely experienced the lack of gender diversity first hand. In fact, the male gender dominance has given rise to so-called  “bro” culture. If nerds with pocket protecters were not enough, women of the Silicon Valley have the growing ranks of brogrammers with which to contend. According to the Urban Dictionary:

A programmer who breaks the usual expectations of quiet nerdiness and opts instead for the usual trappings of a frat-boy: popped collars, bad beer, and calling everybody “bro”. Despised by everyone, especially other programmers.

Example: “Oh my god, John is talking about football and chicks again. That guy is such a brogrammer.”

I’d like to believe that the gender diversity study will prompt more evolved leaders in Silicon Valley to take steps to ensure fairness for all deserving candidates.  There are simple steps one can take to level the playing field. Our retained search practice The Good Search and our research practice Intellerati have done extensive work  in diversity recruiting and diversity talent acquisition. We help top media and technology companies identify, profile, and cultivate relationships with the best and brightest diverse talent at the senior executive level — well in advance of hiring needs. We develop diversity talent pools uncovering top diverse talent to ensure their light is not hidden under a bushel. Moreover, diversity talent pools also help to off-set the homogenous effect of employee referrals. To become truly diverse, we must reach beyond our own networks to include executives who do not resemble ourselves.

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If Barbie Were a CEO, She Would Crawl

If Barbie Were a CEO, She Would Crawl

Gender Diversity

In our gender diversity practice, we are aware how cultural stereotypes influence our views and behavior. Ever wonder why we remain so conflicted about women achieving parity in the executive suite? Take a close look at Barbie and think about how warped her physical dimensions are. She is so thin that she’d be classified as anorexic. In fact, her dimensions literally would cripple her.

Barbie’s Warped Body Dimensions

If Barbie were real, she’d have half a liver because her waist is so small.  With so long and narrow a neck, she’d be unable to lift her head. Moreover, she couldn’t stand — it would be physically impossible with her teensy-weensy child’s size three feet in the permanent high-heel position. She’d have to crawl.

Every two seconds, a Barbie is sold. Every year, 15 million dolls make their way into the hands of little girls. Too few of them grow up to be CEOs. While a the iconography of a single doll seems trivial, it is not when it has served as a role model for our daughters for more than fifty years. Rehabs.com, which published the infographic below, points out that four out of five 10-year-olds say that they’re afraid of being fat. 42% of girls in first through third grade wish they were thinner. And, half of girls aged 9 or 10 claim that they feel better about themselves when they’re dieting.

On January 1st of this year, we achieved a new milestone when the number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 rose to 21. The number represents a paltry 4.2% when parity would be 50%. Though there are many contributing factors,Barbie is so imbedded deep in our psyches that I suspect the number of female CEOs will not change until Barbie does.

 Barbie Infographic

Equal Pay for Women Executives? Not Until 2085

Equal Pay for Women Executives? Not Until 2085

Equal Pay for Women

According Women’s Media Center, women executives will not reach leadership parity with men until 2085 . To put the year 2085 into context: I will be dead by then. Unless my now college-aged daughter lives to the ripe old age of 105, she will be dead by then as well.

The gender inequality in the ways that women are employed and represented in news, entertainment and technology- related media.”

Boy Girl Sign

It turns out that the 2085 projection comes from a study by the Women’s College of the University of Denver and the White House Project, a nonprofit, non-partisan women’s leadership group. Even when women outperform their male counterparts, they are still not recognized for senior leadership positions.

Another report 2012 study by the nonprofit Catalyst details women executive percentages that come nowhere near approaching the 51% percent of the population that are women.

  • 14.3 % of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies and 8.1 percent of executive officer top earner positions.
  • 16.6 % of board seats in 2012 were held by women — the seventh consecutive year of no growth.
  • 0% of the executive officer roles are held by women at more than one-quarter of the Fortune 50o. In other words, they have no women leaders.

Now that I have your attention, please take a moment download  the report.   Next, please share your thoughts on ways to increase the number of senior executive women. We do a lot of work in gender diversity and enjoy tracking methods and approaches that make a difference.

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Why Women Are Rarely The Boss

Why Women Are Rarely The Boss

Gender Diversity

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof devoted Sunday’s column entitled “She’s (Rarely) The Boss”to a discussion with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Ms. Sandberg is the author a new book called Lean In that is set to come out later this year that offers practical advice and insights on cultivating C-level diversity for executive women. She developed her thought-provoking ideas in a speech she gave at TED in December of 2010 —  a talk I featured in an earlier post —  and later in a 2011 commencement speech at Barnard College.

Some interesting statistics to compare to the 50% of the population that is female:

Ms. Sandberg advises women not to lean back, but to lean in. She’s observed women internalize “messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men. We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve. ” It is an empowering message for to women leaders to take note of our hesitations and to “lean in”.

Mr. Kristoff believes encouraging female executive assertiveness is a good thing, but it must be accompanied by structural changes to accommodate women and families. Kristof cites a growing body of evidence that increasing the number of women in the C-suite and on corporate boards of directors is simply good business.