Want more women in tech? Girls, just do it. And everyone, quit the patronizing

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This is a guest post by Eileen Burbidge (@eileentso) , an early-stage tech angel/investor and advisor. This is part one of a three part series she is writing on her blog. Currently establishing White Bear Yard in London for technology innovation and startups, she is also an advisor to Ambient Sound Investments. Burbidge has held senior leadership roles in business, product, and market development at Yahoo!, Skype, PalmSource, Openwave, Sun Microsystems, Apple and Verizon Wireless. She holds a BS in Engineering Computer Science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

There have been recent calls to give more women a chance within tech; there are calls [presumably to men] to take women more seriously and to work harder at recruiting and attracting women into tech in order to overcome systemic bias in the “system”. I take issue with these approaches and perspectives firstly because I find them patronizing and secondly because I think the call to action is directed at the wrong place.

Don’t patronize me

On the first point, I don’t want someone to cut me some slack or “give me a chance” just because I’m a woman. I don’t want a hand-out, I don’t want to be patronized. I want to be recognized and respected because of what I’m capable of doing and achieving. If someone wants me on their team strictly because I’m a woman, then there’s probably something amiss in that intention. So don’t patronize me, please.

It works both ways — It’s not pleasant (or wise) if someone shuts a door on me strictly because I’m a woman, but I also don’t want the door opened only because I am.

Women need to get rid of the crutch and step it up

On the second point, I don’t think we should just ask men for more opportunities. I think instead we need to get more women to step it up and if they are seeking opportunities in tech (and not getting them), I think they should speak up or look harder. I have a computer science degree and have worked in technology companies my whole career, so I’ve worked mostly with men. I currently work in the @whitebearyard office space with a lot of men over 2 floors. I’m quite certain that each one of them (or at least most of them) are acutely aware whenever there is a woman in the office. Full stop. They know if a woman enters the office, steps into the floor or is here for a meeting. In this setting, women get a lot more attention than “just another guy”. And if a woman in this setting cannot make a positive impression or assert her value as a prospective vendor, partner, employee/consultant, then maybe she’s actually not qualified or capable enough – or not wanting it. All of these guys (and others that I know and work with) would love to work with more women. Most of them talk about the value and advantage to their team which would come from added diversity for product design, team dynamics, communication and emotional intelligence. They’re not opposed to hiring women and some would prefer evenly-qualified female candidates to male ones, but they (and I) don’t often see enough to choose from.

Evidence of lack of supply, but not demand

Here are just some recent data points as to why I believe it’s more of a “supply side” issue rather than a demand one. As noted above, I don’t think most men in tech are averse to working with more women (quite the contrary), but I don’t see enough women putting themselves forward or taking advantage of opportunities available.

  • We recently co-hosted First Round Capital Volcano office hours in our offices @whitebearyard. While you could argue the sample size was quite small (it was held with only 1 day’s notice on a weekend), it was widely publicized via First Round’s network and on TechCrunch. Still, out of the nearly 60 people who turned up to meet with a promiment US VC, only 4 of them were women (just under 7%).
  • I asked Mike Butcher about the submissions he received for the recent TechCrunch Europe GeekNRolla startup competition. #gknr was obviously widely publicized by TechCrunch and on Twitter and throughout the European tech community. The startup competition was promoted as an opportunity to launch a new company or product at a major event. Based on the stats Mike shared with me, out of 83 initial entries received by the first deadline, only 2 were led by women (2.4%).
  • Out of our deal flow data base (tracking the number of teams/companies we’ve met with who were seeking financing or introductions over the last 9 months), there are 492 teams/projects/companies, 9 of which were led or co-led by women (less than 2%).
    • Recently one of the most well known early stage VCs in the US, Union Square Ventures, started recruiting for 2 new job positions – an analyst and a General Manager. They received over 600 applications/expressions of interest but only 10% from women.

    Within tech, I don’t think we need to give more women a chance; I think we need to tell more women to go for it — if they want it.

    Mike Butcher, editor of TechCrunch Europe goes out of his way to feature women in his events. Of the 50 total number of speakers who took the stage during #gknr, 9 were female, which is nearly 20%. Take away the startup presenters (low number of women-led applicants already noted above) and women represented 25% — 1 out of every 4 – of Mike’s invited speakers. Mike is clearly a supporter of “women in tech” and more conscious of gender im/balances than most, but even generally from what I see tech companies, investors, event organizers and ecosystem catalysts want to see, promote and feature more women.

    Go for it, but make sure you want it and deserve it

    Are there really women out there who want access and think they do not get it because they’re a woman? If so, I would encourage that you should look at other factors that might be contributing such as your CV, skills background, working style, references, or communication/presentation skills. It might just be too easy to say “oh it’s because I’m a woman”, and that will actually hinder you from improving areas in need of development. Stop making excuses and get on with it. All the men I know are looking out for women to join their teams. But if you’re not good enough, you might just not be good enough. Stop using the woman thing as a crutch and work on what needs to be done in order to break-through. I want to change the call to action from asking men to give us a chance to asking women to step it up and make sure you’re making it known if you want to be in tech/business — and will be successful in it.

    • http://@sharonam sharona

      I have always managed to find my place working in the tech industry. In my eyes, the problem is not managing to enter and work in the technology industry, but it is the wage gap. Even though the wage gap between men and women has narrowed over time, we still earn less than men across the industries and unfortunately across the globe.

      The only way I found I could match and at times probably earn more than a man in a similar setting was to become an independent business owner. As employees we hardly stand a chance to compare wages. I am not a die hard activist for promoting women or men in any field. I vote for the best, hard working, creative, knowledgeable and brilliant people in any industry, and I hope to be treated the same.

      • ha ha

        Women cant sleep their way ahead in the tech sector. The geeks running things only get a chubby over the latest gadgets and not the vag.

        • Barry O

          I’ve noticed that it is mostly women in my neighborhood walking their dogs between 10 and 11 am Monday through Friday, so exactly when are these MBA’s supposed to show up for work?

      • lawl

        At every company I’ve been at I’ve seen key managing females leave for maternity leave for 3-4 months on end. Some have even taken a hiatus all together to spend more time with their kids.

        When will women realize that you cannot have your cake and eat it too? You want to be equally recognized and compensated like men, but you want to be able to go off and play mommy whenever you like. I’m sorry, but as a manager if I had to make a decision between a man or a woman I would choose the man over the woman because of these very reasons.

        • http://www.stillman-consulting.com Martin Stillman-Jones

          Interesting place to work……

          “Availability” is placed above “capability” as a more desirable employment skill?

          I wonder how highly skilled, hard working fellow team-mates feel about these priorities. And how motivated to do more than turn up?

        • illegal?

          Isn’t that the very definition of gender discrimination…? It’s astonishing that your reasoning for hiring a man over a woman can be applied to more than just the tech industry, careful. And if everyone subscribes to your reasoning then should women just choose to only ‘play mommy’ or only work?

        • Barry O

          Who cares if it’s illegal. Sue me. Gawd.

        • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

          When will men realise that if they want women to not stay at home with the kids all the time, they need to take some responsibility and be attentive fathers instead of shoving all the child-rearing and house-keeping off on their wives?

        • Barry O

          Any man would be glad to explain that to any woman during the commercial break on Oprah.

        • Mel

          A lot of companies offer paternity as well as maternity leave. So it may very well be that a man leaves a few months at a time because his wife had a child

        • Barry O

          At my company we get maternity leave, paternity leave AND fraternity leave.

        • ecco warrior

          The Burka centuries ago could it have been away of keeping the muslim womens skin nice away from sand and wind and the sun it would have been practical back then and it became a tradtion after that no different than a lot of other things out there that other humans have done in the past

        • Janice

          ahhhh yes, the old trope of women leaving the company they work for. Men leave their jobs more often than women.

          But thanks for showing your jealousy as a manager. You penalize the men who skip out on jobs all the time, but you punish the women.

      • JP Kab

        There have been numerous studies of the wage gap, and what they come down to is the aggressiveness of the individual in asking for raises. If you are worth as much as your male colleagues, but your boss isn’t paying you the same, then one of your competitors will surely hire you, wouldn’t they? This is an opportunity to get a job offer, then walk into your manager’s office and demand a raise. I’ve done it, but have these underpaid women done so?

        Men are more driven to ask for raises because they are more likely to equate self worth to their incomes. As a man, I’ve had women tell me in a sympathetic voice that the reason their friend had broken up with me was that I didn’t make enough money. (This happened twice when I was in my immediately post college financial drought).

        Ladies, have you ever had a man break up with you because you didn’t make enough money? Probably not. (This isn’t to say that there aren’t dozens of other shallow reasons guys dump women)

        Ask for a raise. It works. Why would your boss want to lose you and have to hire and retrain some guy and then pay him what he should have paid you?

        • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

          There’s also studies showing that if women stand up and ask for what they’re worth instead of accepting the job offer, they have the job offer withdrawn much more frequently than when men ask for more money. See, women who are assertive and ask for what they want/deserve are bitches you don’t want to work with, while men who do the same are go-getters you need to have on your team.

        • Barry O

          Dream on baby cakes.

        • TranH

          Barry O. You just called her babycakes.

          You’re the reason why Eileen’s blog understates the challenges that women actually face.

        • Barry O

          Hey. You’re pretty smart TRanHy. You picked up on that without missing a beat.

          Wow. I am now revealed to the world as a bigot — all thanks to you.

        • TranH

          Not just a bigot, a moron too. Because morons try to argue that women aren’t discriminated against and then call a woman “babycakes.”

        • Barry O


        • Janice

          Poor Barry. What I love about commenters like Barry is that is proves everything women are saying.

          Thanks Barry!

      • Erin

        Sorry? Uh, the “wage gap” is complete BS. I was helping do interviews for a DBA job last year and we had ONE female applicant. Her resume was put right on top of the pile by HR too (simply because it was a female applicant) – not only did this woman not have job skills that were up to par, she also said during the phone interview that she expected $120,000/yr and wouldn’t take anything less. (The position was a $90k/yr job) Again, on HR’s insistence, she got an in-person interview, being placed ahead of male candidates. Couldn’t hack the job, but her attitude was that she should be given the job at the wage SHE demanded because she was a woman in tech.

        And none of the other women around here are making less for the same work. Stop perpetuating that bogus wage gap myth.. all it’s doing is hurting women.

        • Eyal

          The lack of supply doesn’t come alone. It begins with parents and the toys these buy for their kids, the different expectations these have from their boys and their girls, the educational system that shows you pictures of a male physician/engineer/driver and a female nurse/teacher/nanny, the company execs that defines a male job as Project Manager and a female job Administrative Assistant, when both are doing exactly the same, the boss that gives the female worker 60% less than her male counterpart just because she is not aware of her real value and last but not least VC investors that will invest in their younger copies (white males from their neighborhood, xtream sports fans) with whom they prefer to go out for a drink and not in a woman with whom it will feel awkward going out for a drink (or will look like they have other intentions…). So after all these you just say stand up….really? that easy? Do you think the same about people coming out of poverty or racism or other discriminating environments?

        • Anon

          Oh, don’t be an @ss. ONE anecdotal incident doesn’t disprove decades of research about the wage gap.

          Not that anyone’s cited anything. But that doesn’t change the fact that your anecdotal experience proves nothing but that you’ve had an experience that differs from what others perceive as the norm. It makes neither your experience nor their expectations the norm.

          If you’re an example of women in IT, that explains why we have trouble getting paid & promoted. Bad apples. Illogical thinking.

    • http://www.cyberspice.org.uk cyberspice

      I note that the author, Eileen Burbage, of this piece is a an entrepreneur/financier not someone who is on the code face. I’m sorry but I do not relate to business geeks that well (and that’s despite having a corporate finance training before ‘I got better’).

      I’ve faced the glass ceiling. I’ve had to fight for my technical opinion to be heard when other’s incorrect opinions get accepted easily. I’ve been lambasted on the web for making a valid technical point. Being an CEO or financier is *not* the same as being an engineer and there are many female engineers out there who feel under appreciated, under paid, and are considering exit strategies. Similarly there are many want to be engineers who feel reluctant to enter the profession because of the experiences of others who already have. There is a definite need for mentoring and communities of women geeks.

      Personally I find it rather sad that my local geek girl dinner seems to comprise mainly women who work in geek industries but are not what I would call geeks. Their professions are just as important but how does working in HR relate to me as an embedded Linux consultant?

      • http://twitter.com/eileentso Eileen Burbidge

        @cyberspice: Thanks for your comment! As the editor noted, I have a computer science degree from Univ Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and spent a number of years as a systems analyst, developer and programmer (including at places such as NCSA, Bell Labs (now Lucent) and GTE

        • http://twitter.com/eileentso Eileen Burbidge

          …sorry for the half-finished comment/reply above. So while I’m not an engineer today/anymore, I certainly was and it’s how I got started. Even as recently as the past 3-5 years I was a products director at both Skype and Yahoo! Europe so I’m still very close to engineers of all disciplines. All of these experiences (and more) have led me to my conclusions and points in this post. If anything, I believe that the breadth of the perspective I have now even further validates my theories — that tech is better than most industries (more on this in Part II) and that men in tech are *generally* [not everyone of course] less of the “problem” in this issue than the fact that we don’t have enough young woman effectively pursuing the sector in the first place. Thanks again for your comment.

        • http://twitter.com/eileentso Eileen Burbidge

          *women (intead of woman in last sentence above)

        • POE

          Eileen, besides a desire to step up to next level of career and expand impact and reach, were there any social reasons for leaving actual software development/analysis? A lot of women I know who enter tech, tire of actual coding (a lot of men, too) and want something more interactive, dynamic, social, less staring-at-monitor-at-midnight-hacking-away…

      • tim

        Most of what you say can be just as easily said by a man. The difference is that men do not expect the world to be fair or that someone will fix it for them. Also, men are taught from an early age that their value is in what they can do, not who they are. They are appreciated for the block tower they can build not for their joyous smile and laughter. This is not necessarily a position to envy, if you notice the wreckage of failed men in our society.

      • Garth

        To women it is a glass ceiling. To men it is just a ceiling. You may feel unappreciated and ignored in your job. The fact is there are thousands of men who feel exactly the same way.

        While the people in power in companies are generally men, men are generally not in power. Most men are toiling away at crappy hourly wages, doing dirty and dangerous work.

        If you want to advance in your career you should go for it. Assert yourself. A combination of that, intelligence, and some luck may just do it.

        • Barry O

          Forget about the ceiling. After 45, most men crash through the floor.

      • Brenda

        “personally I find it rather sad that my local geek girl dinner seems to comprise mainly women who work in geek industries but are not what I would call geeks.”

        I know the feeling too — it’s very easy to feel discouraged at GGD, when 9/10 of the participants are in marketing, or project management. There are some sectors of tech sector that are female dominated like UI design, documentation, and QA/testing. Many turn up at GGD. I like them, they’re pretty darn geeky.

        We need to walk the line of encouraging and celebrating women in technology, engineering and science, without also disparaging those on the peripherals careers and support roles.

        I only see the large number of marketing people at GGD as a problem, when a group starts to favour those subject — when they start focusing on marketing and management as their goal. If there needs to be a group for discussion those fields, then please start one and use a correct name, instead of hiding is under labels like “women in technology”.. a woman working in marketing for a technology company is a Woman in Marketing, not a Woman in Technology.

    • http://twitter.com/rodolfor Rodolfo

      I believe the problem is with the entrepreneurial spirit in Britain (don’t even get me started about the rest of Europe). The lack of female founders is just a subset of it.

      Of the people who came to Volcano Office Hours how many were British-educated? Most Europeans MBA I interview just want go get a safe job to repay their loans – not take over Google or Apple (LBS being the exception).

      If an educational system imprints you with being risk averse, your house is a 30 year mortgage kind of business, people then get inclined to go for a safe salary. Women are more vulnerable to this (cost of children) so they end up employed at even lower salaries or overqualified for their job.

      And all this I find quite ironic given the generous social services benefits you get in Europe – I mean one would guess that more people want to take on risk and start a company when you have a safety net.

    • http://openvideoalliance.org Elizabeth Stark

      I definitely appreciate your go-to attitude for women in tech, and I’m certainly encouraging of many women to do so, but I think you fail to realize that a lot of younger men in tech often get ahed due in significant part because of mentors and networks, which consist almost exclusively of men. I’ve seen this countless times with my own eyes. So when we pretend it’s all about the confident individual, it’s also undoubtedly about the networks.

      I recently wrote a post about mentors in tech: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-stark/mentors-matter_b_543491.html

      • http://twitter.com/eileentso Eileen Burbidge

        @Elizabeth: Great to hear from you … Actually, to your point, I don’t dispute or fail to see at all that younger men in tech have a lot more mentors and networks — and that expanding this for young women as you noted in your HuffPo piece (which I agreed with) would make a difference.

        However, that then begs the question: *Why* are more guys networking and seeking out mentors and why not more girls? (And I think the answer to this is inline with my points in the post.)

        Anyway, one of my planned follow-up posts (Part III or IV) will hopefully cover some constructive things we can all do to try and address the supply side issue. This was simply to assert the notion that it’s more of a supply-side dynamic than demand… which is not in dispute with your points.

        • http://openvideoalliance.org Elizabeth Stark

          Well I don’t think it’s merely a question of more guys “seeking out” mentors and networking, I know plenty of women who are trying as well. And mentoring doesn’t always work that way— it’s more of a mutual endeavor. (Even as a woman if I try to seek out a mentor, I may not necessarily find one. And it can be significantly harder for a female to find a male mentor, although of course not impossible as I’ve had many myself.)

          We just had a great session about gender, tech, and entrepreneurship at Foocamp East, I will try to get the notes, but a lot of these issues may go much deeper than the surface. Many coders learn about programming in their teenage years, and these are predominantly boys. Why? It may have a lot to do with the images we portray in society, or what’s “cool” amongst teenagers, or girls not being welcome in certain communities.

          That said, there certainly is a point about the low number of female applicants to the Fred Wilson position, or submitting for speaking slots, and while not enough women are stepping up to the plate, I do think there’s more than meets the eye. Role models, mentors, and networks play a role there as well.

        • http://www.noizivy.org NZN

          @Elizabeth and @Eileen I think it’s great that you are discussing this issue. As with most things, there is likely not one issue to resolve in finding an answer to the need/opportunity/problem presented in this article. Exploring all of the issues surrounding the presence of women in tech innovation circles is valuable. In that spirit, I ask this:

          Where do you see innovation from women fitting in? I mean, it seems historically obvious that most of the “innovative” work done by women has happened within the home and family. As women have stepped more and more prolifically into the professional world historically dominated by men, they have carved out spaces and roles within those places. However, where are the women-based innovations and environments?

          Take a few examples; womens sports have followed paths that men’s sport innovators created… be it basketball, snowboarding, etc… where are the women innovators in sports? Obviously, women love sports too, so where are the sports created by women for women?

          Tech; is the GUI or architecture of our most innovative tech platforms optimized from the perspective of women? Will we see women innovators introduce new and novel ways of interacting with databases or social networks that are more inherently agreeable to the unique ways that women process and use information? Will a women “Steve Jobs” emerge to introduce a new computing paradigm?

          These are great times to challenge women, young and old, to explore all possibilities… both new and untested and off-shoots of tried and true ideas. We can only be made stronger by their contributions.

        • Manu

          Really insightful point, Elizabeth. From my experience growing up, most of the girls I knew who were interested in the sciences / engineering abandoned this interest in their teenage years. I think it has something to do with the portrayal of how a guy / girl should behave in our popular culture. Incidentally, the few girls I knew who did stay in techie fields were gamers — so they were more entrenched into the geek culture than some other girls.

          I agree with Eileen that it’s at least partly a supply-side issue. However, the reason for the supply side issue may be a culture that is uncomfortable for girls earlier in their careers — in high school and college. I think additional female mentors for girls, as well as attempts to change our popular perception of and associations with technology, will go a long way. That said, I think it’s starting to change — in the last five years, especially with social networking, technology is starting to be cool in the mainstream sense.

        • http://learningtree.com Deanna McNeil

          I am working hard to set up networking events here in Washington DC for young girls because from what I have learned, if you don’t reach a girl between the ages of 10-13, you risk their maintaining confidence to carry on in tech…it’s just not “cool” for girls and society exerts strong influence to move into the natural sciences instead for example.

          Please, any support of these efforts is deeply welcome and needed. Just like a young boy is deeply influenced by the men in his life, so too with girls, they need female role models. Come join us in that effort.

        • laura

          I have never heard a woman in tech say she did not receive something because she is a woman. Can you provide some examples of this, as it seems to be your primary reason for the dearth of women in tech?

          That doesn’t make up for what has been already mentioned; the wage gap, the difference in treatment, a less prominent mentor network.

          How many women are you mentoring? I look forward to reading how you are contributing to solutions to this issue – tangible contributions, rather than just claiming women blame their gender.

        • http://twitter.com/eileentso Eileen Burbidge

          @Laura: Thanks for your comment, but just to double-check: Was your question directed at me or one of the commenters?

          “I have never heard a woman in tech say she did not receive something because she is a woman. Can you provide some examples of this, as it seems to be your primary reason for the dearth of women in tech?”

          While I have heard of women saying this, I agree with you that I’ve never heard it firsthand (and it doesn’t represent my experience nor that of female friends and colleagues) — which is *precisely* the point of my post! I wrote this in response to quite a few other articles I’ve read over the past month or so “blaming” the issue on a systemic issue or bias against women, men who weren’t paying enough attention to hiring women or other such reasons — blaming and in my view complaining about things.

          I definitely regret if this did not come out clearly in my post. And regarding the “dearth” of women in tech, the point of my next/upcoming post will be that I really do believe tech is better [relatively speaking] than other industries. Perhaps my Introduction/post (on my own blog) will help clarify: http://catalyses.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/the-woman-thing-introduction/

          Thanks again, Eileen!

        • http://www.derekscruggs.com Derek Scruggs

          I’ve never heard a woman say this to me about her own career, but several women told me they though Carly Fiorina would’ve kept her job at HP if she had been a man.

        • http://www.clickstosite.com Julie Albaugh

          I will tell a couple of stories about cable TV employees. A cable man came to my house while my husband was at home. He asked my husband who had connected all the audio visual equipment? My husband told him that my wife did and the cable man didn’t believe him. I met a lady cable installer who had some serious issues with men. She told me that men would sometimes refuse her services because they did not want a women touching their cable equipment. Amazing!!!

        • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

          Who says the youngsters seek out the mentors? It’s often the other way around.

          I’ve never sought out a mentor, but I do have one. He was impressed enough by me when we met at a hacker con to declare himself my mentor and start inviting me to events where I could network and make sure I got introduced to all the right people.

          On the other hand, I completely understand any young woman who does not want to go to a hacker con in the hopes of making friends with an older person who wants to take them under their wings. Hacker cons are not often woman-friendly. If I hadn’t had friends to attend that con with (because no, I would not attend a con alone, thanks), I wouldn’t know my current mentor.

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    • Ben

      “has held senior leadership roles at Yahoo!, Skype, PalmSource, Openwave, Sun Microsystems, Apple and Verizon Wireless”

      So, she can’t keep a stable job, huh? It’s nice to have experience, but probably not too helpful to have worked everywhere already.

      • Meg

        @Ben – If you think having multiple leadership roles at different companies in the tech field is a detriment or a “lack of a stable job”, you clearly don’t understand the nature of working in this industry,

    • http://thenextwomen.com Simone Brummelhuis

      In order to encourage more women into tech- startups, we have started to do a couple of things:
      1. organize female dragon’s den, everybody can pitch, there is no editorial review, the aim is to start expanding one’s network with investors and practice your pitch. Usually we have about 20 female startups who want to pitch, we take the 10 on first come first serve.
      2. mentoring programme, we have gathered 20 serial entrepreneurs and experts to mentor female startups. We launched this 1 month ago and have already 30 applications. There is obviously an need.
      3. Kitchen dinners and other networking events, in which women connect with other startups and experienced entrepreneurs to catch up on how they got funding etc.

      Next thing we aim to do is to help women startups with finding team members, as in their natural network it is very hard to find team members.

      On the editorial side, we try to portrait as many women startups as possible, in order to show that there are many capable women startups out there.

      Women tend to start their companies when they are in their 30’s, so an event in the weekend with 1 day notice is not ideal…, but Eileen next time call me and I am happy to team up.

      • http://www.talksocialnetwokring.com Tiffany Odutoye (oh-do-toy)

        In reply to Simone Brummelhuis …

        Appreciate your comments and actually facilitating what women need to move ahead and advance their tech creativity.

        I’d like to talk with you about what you’re doing. I’m the Managing Director for Columbus Chapter of Girls in Tech – (http://www.girlsintech.net). We’re building programming to inspire young women to enter the tech industry, and to help women already in tech rise to a more visible leadership role in tech. Please friend me on facebook [tiffany odutoye].

        An aside observation/recent experience, I just pitched at Start Up Weekend here in Columbus, OH. My idea was well received, and selected as a final product for prototyping, BUT we had no other tech talent on the team. The developers, coders, designers, and software architects all migrated to “male led” teams. The two IT guys were analysts. Great for support, and we appreciated them. The other male on the team was a business coach. Again, great support.

        My point, no female techies in the room to choose from, and the guys wanted to be on the “beer app” development. Very interesting.

        Anyway, I think there is a dynamic here to be addressed, and it’s not about women wanting something handed to them on a platter.

        Let’s talk when you can.
        Tiffany O.
        @virtualpartner @gitcolumbus

    • shalini

      very interesting discussion :)….i am not from tech b/g though have worked in tech companies as a PR executive for the last 15 years till I got on my own 18 months back to work with/ for lesser known brands and start-ups….I have only one client which is run by a woman founder….well, all my clients are an amazing bunch and great minds..but this lady founder is a ball of fire and super passionate about what she does. As mentioned in the article it would be very easy to pitch her to the media because she is a woman, but she does not want that..it is her work and her products that she wants to talk about…the lady founder is an engineer by education who worked for as a software programmer for a bit before she founded her company selling retail products and services for women – her keenness for fabric technology lead her in this direction.

      I have another client who is a fire brand woman and is a global president and founder of a tech company who once again is a joy to work with….

      But it is true there are very few women and all there can be counted on their finger tips.

    • Jonathan

      And maybe men need all the jobs they can get right now, and should be subsidized the way women are. Because it is, after all, men who are suffering radically more in this economic mess when it comes to unemployment, and who are year after year falling further behind in college education rates.

      Nobody gives a shit about any of that of course. Let’s keep swinging the pendulum to the extreme until men have absolutely no jobs at all.

      I’ve never repressed any women, and I shouldn’t have to be forced to pay for their subsidization accordingly. If women are graduating at high rates compared to men, but are not pursuing tech careers by their own choosing, well boo freakin hoo.

      • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

        Maybe the reason more men are being laid off in the economic crisis is that women are cheap labour, what with being paid only 3/4 of what men are and all.

        • Barry O

          First US businesses used slave labor. This is called cheapest.

          Then US businesses used child labor. This is called cheap.

          Then US businesses used asian immigrants. This is called still cheap.

          Then US businesses used former housewives and housewives to be. This was not so cheap.

          Then US businesses used mexican immigrants. This is turning out to be more expensive than anyone thought.

      • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

        You know something really insidious? Telling women “you only got this job because you’re female.” Any idea how bad that hurts self-esteem? It gets in your head if you hear it enough. You start thinking “maybe I’m not actually any good at this. Maybe I shouldn’t be in this field. Maybe I should do everyone a favour and GTFO. I don’t belong here. I should go be a teacher instead. I’m not any good at this anyway, just wasting other people’s time.”

        You might actually be really good at what you do and a very valuable asset, but that Impostor Syndrome… That’ll easily lead to leaving the field. I fight with it a lot. I look at developers I know who’ve been doing this stuff since I was learning to read, and I go “I’ll never be that good, why bother?” and then I think about what I should do instead of tech. It’s the people who occasionally thank me for the solution I’ve just given them to their problem who keep me in this field. Them, and the people like the guy last night (whose knowledge of systems I find, frankly, scary) who told me feeling like a noob is no reason not to apply for a job working on the Linux kernel as the secret is, we’re all noobs, including him.

        • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

          Dang, that was supposed to go at the end of the comments. That’s what I get for reusing forms.

    • http://www.mackenty.org Bill MacKenty

      Hello Eileen!

      I work in a school for gifted students in New York City. In the process of helping young geeks into technology / compsci trajectories, I welcome everyone who comes to my room with questions.

      I currently have two 16 year old girls who are promising. I have to admit, I spend more time with them than my boys because I really want them to develop, and I want to “do my part” to balance the problem we have of no women in tech.

      I have found though, the way I talk to them is different than the boys. When boys come in, the conversation is highly directed and focused. We were talking about mutex’s a few days ago – there was no nicety or fluff, the conversation was about the utility of mutex’s, how to implement them, and how to measure them.

      When the girls come in, though, there is a more holistic conversation first. So the two girls come in and we talk for a few minutes about life, the universe and everything, and then settle into how to replicate mysql databases.

      I’m curious to hear your thoughts. How can I as a “developer of young geeks” encourage girls to move into this field. I’m genuinely interested in doing a better job.

      • POE

        Bill’s experience with how his female students relate to technology versus males agrees with my own observations being an developer and analyst for over 20 years. Many women want something more social/interactive/right-brain’ed than hard, cold, logic technology. A female friend majored in chemical engineering, spent a few years on the plant floor, but jumped at chance to join sales group. (and I can think of plenty of other examples…)

        • Anon

          Any dynamic, social individual prefers that: male or female. If there are more women, mightn’t it have something do with the way that women are encouraged to be collaborative & interactive by their culture?

          Men are hardly exempt from the desire. Which you thankfully mentioned.

          I’ve been working in web dev 2 years now. And I’ve found myself saying, “I want more variety. I want to talk to people more. I want to be on my feet. I want to collaborate.”

          I’m actively seeking ways to do that. But I’m an introspective loner! It’s weird to feel a yearning for more social & dynamic work. Yet I remind myself it’s not just this uncharacteristic desire: I’m not getting ahead by hacking away in front of a computer screen. So a different tactic seems called for. In addition to the fact that my head feels stuffed full of cotton by the end of each day. Yet I wouldn’t want to ever give up web dev entirely. I enjoy it.

          It’s just something that’s really … mind-numbing … to do for 8 hours a day 40 hours a week.

          Plus, the next-lowest-paid guy here makes twice as much as I do.

    • http://youtube.com/igebadia igebadia

      I prefer women developers… just nicer

      • Mark

        Nicer? What’s that got to do with business? This isn’t a social club we’re talking about here.

        • http://www.derekscruggs.com Derek Scruggs

          Yeah, because we all want to spend 1/3 of our lives around people who are assholes.

    • http://condiminds.tumblr.com/ Lucila

      Great post and comments! I think it is a very common subject worldwide, I’m from Argentina and women here are rising over the tech industry. I know a lot of entrepeneurs ladies, I think thats how we fight against the problems of getting hired by a company full of men. I have my own company with a partner (a girl also) and we find this path a great option of getting ourselves heard. ;)
      I strongly recommend that for all of you who know you can say more than what you are allowed to.

    • Ciara

      As a woman who has also worked in technology for my whole career, I know that this is a complex issue with many aspects and I’ve also written about how to increase the supply

      But to address your points on supply and visibility.. There are very different proportions of women in technical careers in different countries. For example in Ireland where I am from, one 3rd of the technical staff at my last company were female while in the Netherlands where I work now I have yet to meet a female, dutch developer. What this tells you is that the image of the tech industry and what is considered to be a desirable career for a woman in that country is really important => environment matters. Kids are not stupid. They will want to get into careers which society seems to reward (and those careers are still sometimes different for men and women). Who wanted to be a banker straight after the financial crash?

      On visibility it can be a great advantage to be more visible when you are promoting a new company or trying to pitch a product. It’s not so great when you are the first woman who has ever worked in a particular dev team and they really don’t know what to make of you.

      • Mark

        Ciara, also to your point, not every country encourages women to enter the business world, on any level. Can you imagine how difficult it would be for a young woman in Iran, for example, to pursue a career such as yours.

      • Mark

        I’ve been in business, in several different forms, for almost forty years. Here’s my advice, and I give it to men as well: Be careful of what you wish for.
        I had a heart attack in my 30’s, several ulcers, and two failed marriages because of the world of business. It is not for the faint of heart, and it isn’t a game.
        The climb up the ‘corporate ladder’ is already crowded with people wanting the same thing, and more than willing to knock you off. If you think that engineering, or Master’s gives you more of a right to be promoted faster; think again. It got you in the door… the rest of the climb will be up to you.
        I have three daughters, all engineers, and they’ve told me this: The ‘glass ceiling’ is a crock. It’s an excuse for not working hard. If you haven’t been promoted, it’s your fault.
        Welcome to the world of business, ladies. You can have it.

      • Russ

        China and Korea both seem to have a higher % of females in tech. No?

        • Barry O

          Well. China exterminated of an entire generation of academics under the orders of primary-school dropout MAO — who the US installed and supported in order to devastate China and turn progress back 100 years, much like the British did to China with opium.

        • MBiswas

          Actually, they supported the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-Shek, who was forced to flee China and whom ended up in Taiwan.

        • Barry O

          Is that what you read in your junior high school textbook? Well. It’s wrong. The US Government supported MAO and Chiang Kai Shek had to flee.

          That’s a fact jack. And your pretty little diploma is nuttin but a piece of paper.

    • JohnRiccardi

      Great post Eileen, I agree 100%.

    • http://CityandOut AndreaF

      Historically, in many different sectors, men have started and women have followed; in some sectors it’s the other way around. There are many historical and cultural reasons for this. So, I don’t see this as an issue. Tech Startups (I believe this is what we are talking about) are still a relatively young sector so we are still moving the first steps, especially in Europe and typically those first steps are made primarily by men with some very notable exceptions.
      Eileen, I agree with you that women should not worry or complain about it, but just go for it if they believe in it.
      These things take time and evolve naturally. They don’t work if you force them.
      I was at Geek’n Rolla too and I noticed there were many more women than in prior events so things are clearly changing, naturally, as they should.

    • Brian

      “I’m quite certain that each one of them (or at least most of them) are acutely aware whenever there is a woman in the office. Full stop.”

      I’m not sure what the author is trying to get at here. Is it that women generally look different than men? Is it that women generally interact differently than men? Is it something to do with opposite gender attraction? As a person who values peoples intellectual contribution and as gay man, I really hope it is not the last statement.

    • Matt Fielding

      My experience in the past 11 years as an entrepreneur in San Francisco and New York with 6 successful IT/Internet companies is that, with very, very few exceptions and although they have tried, women did not advance in their careers. This is certainly a complex issue and I will have to say that it happened more because of individual reasons and situations rather than the convenient excuse of a “glass ceiling” or the lack of “mentors.”
      Smart male or female mentors and managers who work very hard to make the company move forward, would never favor an employee, male or female, who is not focused, has to leave by 6:00 PM because of [fill the blank] would not produce at the level of co-workers, who, for instance, would stay on and work on an essential project until 4:00 AM in order to meet a deadline, etc.
      This is the reality. Business is a very competitive and, yes, cutthroat exercise, because the goal is success, power and money. Valuable employees are often compared to “warriors,” with good reasons. As far as I know, and if they ever existed, an army of women has never won anything. Please correct me if I am mistaken.
      Now, if you want to apply the hypocritical and false concepts of “political correctness” and promote women, “just because,” failure will be part of any company’s future.

      • Chris Bissell

        What a one dimensional view of business.

        For many people the goal of business is not “success, power and money”, but creating something sustainable to help build the community. What happened to the ideals of “It’s a Wonderful Life?” where the ideal businessperson is a community leader first and a ruthless competitor second? If that employee is working until 4 AM, where are their kids? If they don’t have kids, why aren’t they doing volunteer work? Without a healthy human community, there is no business.

        Business is more about the occupation than the battle. It’s about making something that can last. For that to happen, a healthy business needs to be a community, staffed with a good mixture of people–the “charge ahead at any cost” types, yes, but also the “hey, buddy, you’re working too hard, think about keeping this thing stable” types, and the “Alpha Type A and Alpha Type B aren’t working well together because they keep bashing eachothers’ skulls in with crudely fashioned clubs, let me figure out how to help them communicate so we can get this project done” types.

        Sure, a cutthroat ideal and working 24/7 might get you a cut above the others, and allow you to vanquish your competitors and stand proud atop a pyramid of skulls, but even if that motivates you that doesn’t motivate everyone else :).

        • Mark

          You’re quite obviously speaking about a non-profit business model, aren’t you?

      • Brad

        “Smart male or female mentors and managers who work very hard to make the company move forward, would never favor an employee, male or female, who is not focused, has to leave by 6:00 PM because of [fill the blank] would not produce at the level of co-workers, who, for instance, would stay on and work on an essential project until 4:00 AM in order to meet a deadline, etc.”

        Right because no one stabs a co-worker in the back to get ahead in business because that would be bad for the company as a whole. Never mind that I can make $200k by doing so.

        Beside that you have completely failed to account for unconscious bias. I have seen men go tooth and nail at each other over a technical issue then go out for a beer that night laughing. But if a woman does the same thing, they most certainly don’t get viewed the same way. We can say well men dominate the field so everyone has to play by those rules but frankly I’m no longer convinced those rules are even make the best teams or companies.

    • http://www.violetminded.com Amanda Farough

      Great article. This is something that’s near and dear to my heart. Background in Computer Science & Interactive Design aside, I’ve spent many a year putting on events to bring more technology job awareness to teenage girls. Part of the problem is that they’re just not aware that there are other jobs in the high-tech sector outside of programming and network admin.

      Another problem is that there just isn’t a lot of interest. From my experience in talking to these girls, they are looking at technology as a realm for the lads and the geeks, not for women folk. It’s definitely a preconception that we ladies in tech have to work towards busting wide open. Sure, it helps to be a geek but it’s not a prerequisite.

      Hopefully, once we start bringing some more awareness to high-tech, the veil will be lifted, so to speak. We’ll be able to attract more young women out of university because working in high-tech won’t seem as intimidating or, dare I say it, downright frightening.

      Finally, cutting the patronizing is a great way to attract brilliant minds of both genders. Don’t patronize the women. Don’t patronize the men. Just don’t bloody well patronize. Give credit where credit is due. ‘Nuff said.

      • Hanna

        Bravo! An then we will all be happy and hop hand in hand towards the rainbow…

        • Mark

          Group hug, everybody…

        • Eww...

          You must be gay!

      • POE

        “Another problem is that there just isn’t a lot of interest. ”

        Many of the professional women I know in tech companies and in other professions (law, medicine) , told me that they like “using technology” but not “studying/creating” it. My wife can spend hours on Facebook contacting friends, but has no interest in the technology behind the product. All her brothers went into engineering careers — they like building things, but she wanted to interact with people so she opted for medical school.

        • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

          I wonder how much the toys they were given as kids influenced that. Barbie dolls that don’t come apart and can just be moved around versus erector sets. Yay, gender socialisation of play!

        • Matthew

          You’ve been going on about the toys that children are exposed to by their parents. One thing is gender equality, another is gender neutrality… this loose belief that the slate is blank from the outset is something I’m not sure anyone should subscribe to.

    • http://www.stillman-consulting.com Martin Stillman-Jones

      I felt “lifted” when I read Eileens article this morning and congratulate both her and Mike for raising and promoting this area of discussion. It’s critical for us to harness women in business and technology is no different. Attitudes are changing – too slowly, but they are.

      This isn’t an issue relating to this industry in particular, where I Mentor a number of women in industry and education. In education I Mentor a Headmistress of a quite famous school where her student body (all girls) are encouraged to recognise that they can do ANYTHING a man can do…..and often times, do it better. It depends on the type of skills required of that task, not the gender of the person tasked with completion.

      All of you comment on the bias (prejudice!) that remains. It is plainly crazy that we don’t harness both male and female skill sets, as each others brains ARE different so the approaches and solutions can be quite different.

      One can add value to the other for competitive advantage and commercial gain. So it’s simply stupid not to harness women as well as men in this area (or any other for that matter).

      Education and persistence over time, will help pave the way for greater understanding from men too ignorant to see the benefits that women can bring to businesses of all types.

      In the mean time, I suggest loading the dice in your favour and as some have already said; take on a MALE Mentor. This way, you get all the advantages you bring to business due to the differences in the way you approach matters (I do believe we originate from different planets!!) plus the advantage from a Mentor who will better understand male reactions to your ideas and approaches.

      Is this right? Probably not – the bias (prejudice) shouldn’t exist, but it does. Over time it’s changing but we need your skills NOW. So work “with” the system and change it from within. Accept but resist and change what’s wrong, but be a player because you can’t change things from the sidelines!

    • bravo

      Well done Eileen for taking on this tough subject, and calling it like it is. I have heard much on this subject from the academics who keep “delving” into the deep rooted causes for what they consider the unfair results of women not holding particular jobs. At the end of the day, men and women will succeed by focusing on doing what they can TODAY for their success, and the success of their employers. This actually works. However, when MEN OR WOMEN focus on how much they should have if only life were fair, they demonstrate immediately their inadequacy for the job! Imagine running a business, or even more-so, writing code with the perspective of the social injustices that are causing things to not work. Great business leaders, and great engineers look at the situation, and act in the way that will drive results.

      Just do it.

      By the way, anybody been to primary school lately? it is female dominated and focused on educating women. This argument will be the same, with genders switched in about 15 years.

    • Ann

      Excellent, insightful post! I’ve worked in tech for twenty years and know (and learn from) lots of talented male geeks – my own mentors all happen to be men I worked with at startups. I also know a few women who have highly successful tech careers (i.e. they are Distinguished Engineers in their firms, asked to serve on standards committees, write technical books, etc.) The above-mentioned women are not discriminated against, they are both admired and feared (in the competitive world of ideas) by their male cohorts. They are counterexamples to the idea that women cannot succeed as super geeks.

      I want to ask the following question about the alleged ‘gender gap’ and what it might mean.

      How do percentages play out? If you have 100 women pitching to VC or others and only 1 gets a ‘hit’, you have 1 percent success rate. You also have 1 percent success rate when 100 men out of 10,000 pitching get ‘hits’. Has anyone really tried to look at the actual percentages in this area? IF the percentages are about the same, then 9,900 guys are getting turned down for every 99 women turned down.

      • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

        The recent discussion of VCs and percentages has been around there being (example, I don’t have the numbers on hand)… say 40% women and 60% men pitching startup ideas. You’d think roughly 40% of the VC offers would go to women and roughly 60% to men (or 30/70 or 50/50 depending on your sampling pool of ideas). Instead, like 10% of offers go to women and 90% to men.

        Now, you *could* say “well, maybe women just have sucky ideas and men have great ideas,” but that sounds a bit unlikely to me. “This person reminds me of me in a way I just can’t put my finger on…I’ll give them money!” sounds a bit more likely. And that way they can’t put their finger on? Well… I’ll let you fill that in ;-)

        • Peter

          OH, so now VCs must give their money equally to both genders?

          I don’t know about you, but wouldn’t it make more sense to put your money somewhere it can benefit you?

          If you were a VC, would you pick a man over a woman when you’re sure the woman’s idea is more viable?

        • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

          Uh, no, equal money to both genders would be 50% to men, 50% to women, regardless how many of them there are. I’m talking about proportionate allocation.

        • Matthew

          again, not premised on any profound insight, but on some sweeping generalisation of how systems should look. if you applied this grande notion of proportionate funding to everything you’d find that several things would tilt back heavily in favor of men… an example would be… several colleges across the US have to impose this bizarre 50/50, male/female split of funds allocated toward teams… that is, for every male, university funded team, there needs to be its equivalent female funded team. if we went off proportions, though you’d have an incredibly skewed funding scheme in favor of men. if you applied this proportional idea to, say, audience numbers – again, you’d find that few people attend female matches… and so on…

    • t trent gegax

      random comment/observation/proof of step-uppedness: @jessicajackley

    • Siri Uppalapati

      Great Post! I completely agree with you Eileen. I personally feel most comfortable in an environment where I’m treated as equal rather than patornized.
      I also feel that women are in general more risk averse than men. I think that’s why the ratio keeps getting thinner as you go from engineer to enterprenuer.

    • Megan

      “Within tech, I don’t think we need to give more women a chance; I think we need to tell more women to go for it — if they want it.”
      Really? hmm it’s probably a little bit of both.

    • http://layar.com Claire Boonstra (Layar)

      Djeez, ladies. It still is a big discussion point – apparently. Where I feel things are really moving in the right direction – if I look at my own experience and how things are going in our company. Maybe it helps you all seeing ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ :-)

      – Claire Boonstra, aged 34, mother of a baby boy (14 months old). Engaded to Arnold and will get married in September.

      – I’m co-founder of Layar (the world’s leading Augmented Reality platform and browser)

      – Nearly 1/3 of our company (now 32 employees; company founded June 2009) is female! Our lead developer is a lady and we have another female coder. Plus a female UX specialist, community manager, analyst, tech developer support – amongst others.

      – Obviously there is no salary issue in our company. Women, men, gay, straight, religions etc: everybody is hired and paid according to their qualities.

      – All three Layar founders now have young kids (aged 0 to 6), so do some other members of our management team. All of us with kids (including the men!) leave the office at 5pm to pick up the kids from daycare, and then feed, bathe, read them a book etc. After 8pm we are all back online and work until late. We could not be ‘in balance’ (and be so successful) without seeing our kids.

      – Thanks (!) to the fact that I am one of the very few women in tech, I am being asked on way too many stages, panels, ThinkTanks etc. There’s no way I can attend all of them – I would not have time to work anymore if I would. So I’m really benefiting from being an ‘exception’.

      – I have been nominated as one of the “most influential women in tech” already by three organizations: Laptopmag, FastCompany and Women 2.0. And we only started the company 10 months ago.

      – I really believe that the coming century will be that of the women. Listen to Bruce Sterling’s keynote about ‘the dawn of the Augmented Reality industry’: http://site.layar.com/company/blog/video-bruce-sterlings-keynote-at-the-dawn-of-the-augmented-reality-industry/
      Really inspiring video! Bruce is talking about the new era being that of the ‘hot Augmented Reality chicks’ (yes, in the positive way). ‘The new chique’ compared to ‘web 2.0’.

      – And yes, I have a background in tech. I hold an MSc in Civil Engineering (from Delft University of Technology). I believe 1 out of 7 or sometimes 1 out of 15 students were women on our University.

      – I love working in a more male oriented environment. A lot less whining and gossiping :-)

      – When I go to a big event and/ or have to present on stage, I always make sure I wear a dress and high heels. Or at least that I am ‘chique’. And I love it when the entire audience consists of men in grey suits and I’m wearing a nice dress. I know that I will be judged on my story and vision (not on my looks) – but it is also nice to know that bad clothing won’t take away my self-confidence.

      – Yes, I am the ‘communicator’ of the team. I connect people, and I genuinely care about our employees and all those amazingly great Layar developers out there. We have a great balance.

      – So let’s just stop complaining. There’s work to do. And no worries – the 21st century will be ‘our’ century. There’s no way the ‘male only’ way of working will last. It’s all about balance!

      • Barry O

        Thank you for sharing. I’ll have to try that high-heel thing…

    • Jaxon Triggs

      This article is one of the best I have ever read on this Blog. Its SO beaten to death as a topic that there are no women in tech, and that it is often implied that some male conspiracy old-boys club is to blame.

      Fact is the reality is exactly as portrayed in this post, that there are simply not enough women who are even trying. And are they driving to be as competitive as they can be? I don’t know, but I do know women get lots of interest from employers and teams, enough that it gives them a decisive ADVANTAGE when applying for tech jobs, but there simply aren’t enough of them. not even close.

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