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Keen On… Hacking Gender: How Women In Silicon Valley Can Become Jane Bond

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Despite incremental improvements, the gender bias issue in Silicon Valley remains an important one — and one that could benefit from special attention. Earlier this month, Y Combinator’s Jessica Livingston announced that the Silicon Valley startup incubator would be putting on a conference dedicated especially to female founders. And along similar lines, I produced a sold-out event last week at the San Francisco office of BloombergBETA entitled Hacking Gender.

One my panelists was the very successful writer, social media guru and public speaker Nilofer Merchant whose email signature line says: “Sent. By. Bond. Jane Bond, that is”. So I asked Merchant how all women in the Valley can, like her, become Jane Bond and overcome bias.

“Have grit,” she advises. And “perseverance”. What women (and men) need to understand, she says, is that “bias exists.” It’s ingrained in Silicon Valley and results in women not being seen by men. And so they don’t get jobs or investments or leadership roles.

But Merchant does see things improving. While she thinks that Graham needs to admit he’s biased, she is much more positive about Marc Andreessen’s recent confession on Twitter that only 11% of his followers are women. That’s how you hack gender, Merchant says, by acknowledging the problem, talking about it publicly and then trying to fix it.