Media Coverage of Women in Tech – #choosepossibility

May 14, 2015 Entrepreneurship, Female investors, Startups, Technology, Women in Business

Last month, I participated on a panel at The Milken Institute Global Summit (watch it here) where the moderator asked if the recent attention on the low numbers of women in technology and investing was a good or bad thing.  Both Melody McClosky, founder of StyleSeat, and I agreed that, although the spotlight is mostly a good thing, we would both like to see less articles bemoaning the stats/struggles and more articles highlighting people/organizations making impactful changes towards creating more diversity. In addition, we would like to see more articles featuring the women leaders of today. There is nothing more impactful than young women seeing female leaders on the covers of magazines so they think “I can do that / I want to do that!”

I gave the example of Lynda.com, which was a “unicorn” level exit of a Southern California company founded by a woman (appropriately named Lynda;).  Her story is a terrific one.  A woman who taught herself computer skills and became very adept at web design.  The earliest version of Lynda.com focused on teaching design classes and then grew into a site offering hundreds of web, creative and business courses online – in multiple languages.  Lynda.com was really at the forefront of EdTech before we were even calling it EdTech.  But I didn’t see much press about Lynda upon the $1.5B purchase of her company by LinkedIn.  And I certainly didn’t see her on any magazine covers. I can’t help but think Lynda had two strikes against her: 1) she is a woman and 2) she is in her sixties.  The poster child for the tech scene is a white millenial male in a hoodie (a la Mark Zuckerberg), and Lynda didn’t fit the bill.  Seeing is believing and one cannot underscore the impact that stories like Lynda’s can have on our young women. IMHO the media should make a concerted effort to feature the stories of founders and investors that represent diversity of all kinds.

I am hoping that with the numerous articles over the past 12 months highlighting the stats we all know too well – just 2.9% of startup CEOs are women, just 6% (and by some accounts 4%) of partners at VCs are women – we are now moving into a period where more articles are discussing actual ideas and tactics for entrepreneurs, investors and companies to help improve diversity in the technology/startup ecosystem.

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I have come across three such articles in just the last week.

1)  Kudos to Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, founder of Joyus, for posting a letter on ReCode which includes survey results from 200+ top female founders. It also provides a great list of ideas for increasing the rate of progress for women in tech entrepreneurship, stating “some ideas will succeed, others will fail, but we know that iteration matters in building momentum behind any large vision.” Her letter was signed by many top women in the tech ecosystem.  A big thank you to all of them!

Her list of excellent action items is below.  Be sure to check out the full article here.

*Entrepreneurs seeking to enhance their startup’s performance can choose today to add their first qualified female board member or investor. Diverse thinking can benefit private tech boards potentially even more than public ones, and there is no reason to wait.

*Startups seeking to attract women could choose today to create best practices in the areas of family planning and leave policies early and proactively. We can make this as easily understood as cap tables and free lunch programs among first-time founders.

*Venture capitalists (and their LPs) looking to understand their own biases and also their progress could choose today to track female versus male stats (pitched to funded) in their deal pipeline, and even publish it proactively.

*Venture capitalists seeking to attract the best entrepreneurs could choose today to be explicit in their term sheets on their own zero-tolerance policies for sexual harassment and other discrimination, as well as demanding the same of their portfolio companies. This is a simple signal, and it goes a long way to both genders of top-tier entrepreneurs.

*Investors and board members looking to grow the best companies can choose today to vigilantly treat female founders and CEOs with the same level of candor, directness, expectation and measurement that they would any other CEO or founder, rather than operating from a latent fear of “female emotion.”

*Women who are starting or working in a tech company can choose today to oversell their vision rather than underselling themselves, as they are competing for resources and mindshare with people who pitch big ideas.

2) Two amazing tech reporters at The LA Times (both women) then did a follow up story about the above letter (read here).  The below echoes my thoughts precisely.

“There are lots of women rising and succeeding in technology,” said Ruzwana Bashir, CEO of Peek, who co-signed the letter. “Instead of saying the challenges they face are insurmountable, why not focus on the women who have succeeded and understand what they did so we can have more people succeed?”

3) And this piece on Pandodaily is the type of story I really love to see.  It features a badass woman I had never heard of – CyPhy Works CEO Helen Greiner – along with the title “First Lady of Robots.”  I want every young woman out there to learn about this woman!

“I saw Star Wars when I was eleven and I wanted to build robots ever since. So I really went to MIT to learn robots, and I learned a lot of great things there. But it turned out, at the time, they really didn’t know how to build robots so I had to start a company to do that.”

I truly hope that these recent articles are an indication that we have turned the corner from focusing on the negative (like the article titled “How Companies Crush Womens’ Ambitions” in NYMag.com) to highlighting the positive and the possible. Discussions about proactive ways to improve diversity and articles/covers featuring the successes of not just women, but anyone who does not look like the poster child of tech, are the way to truly impact change.  I am optimistic we are moving in that direction:) #changetheratio #choosepossibility #choosepositivity

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The Year of the Woman at Milken Institutes Global Summit

April 29, 2015 Business, Female investors, Investing, Women in Business

Kudos to the Milken Institute for putting on an amazing Global Summit this year.  Yes, they do a great job every year, but this year was special.  They chose to place an emphasis on girls and women, both in their programming and in their attendance.  30% of the attendees were women this year, a significant increase from prior years.  Day 2 of the conference was particularly impactful as the lunch program (which everyone attends) was a 2 hour program that featured Patricia Arquette speaking about pay equality, Frida Pinto discussing how to help advance young women in India, and Willow Bay moderating a panel called “What Would You Do to Make the World Better for Women and Girls? A Conversation and Call to Action”.

I was honored to be on a panel alongside a handful of powerhouse women called “Women Challenging the Status Quo.”  Check out the video below:

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RIP Muriel Siebert / Women For Change

August 27, 2013 Startups, Technology, Women in Business

My first job was as an investment banker. Yes, I wore banker blue Brooks Brothers suits for 2 years (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone;). This was longer ago than I’d like to admit. There were few women in finance, but the numbers seemed to be growing. Back then, there were a select handful of Wall Street women at the forefront, in senior roles paving the way for the rest of us. Muriel Siebert, who passed away at age 84 yesterday, was one of the few, and she was truly a pioneer. She was the first woman to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, having been admitted in 1963. I had the pleasure of meeting her once. She was whipsmart and a force for change and good.

muriel

Unfortunately, change in the finance industry has happened much slower than either Muriel, myself or womankind would like or expect. Rachel Sklar wrote an amazing piece on this yesterday that inspired me to share my own thoughts here. Rachel’s piece included the below Siebert quote:

“Firms are doing what they have to do, legally,” she said. “But women are coming into Wall Street in large numbers — and they still are not making partner and are not getting into the positions that lead to the executive suites. There’s still an old-boy network. You just have to keep fighting.”

Muriel said this in 1992, nearly 30 years after securing her NYSE seat. I feel like this quote could have just as easily come out of my mouth in 1999. And I, sadly, have the feeling that some form of this quote is still being uttered by women up and down Wall Street today.

So what’s going on here? Where is the change? Where is the acceptance/acknowledgement that women, who are graduating college at higher rates than men, are more than qualified to make it to the senior ranks? And, of course, that women are worthy of, and deserve, equal pay. It turns out that change, on a societal scale, happens slowly. This is not just evidenced by gender issues, but also that of race and sexual preference.

It is sad, but true, that women in finance (and tech and government and lots of other industries) often have to work twice as hard as men, and still don’t achieve the same title/responsibility/pay. It is also sad, but true, that when women write about it, men often quip that we are having a pity party (as evidenced by several ridiculous comments by men that appear below Rachel’s article). But, as Muriel stated, “we must keep fighting.” Be a “Doer”, as actions speak louder than words. Take charge, push through the bullshit, and become whatever your version of Muriel Siebert or Hillary Clinton or Marissa Mayer looks like.

This is why I am 110% in support of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” initiative. I don’t agree with everything Sheryl says or writes, but I am in full support of a resurgence of the Feminist Movement. And for those of you that don’t like the word Feminist, call it whatever you want. The word is less important than the belief and the action and the coming together of women to help and support each other and our own cause. Ladies, lets keep fighting to be the change we wish to see in our industries – and the world.

Learn more about Muriel Siebert here.
Read Rachel’s post here.

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The One Book Every Entrpreneur MUST Own

August 25, 2013 Books, Business Development, Startups, Technology, Venture Capital

Business Model Generation is the book I refer to as “The Entrepreneur’s Bible”. I have one at home and one at work. If you don’t have this book, buy it HERE NOW. Along with a terrific Website, the brilliant BMG folks have recently released a new “toolbox” called The Strategyzer that helps you build a better business model. Check it out HERE. Trust me, you will thank me later for this tip;)

BMG

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Team Marissa

August 24, 2013 Internet, Technology, Women in Business

In case you have been living under a rock (or perhaps you’re on vacation? which likely means you do not work for a startup;), I wanted to update you on one of the week’s most infuriating trending stories. Marissa Mayer is featured in this month’s Vogue, which I (and most women) thought was terrific. Unfortunately, despite it being her first lengthy interview since taking the helm of Yahoo!, one in which she talks about her successes in a male-dominated tech world, the accompanying photo (shown below) was all most folks were talking about.

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This photo generated tons of negative commentary. Really? Because a female CEO can’t like fashion – or be fashionable? Or is it because she is a tech CEO, so posing in Vogue is not appropriate? Or is it because a woman leader should always look serious so she can be taken seriously? RIDICULOUS. I could go on a long rant here, but instead I’ll provide a photo of a brilliant, wildly successful male CEO. I am quite sure this photo did not get half the negative air coverage that Marissa’s did.

AUSTRALIA-MALAYSIA-BRITAIN-AIRASIA-AUTO-PRIX-BRANSON

This month Yahoo! surpassed Google with regards to monthly uniques for the first time in years! For those of you cheering on Marissa as much as I am, here is an article about her childhood, her years at Stanford, her time at Google, and her recruitment to become the CEO of Yahoo! http://www.businessinsider.com/marissa-mayer-biography-2013-8#!

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Work Hard / Adventure Hard

August 24, 2013 Adventurer, Outdoor Adventure

Well, I disappeared from blogging again. But I am back! I have been busy this past year helping to launch and grow my 6th VC backed startup – a DIY rich-media digital magazine called Glossi. Glossi has been a nice change for me as my last two startups were in the SMB space. Glossi is a Consumer Internet, Digital Publishing and Content Marketing play. My role, per usual, has included a bit of operations, team-building and process implementation, along with a great deal sales, marketing and partnerships. Glossi is my first startup that has truly allowed me to merge my love of starting companies with some of my other passions, specifically Fashion and Entertainment. In the first 6 months of our Beta, DKNY, Brian Atwood, Nina Garcia, Lionsgate, Conde Nast and Heart were among our early adopters. I am truly having a blast with this one!

I have also been busy with some great outdoor adventures. Here are some fun pics:

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

September 3, 2012 Business, Entrepreneurship, Internet, Startups, Technology, Venture Capital, Women in Business

The topic of the dirth of women in technology has been written about ad nauseum for the past few years.  But that’s a good thing, as bringing the issue to the forefront is finally leading to a good deal of action.  And actions, as we all know, speaks louder than words.

I came across an article on TechCrunch today, entitled “Twitter bets on Girls Who Code,” that literally made my day (and it’s Labor Day so that means a lot!)   Huge props to Reshma Saujani, who founded  the New York-based initiative to help teach girls ages 13-17 how to code so that they can pursue careers in technology and engineering.  The most exciting part is the number of businesses, including Google, GE  and eBay, that are helping to support Girls Who Code.  The big boys are finally stepping up to the plate after acknowledging that women programmers are few and far between, and realizing that they can have an extremely positive impact on their predominantly testosterone tech teams.  Women bring a different perspective and style to the table, and often approach problem analysis, solution discovery, and general communication in ways different than men.  Many studies have proven that teams with a mix of both sexes are often more successful than teams dominated by one sex or the other. Gender diversity, not just ethnic diversity, is important. Period.

Kudos to Twitter for recognizing this.  Twitter is one of GWC’s biggest supporters, having provided both volunteers and financial support to the organization.

GWC

Below are some important stats pulled for the Girls Who Code website:

Today, just 3.6% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women, and less than 10% of venture capital-backed companies have female founders. Yet females use the internet 17% more than their male counterparts and represent the fastest growing demographic online and on mobile, creating more than two-thirds of content on social networking sites. Technology companies with more women on their management teams have a 34% higher return on investment.

The numbers speak for themselves. By 2018, there will be 1.4 million computer science-related job openings, yet U.S. universities are expected to produce enough computer science graduates to fill just 29% of these jobs. And while 57% of bachelor’s degrees are obtained by women, less than 14% of computer science degrees are awarded to women.

Accolades to Girls Who Code for taking action and targeting young women.  I believe making changes at the youth level is key to making progress overall.  I certainly hope to see this organization grow its presence on not just a national scale, but a global one.

This is an exciting time for Women in Tech and Female Founders.  A time where individuals, organizations and businesses are in action mode so that we can start to see the percentages above steadily increase.  Stay tuned for my next post, as I will be creating a list of more folks that are making a significant impact.

 

 

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Business Development for Startups – Coloft Academy Workshop

August 26, 2012 Business, Business Development, Entrepreneurship, Sales & Marketing, Startups, Technology, Women in Business

coloft

Last Thursday, I led a workshop on BD for Startups at Coloft as part of their new Coloft Academy initiative. I have spent my career launching and growing businesses, so I was thrilled to be invited to share my learnings with the community.  I had a terrific time and would like to thank all the folks who packed the house to spend 2 hours with me.  I have always loved mentoring young entrepreneurs, and have considered teaching in a more formal way at some point.  I now know that it is something I absolutely want to tackle!

I have received a great deal of positive feedback on the workshop, and lots of requests for my presentation.  Here it is:


Business Development for Startups

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Business Development for Startups 101 – Aug 23rd Workshop

August 6, 2012 Business, Business Development, Entrepreneurship, Sales & Marketing, Startups, Technology, Women in Business

I love talking about startups, and I really love talking about all things Business Development.
BD
I am super honored and excited that LA’s Startup Hub, Co-Loft, has invited me to lead a workshop called “Startup BizDev – This is How It’s Done” as part of their new Academy program.  Below is an overview of my August 23rd Workshop:
 

REGISTER HERE!

Are you a Founder and want to earn more about growing your venture via partnerships and alliances? Or are you interested in a job in Business Development at a Tech or Internet company?

We will kick off this session distilling what Business Development actually means at an early stage company, and then we will discuss what it entails as the company grows. We’ll also discuss types of partnerships, as well as provide a framework for evaluating them.

Later, we’ll outline characteristics of a great Business Developer – who you should hire or the skills you need to get hired.

We will conclude the class with a Q&A session.

Specifics include:

  • What are considered Business Development functions at the various stages of a startup
  • Building and growing your company’s ecosystem
  • Types of partnerships
  • Types of deal structures
  • Tips for closing
  • How to evaluate partnerships when resources are limited
  • Potential pitfalls leading to unsuccessful partnerships

I HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

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