The Time is Now: Making Progress and MAKERS

February 5, 2016 Female investors, Gender Equality, Women in Business

2016 is shaping up to be a year of epic progress for women and girls…and we are less than 40 days in!

In case you haven’t been keeping a running tally like I have, here are the highlights:

1) Obama announced in a press conference new rules aimed at leveling the “paying field”. Women earn $0.79 on the dollar compared to men in the same position. For women of color, the numbers are significantly worse. Now, companies with 100 employees or more will be required to report to the federal government how much they pay their employees broken down by race, gender, and ethnicity.
Transparency and accountability are key to fair pay. WIN!

2) The White House announced it will host a summit on “The United State of Women” on May 23rd. “The Summit will rally all of us together to celebrate what we’ve achieved, and how we’re going to take action moving forward.” Topics covered will include: Economic Prosperity, Health and Wellness, Educational Opportunity, Violence Against Women, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership and Visibility.
Community (public & private sector, women & men) is key to moving forward faster. WIN!

3) Obama pledged $4 Billion for Computer Science education in all schools. It just blows my mind that we teach biology, chemistry and physics in our schools, yet there is no national CS curriculum. Tech jobs make up the fasting growing sector of the US economy – and they are high-paying jobs. As the stats show, these jobs go to white men – and mostly middle to upper class white men. We need to get more girls interested in technology and coding. We also need to address/eliminate the unconscious bias we (parents, teachers) have that tells our girls “computer science is for boys.” In addition, we must bring technology and CS to low-income neighborhoods.
More people learning Computer Science will make our entire economy stronger. WIN!

On the heels of these epic announcements, I attended the AOL MAKERS Conference this past week. If you are not familiar with MAKERS, it is a women’s leadership platform that highlights the stories of groundbreaking women today to create the leaders of tomorrow.  MAKERS has created the largest collection of women’s stories ever assembled, which encompasses broadcast documentaries, web and mobile-first video content, and live events. When you finish reading this post, I implore you to immediately go to the Makers site and explore/watch it ALL. I have spent hours on the site – and am a better and smarter person, as well as a stronger, more impactful businesswoman, for it.

The MAKERS conference, put on by Dyllan McGee, Sammi Leibowitz and a tireless crew of AOL and MAKERS staff, was the most inspirational and impactful conference I have ever attended (and I attend a lot of events/conferences). The list of female rockstars that spoke was exceptional: THE Gloria Steinem, America Ferrera, Sheryl Sandberg, Carla Harris, Abby Wambach, CTO of the USA Megan Smith, US Treasurer Rosie Rios, GloZell, Caitlyn Jenner, Joanna Barsh, Joanna Hoffman, Shelley Zallis….the list goes on. These women shared their struggles and learnings with the hope and understanding that we can all learn from one another and that, as a community, we stand stronger and are more apt to achieve change than as individuals:

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America Ferrera – Hollywood celebrity and one super evolved and wise young woman!

“When I stopped thinking of other women as competition to me and started thinking about them as my partners in life…my whole experience of life changed.”

Abby Wambach – Soccer Phenom/#GOAT. Her next mission is to fight for a more equitable world…Watch out!

“It cost ZERO dollars to treat someone equally”

Also, kudos to Mattel for making an Abby Wambach doll. Let’s all buy 10 when they hit the market;)

Rosie Rios – US Treasurer responsible for getting a woman on our currency.

“This is not about one woman, it’s about the hundreds and hundreds of women that should be recognized everyday as part of our history ”

Carla Harris – Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Morgan Stanley. Holy moly this woman is the definition of the word POWERHOUSE!  She is chockfull of #carlaspearls.

“Perception is the copilot of reality”IMG_2180
“You can train people to think about you the way you want them to think about you. Think about how you want people to describe you when you are not in the room. Pick three adjectives – and make sure they are in line with what is important to your organization. Then display consistent behavior towards those three adjectives”

(I immediately went to Amazon and purchased this woman’s books – Expect to Win and Strategize to Win)

Shelley Zallis – Founder, TFQ Ventures and The Girls Lounge. Read this post to learn all about this fierce force of change.

“This is not a women’s issue, it is a social and economic issue.”

There were countless more amazing moments, conversations and workshops. And the great folks at MAKERS taped them all. Go watch them here and get inspired, as we are in the midst of true change to make the world a better place for women and girls (and everyone).

I’ll wrap up this post by quoting my new favorite badass, Carla Harris,
“Ladies, make 2016 the year of no regrets, put your foot on the gas and let it rip!

#thetimeisnow #makerswomen

 

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Less Talk, More Action (My Trip to DC)

December 29, 2015 Company Culture, Entrepreneurship, Female investors, Technology, Venture Capital, Women in Business

I have been in the startup community (NYC and LA) for nearly 20 years, first as an operator and now as an investor. There has always been a diversity issue (a very big one) so I am, of course, thrilled that it has been getting so much attention as of late. Though I am eager to move from talking about it to ACTING to eliminate it.

I am a strong believer that each of us is responsible for putting into the world more than we take out. That each of us can, and should, make a positive impact – whether that means on a community, industry, state or global level. Obviously, it is easiest to make a difference locally, in an area that you are passionate about and familiar with. Starting out in early-stage tech in the late 90s, I have countless stories about being the only woman in my company, at a party, or at a conference. Because of my experience, I dedicate a good deal of my time to advising and mentoring both my female colleagues as well as the many existing and aspiring female founders I meet. I want more women to join / start / invest in tech startups. The more women that do so, the more that will follow in their footsteps (see my post “Choose Possibility”). Of course, we should all want this, not just women, as the numbers show that companies with women in management report higher returns on equity and better net income growth than those lacking female leaders.

Last year, I had the good fortune of meeting a “soul sister” by the name of Shelley Zallis. Shelley built and sold an online research company and, for the past few years, has been producing “The Girls Lounge”, a destination for female executives to connect and inspire one another, at a handful of major industry conferences. As everyone does, I immediately fell in love with Shelley. I believe our meeting was kizmet, as we met right at the time I began to think about gender equality on a national and global (not just tech ecosystem) level and right at the time Shelley was just beginning to think about how to build her Girls Lounge into a much bigger initiative.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 4.23.35 PMJust before Christmas (and exactly one year after our first meeting), Shelley invited a group of 35 female executives to join her on a trip to DC. This was a venerable crew of badass women from Fortune level companies including IBM, Viacom, iheartmedia, Unilever, The New York Times, and Caterpillar (to name a few). I was honored and elated to be invited.

 

The purpose of the trip was to bring women from the public and private sectors together to begin to formulate a plan for moving beyond articles and studies and into creating an executable corporate roadmap for achieving gender equality. The first day we met with Megan Smith, the CTO of the USA, and discussed/brainstormed topics ranging from STEAM education to how to involve big media companies in bringing greater visibility to workplace diversity. The second day was spent with US Treasurer, Rosie Rios. She is the woman behind the initiative to get a female on our currency (if they see it, they can believe it!). Rosie had McKinsey & Company come in and present to us. If you don’t already know, McKinsey has a partnership with LeanIn.Org and, together, they produced a study called Women in the Workplace 2015.

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The study is a short read, chock-full of charts and to-the-point summaries – definitely worth 15 minutes of your time. Check it our here. I will provide you with the take-away sentence that is most important: “Based on the slow rate of progress…it will take 25 years to reach gender parity at the senior-VP level and more than one hundred years in the C-suite.” 

This is absolutely NOT OK. That’s four more generations of our daughters being passed over for high-visibility projects/promotions, feeling like they cant take reasonable maternity leave without it impacting their performance reviews or career trajectory, and working just as hard (if not harder) than the guy next to her while earning 77 cents to his dollar.

The good news is that workplace diversity and gender equality are hot topics today. You can’t peruse the tech pubs on any given day without an article on this topic. And there have been a multitude of high profile articles on diversity (or lack thereof) in Hollywood this past year. These are the two industries in which I play – I am hoping, and assuming, the same goes for all industries.

The bad news is that we are at a stage where many companies are just providing lip service when they are publicly claiming diversity is a priority. In fact, according to the McKinsey study, “74% of companies report that gender diversity is a top CEO priority, but the message is not reaching the majority of employees. Less than half of workers believe that gender diversity is a top priority of their CEO, and only a third view is a top priority for their direct manager.”   One example here is Twitter. Twitter joined alongside several Silicon Valley heavyweights in releasing their diversity numbers (which were beyond dismal) and proclaiming that diversity was a key priority. Recently, an employee (now ex) posted this resignation letter that went viral stating that he was leaving the company because he believed its diversity initiative was more talk than action. To be fair to Twitter, tackling diversity in the workplace is a huge task and one that won’t happen overnight.  The company did release an apology letter and just this past week announced that they hired away Apple’s Worldwide Director of Inclusion and Diversity.

There have been lots of folks hired in the last year with fancy titles like the one above. But what can and will these people actually do to implement change. That’s where we are back to the good news. There are action items that can be taken – and companies like Facebook (go Sheryl), Salesforce, Netflix, Goldman Sachs, and Intel are leading the way. What we need is for these major companies to be transparent about what is and is not working – and to track and report their progress – all the way down to the bottom line.  We must prove to CEOs (and shareholders) that diversity strengthens a company in every aspect, including financially.

And this is where The Girls Lounge (consisting of leaders across multiple industries) and Megan & Rosie come back in. Having corporations and organizations tackle this issue in silos is a sure way to get to 100 years before we create the change we want to see. I will not share the plan for more unified action here – as it is still under construction and it is not mine to share. But it includes bringing together companies, organizations, and the government to evaluate, promote, and enact best practices for eliminating the gender/race wage gap, building corporate practices that promote diversity and eliminate discrimination (including changing Family Leave Policy – for more on this, watch this TED talk), and tackling the very difficult subject of unconscious bias.

As Shelley likes to say #TogetherWeCan  
As I like to say, let’s #GetShitDone   

Stay tuned….
And be sure to follow The Girls Lounge: Twitter / Instagram / Facebook

Notes:

 

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Media Coverage of Women in Tech – #choosepossibility

May 14, 2015 Entrepreneurship, Female investors, Gender Equality, 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.

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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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