RIP Muriel Siebert / Women For Change

RIP Muriel Siebert / Women For Change

Diversity/Equality

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.

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.

Team Marissa

Team Marissa

Diversity/Equality Founders/Startups

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.

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.

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#!

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Diversity/Equality Founders/Startups

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.

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.

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

Diversity/Equality

A good friend of mine was at a lunch for Women in Business today in NYC.  The following is a quote she texted me from Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madelaine Albright:  “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”  AMAZING!

I went into “google” mode on Ms. Albright, and got to remembering and further understanding what a BADASS she is.   Albright is a pioneering woman in politics, on both a national and global scale.  No matter your political views, this woman deserves respect for being at the forefront of women’s issues and rights for decades.  Watch this TED video, “On Being a Woman and a Diplomat”, which is a frank and funny Q&A with Pat Mitchell from the Paley Center.  It’s only 13 minutes – Watch It!

 

Marissa Mayer – “Game On”

Diversity/Equality Founders/Startups

I, like most folks, was thrilled to learn that Marissa Mayer was chosen to be the next CEO of Yahoo!  And they chose her knowing she is pregnant. Go Yahoo!   Mayer, only 37,  is the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500. Go Marissa!

If anyone can bring Yahoo! back to prominence, it is Marissa Mayer. She is not only muy inteligente (she is an engineer who holds patents in Artificial Intelligence), she is young, hip, fashionable and feminine . The second half of that sentence may seem silly to point out, and even irrelevant, but it is absolutely NOT.  It is relevant to both  the “what to do with Yahoo!” conversation and the “how do we get more women into technology” discussion.

Let’s start with what to do with Yahoo!

Yahoo! has had 5 CEOs in 5 years.  Holy crap,!!   For years, it  has been a company in turmoil,  struggling with loss of talent and slowed growth.   BUT,  on any given day, Yahoo! has upwards of 20 million article views and, in any give month, 700 million people visit the site.   Though it will be a mighty challenge, the opportunity to reboot Yahoo! is HUGE.  So what should the company do?  I think the answer is to focus on WOMEN.  A nd who better to lead that charge than a pioneering woman in tech like Marissa Mayer?  I had some thoughts about this, and then I came across a spot-on post,  titled “Pink is the New Purple“, by Dave McClure.  Here are some highlights from his post:

“….  what if Marissa used Yahoo as a bully pulpit, to address the needs of a market that is roughly 50% or more of the global internet population? What if Yahoo began acquiring or partnering with properties specifically relevant to women, like Pinterest, ShoeDazzle, Gilt Groupe, BabyCenter, EcoMom, Oprah, ……Martha Stewart (or BritMorin.com),……?”

FashionTech / Fashion 2.0 / Social Commerce (whatever you want to call it) is crushing it right now.  There are tons of new online businesses aimed at girls/women/mothers that are generating a tremendous amount of traffic, revenue and profit.   And if they were not founded by women, they tend to have lots of female employees.  As a whipsmart businesswoman, a self-proclaimed online shop-aholic, and a mommy-to-be, I know Marissa has gotta be all over this.   She has, in fact, angel invested in several of these companies, including OneKingsLane and  Brit Media.  Mayer is the leading “Woman on the Web” right now, and she has a kickass opportunity to partner with kickass businesses for women (that are often by women) and turn Yahoo! into the leading destination for “Women on the Web.”

Now let’s hop from the impact Marissa could have by focusing Yahoo! on women, and discuss the impact she is already having on helping to attract women to the tech industry.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t come across an article that discusses the lack of women in technology.  Marissa was already a stand-out role model for this cause.  Now, as the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500, she is even more prominent.  And she is definitely not shy about using her status as a platform for encouraging young women to get into technology. Below is one of numerous quotes from Marissa on this topic.

‎”One of the things I care a lot about is helping to… show girls that you can be feminine, you can like the things that girls like, but you can also be really good at technology.”

Marissa Mayer is a hip and fashionable female that young women can relate to.  With women now making up over 50% of undergraduates,  lots of young girls will now look at Marissa and her accomplishments, and be more inclined to study math, science, and programming in pursuit of a powerhouse career in tech.

Go Marissa!

Hopefully Marissa is reading this (ahahahaha!), or, more likely, Dave McClure’s blog.  Ms. Mayer – you are the right woman, at the right time, and the right place to have a powerful impact on women (students, consumers, employees, founders) all over this world.  C’mon sista, you got this!  Us women are watching you eagerly!

 

 

Female Investors – “Ladies, we got this!”

Diversity/Equality

Per usual these days, much is being written about the lack of women in tech and the difficulty for women to get funded. The always honest and entertaining Dave McClure (his 500 Startups blog is a must read) had some hard-hitting words this week in an article titled “Women in Tech: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.” While I don’t agree with the entire piece, and the problem is much bigger than the lack of female investors, I do give kudos to Dave’s new project, Women Investors NOW.  WIN challenges women to publicly commit to invest a total of $15,000 in three start-ups over the next year. Per Dave, “I’d like to CHALLENGE every woman in tech who’s a) got a nice care, b) owns a nice house, or c) is making over $125K a year to start thinking of themselves as the next Ron Conway or Esther Dyson in the making and commit to investing in startups…”

I often talk (and write here) about the need for women to help women. And this is a GREAT way to do it. Once I get a few months of my new gig behind me (more on that soon!), I am totally up for this challenge – and I hope you are too.  Click here to learn more about the WIN Challenge.  Personally, I plan to be a force in the LA Angel Investing community.  There are definitely not enough women funding and advising companies in Silicon Beach.  Yet, there are a ton of  successful entrepreneurial women here.

Speaking of kickass chicks, I am adding Kirsten Green to my list.  Her female-only VC, Forerunner Ventures, announced is raised $40 million today.  How do you like that, Mr. McClure!  I had not heard of Forerunner before, but they already have a stellar portfolio that focuses on consumer facing ventures that are predominantly in the digital commerce space.  They have funded a number of companies I love, including Warby Parker, Birchbox and Chloe + Isabel.  Also, I went into online stalker mode on Kirsten and discovered she is married and has a kid.   This might upset all the authors/bloggers who took part in the “Women Can’t Have It All” meme a few weeks back.

Female Powerhouses – Sheryl Sandberg & Oprah

Diversity/Equality Personal Development

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has emerged as a tremendous inspiration to female executives and working mothers everywhere. As a woman in the tech startup space, I admire her greatly. I don’t agree with everything she says, but I love that she says it – as she sees it. She is a no bullshit kinda chick who is also very witty and fun. Sheryl throws a monthly dinner at her home to bring women in business together. I have been wanting to emulate this in LA (lots of amazing female tech founders and business executives here in LaLaLand!) for a while now, and my first event, called LA Women Rising, is happening this Monday. So excited!!!  (a recap to come of course)  If you are new to the fabulosity that is Mrs. Sandberg, read this New Yorker article title, ” A Woman’s Place: Can Sheryl Sandberg upend Silicon Valley’s male-dominated culture?”   Also, check out her TED talk, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders.

As for Oprah, I will admit here that I participated in her Eckhart Tolle “A New Earth” online classes, and they truly helped me improve myself and my life. Probably gonna sound like “O” here, but I am all about becoming the best person I can be – and Oprah has been an amazing personal and spiritual growth “coach” for me. As a high-energy, uber-passionate worker bee living in NYC at the time of the classes, I had some major “Aha moments” re: the importance of awareness and how to “breathe” and be present.  In startupland, speed is everything. Being 100 steps ahead of the game is crucial to success, and can lend itself to focusing on the destination rather than journey.  I, as we all are, am a work in progress, and Oprah has been instrumental to that progress.  Oprah and her show have elevated the world by influencing countless individuals to empower themselves and live their most authentic life (not to mention read books, volunteer/donate to worthy causes, and know what to buy for Christmas). And, of course, it probably goes without saying that I also am obsessed with “THE Oprah” because she is a fierce businesswoman, entrepreneur and mogul.

BTW Oprah is doing new online “life classes” starting in October.  Highly Recommend! http://www.oprah.com/own/About-Oprahs-Lifeclass

Both these women are beyond authentic and inspirational. Watch this and see for yourself:

Watch live streaming video from facebookguests at livestream.com

Architects of Change – Maria Shriver, The Women’s Conference, Empowering Women/Female Entrepreneurs

Diversity/Equality Personal Development

I have long been a fan of Maria Shriver.  She is a strong woman who uses her voice to implement change and do good. She authored one of my favorite books – “Just Who Will You Be.”  It is a small book with a big message.   In it, she offers up a very candid look into some of her own struggles with her identity and purpose in life.   She then shares a poem that she read at her godson’s college graduation.   The crux of the book is “It is not what you do in your life that matters, it’s who you are”.   The book is ideal for high school and college kids, but really appeals to anyone looking for a life of meaning (which I hope is everybody!).   This book was my Holiday present to absolutely everyone of my family and friends a few years back.

In 2004, Shriver became First Lady of California and took over what, at the time, was a small conference called The Women’s Conference.   She has since turned into the largest one-day conference for women in the nation.   As such, TWC attracts high-profile speakers – world opinion leaders, entrepreneurs, visionaries, tastemakers, spiritual figures, authors, journalists, artists, and, yes, THE OPRAH WINFREY.   It is an event in which women from all walks of life to share perspectives, find common ground, and undergo transformative experiences.   If you are not familiar with this conference, you must spend some time at www.womensconference.org.     This year’s speakers included  Jane FondaDeepak Chopra, Carol Bartz, and Michelle Obama, among a long list of others. You can check out the First Lady’s emotional speech here:  http://www.womensconference.org/michelle-obama/.

 

One of my favorite aspects of TWC is its emphasis on entrepreneurship and women in business.  I believe it is very important for successful women to share their knowledge and experiences with other women through networking and support groups.  I am also a strong proponent of investing time, through volunteer work and mentoring, to teach young women entrepreneurship, as it empowers them to achieve their dreams and take control of their destinies. Check out Ladies Who Launch and SMARTYpeople for the former and Girls Leadership Institute, Girls, Inc., and Girls CEO for the latter.   The following  is a Women’s Conference compilation of “How I did it” stories from successful female entrepreneurs – http://www.womensconference.org/how-i-did-it .  Make sure to read the amazing story of the first female space explorer ANOUSHEH ANSARI, Co-founder of Prodea Systems.   Some of the tips that most resonate with me and the advice I often give to young entrepreneurs are:

Believe in yourself and in your success
Be humble enough to seek guidance from others
Stay flexible
Pay attention to your team and their needs

The last gem I will share about Maria Shriver and her legacy of empowering women is her 10 Ways Women Can Be an Architect of Change.  I am sharing it with every woman I know and I hope you do the same.  My favorite Ghandi quote is  “each of us must be the change we want to see.”   Read this list, get inspired, become empowered, take action, and impact change.

1. Find your own unique voice and listen to what it’s saying.

2. Empower a young woman. Become a mentor by connecting with a young woman in your workplace, neighborhood or place of worship. Find small ways to reach out, listen and support her.

3. Act locally to make a difference globally. Make informed choices about what you buy and consume, as well as how you dispose of items. Reduce your carbon footprint, use energy and water responsibly and green your life.

4. Advocate for a cause that you care deeply about. Your time and expertise could help make a difference as a volunteer, counselor or board member.

5. Invest in women entrepreneurs. Join Team Maria in the WE Invest/Kiva partnership to give women the tools to start or expand their own businesses. For as little as $25, you can “Become a lender. Change a life.”

6. Speak up & ask for what you need. If you need to take time off of your job to care for a child or parent, ask for it. Families need more flexible work schedules, better child care policies and changes in family and medical leave. We need to use our voices collectively to improve workplace policies.

7. Engage your children in the world. As a mother, get your children involved at a young age in seeing the world through the eyes of others, respecting diversity, developing empathy and understanding the gift of giving back.

8. Donate to nonprofits that help women. Instead of purchasing a birthday, anniversary or holiday gift for family, friends and colleagues, make a donation in someone’s name to a nonprofit that works on improving the lives of women and girls.

9. Be an informed citizen. Educate yourself about the world you live in, share your knowledge, educate others and ignite a conversation.

10. Invite 10 of your friends to join The Women’s Conference online community at WWW.WOMENSCONFERENCE.ORG — The Home for Architects of Change.