The Tech World Mirrors The Ad World (despite being more Richard Hendricks than Don Draper)

The Tech World Mirrors The Ad World (despite being more Richard Hendricks than Don Draper)

Diversity/Equality Founders/Startups

If you have not read the New York Times article, “Brands to Ad Agencies: Diversify or Else,” you should. The similarities between the Startup and Ad industries are pretty uncanny, except the fact that Silicon Valley looks like this…

And Madison Avenue looks like this…..

In reference to major brands demanding that agencies diversify their teams, the article states, “The efforts reflect a growing concern among marketers that Madison Avenue’s largely white, male leadership may be hindering their efforts to connect with American consumers.” Kudos to Verizon, HP Inc. and General Mills for taking a stand!

In the startup world, there should be (and I hope is) a growing concern among LPs (the folks that fund VCs) that Silicon Valley’s largely, white leadership may be hindering their efforts to connect with – and fund – entrepreneurs/founders. Of course, LPs are mostly white men themselves, adding another layer of complexity to diversifying the startup ecosystem.

Hopefully, the statistics coming out of recent studies will help impact true change. Here are a few:

• Women led startups receive less than 3% of VC funding, yet we know from a Babson study, among countless others, that women women-led, VC-backed tech companies bring in 12 percent higher revenue than similar male-led companies and have a 35 percent higher return on investment.

• Only 7% of VC partners at the Top 100 firms are women, yet a recent study in partnership with PE Hub, VCJ, Women VC, showed that the overall performance of female VCs’ portfolio companies is 3.78x, ahead of the overall industry average. In addition, having more female investors is important, as they are 3x more likely to invest in startups with a woman as CEO.

The NYTimes article also states that, “In order for us to create work that’s more connected with the consumer, it needs to come from a deeper connection to what’s going on in society and what’s going on in culture.” Nothing has the potential to be more transformative to society and culture than technology innovation. Funding and supporting a diverse set of founders and investors (women and people of color) is imperative. The same goes for hiring women and people of color at the big tech companies. By improving diversity across the entire technology ecosystem, we will facilitate more, and better, innovation across the board.

The good news is that both industries have been under intense press scrutiny for the last few years and now seem to be taking action. With major brands leading the way in advertising and folks like Melinda Gates tackling diversity in tech, we are certainly moving in the right direction.

May both industries learn from each other and move forward quickly to impact change. We will, as a society, be better for it.

Media Coverage of Women in Tech – #choosepossibility

Media Coverage of Women in Tech – #choosepossibility

Diversity/Equality Founders/Startups

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, 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 focused on teaching design classes and then grew into a site offering hundreds of web, creative and business courses online – in multiple languages. 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.

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 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

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.

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,……?”

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!