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A Question of Conscience

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyramdin/353270525/

Would you say

“If I lived in Boston I’d put a bullet in your brain.”

“you are clearly retarded, i hope someone shoots then rapes you.”

“Amanda, I’ll fucking rape you. How does that feel?”

“I am 36 years old, I did 12 years for ‘manslaughter’, I killed a woman, like you, who decided to make fun of guys cocks.” “Happy to say we live in the same state. Im looking you up, and when I find you, im going to rape you and remove your head.” There was more, but the final tweet summed it up: “You are going to die and I am the one who is going to kill you. I promise you this.”

to your wife/girlfriend; your mother; your sister; your female colleagues, etc., because their opinion of a movie, joke, politics, etc., differed from yours?

No?

Then why do you accept it or just shrug it off when it’s done anonymously on social sites like Twitter?

And while anonymous trolls are bad, having it done openly and accepted is significantly worse.

What especially alarmed me about what happened to Ms. Harmon and me is that it was set in motion by people and organizations who are out in the open — a signal that this kind of attack is broadly seen as acceptable, or even funny.

Last week I shared several links that looked at some of the problems that keep women from STEM careers.

However, I seriously doubt that girls and young women who read these posts and attendant comments are encouraged to makes themselves into career piñatas.

Edmund Burke said, “All it takes for evil to succeed is for a few good men to do nothing…”

Are you one of the few?

Flickr image credit: Andy Ramdin

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Y-Gender News

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

I am truly tired of listening to the likes of Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg talk abut women in the workplace when, in fact, their world bears no relationship to the majority of women locally or globally.

Elite women, like their male counterparts, marry later and have fewer children than their less-educated sisters. They take shorter breaks from paid full-time employment (a reverse from past trends) and claim an ever greater share of overall female income while relying on nannies and other household help.

Also, I’ve always doubted that having hot women wearing minimal outfits as a booth attraction at tradeshows gives a company an edge. And guess what? It doesn’t.

Booth babes do NOT convert. How do I know? Well, I actually split-tested this a few years ago and the results were indisputable. If you have invested in a trade show to generate new business, using booth babes is a lead conversion boat anchor. –Spencer Chen, marketing professional

Interesting research from Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer Jill J. Avery focuses on the effect female cooties have on masculine brands. Who knew that masculinity was so very fragile?

“Gender contamination occurs when one gender is using a brand as a symbol of their masculinity or femininity, and the incursion of the other gender into the brand threatens that… Girls and women seem to have more freedom to consume products and brands commonly associated with the other gender than boys and men, who are more tightly constrained by the prevailing views of masculinity that associate being masculine with avoiding anything feminine.

Then there’s the ongoing problem of women in STEM—or the lack of them, actually.

There is a lot of systemic bias in the system against young women taking this kind of direction with their studies and their career. And we must change that bias and it must be changed at the middle school level.

While many recognize that solutions need to be applied in middle school or sooner, new research shows that just having a male teacher may impede progress and intimidate interest.

The stereotype that men are better at math than women is so ingrained in our culture that women feel stereotype threat — and as a result, perform more poorly in math — just from watching a man take a dominant role in a math study group.

IBM is one company that is actively fighting back.

Women have played a key role in some of the most important innovations in IBM’s history. Meet some of them through the Technologista series that celebrates some of these accomplishments.

I think my favorite pro STEM-for-girls is Debbie Sterling, who starts much earlier. She’s the entrepreneur who not only didn’t buy into the hype, but also created toys to combat it.

Who said girls want to dress in pink and play with dolls, especially when they could be building Rube Goldberg machines instead?

YouTube credit: GoldiBlox 

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WHAT Year is It?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/leewrightonflickr/2632244568/

2014 is just around the corner for most of us, but for some women it might as well be 1814.

How else would you explain women being fired for their good looks, with at least one termination upheld by a state Supreme Court?

After James Knight, a dentist in Iowa, fired his assistant Melissa Nelson because he found her “irresistible” and a possible threat to his marriage, according to reports, her subsequent suit made it to the state’s all-male Supreme Court. Over the summer, the justices affirmed that Mr. Knight was within his rights, writing in their opinion that “close personal relationships between men and woman can often produce personal emotions and conduct that are unfamiliar to the workplace relationship.”

Makes you wonder in what century those judges were raised.

Of course, the hilarious part is Knight’s assumption that his attractiveness is so extreme that Nelson would find him irresistible.

People like Knight and his ilk will always blame their lack of self-control on others as they look to shift the blame for their own actions.

Society’s job is to shift the responsibility to where it really belongs, not sanction the avoidance as did the Iowa Supreme Court.

Flickr image credit: Lee Wright

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Are You what You Tweet/Say/Write?

Monday, November 25th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/eligius4917/7661422988/

Whether you like it or not, agree or not or just consider it unfair, what you say/write/tweet and pin is who you are to the world.

Based on what comes out of his mouth, Mel Gibson is a not only a bigot/raciest/anti-Semite, but a thoroughly rotten human being.  

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo claimed there are no qualified women for his Board, but it didn’t take much for outside experts to identify 25 women who are more than qualified. Of course, Costolo has a lot of company in that mindset.

In a blog post, AdRants Steve Hall self-proclaimed that for “salaciously selfish, purely prurient, Neanderthal-ish reasons” he wanted to work at ad firm Young & Laramore, because of the hot staffers; he also identified several other women he considered hot, then informed everyone via Twitter that he didn’t mean to be insulting and was, in fact, a “nice guy.”

Celery founder Peter Shih of wrote a post citing everything he thinks is wrong with San Francisco that was a cornucopia of “misogyny, homophobia and a general disregard for socioeconomic inequality” that, in the subsequent storm, he tried to pass it off as “humorous satire.”

The thing that all these have in common is that the protagonists were all innocent.

None of them meant anything bad, and some, like Gibson, even denied that they actually believed what they ranted.

They blamed booze, misguided humor, lack of context, ignorance, third-party misunderstanding and a myriad of other reasons why their words shouldn’t define them.

But your words reflect your thoughts and, thanks to the Internet, they will be around forever.

Flickr image credit: Steven Cateris

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If the Shoe Fits: the Myth of Meritocracy

Friday, August 30th, 2013

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mThose who believe that tech is a utopian-like meritocracy need to wake up to reality.

Silicon Valley is indeed a meritocracy for those to whom these criteria are not hurdles. But others—the blacks, women, and Hispanics whom it overlooks—find it an elite private club from which they are excluded. – Vivek Wadhwa (see the entire article series here)

According to Mitch Kapor, who founded Lotus and (for those of you who are too young to remember) sold it to IBM in 1995 for $3.5 billion, the idea that all it takes is hard work and a god product to be a success in the Valley is pure fantasy.

“There’s an admirable belief about the virtues of meritocracy – that the best ideas prove the best results. It’s a wrong and misguided belief by well-intentioned people.”

The idea that merit matters goes further down the drain when you see comments, such as the most recent one from Paul Graham of Y Combinator fame.

One quality that’s a really bad indication is a CEO with a strong foreign accent. I’m not sure why. It could be that there are a bunch of subtle things entrepreneurs have to communicate and can’t if you have a strong accent. Or, it could be that anyone with half a brain would realize you’re going to be more successful if you speak idiomatic English, so they must just be clueless if they haven’t gotten rid of their strong accent. I just know it’s a strong pattern we’ve seen.

Or this comment.

I would be reluctant to start a startup with a woman who had small children, or was likely to have them soon. But you’re not allowed to ask prospective employees if they plan to have kids soon…Whereas when you’re starting a company, you can discriminate on any basis you want about who you start it with.

Kapor now runs Kapor Capital, a for-profit venture firm focused on funding minorities whose ideas are focused on improving opportunities for the poor through education, sees the world very differently.

“We have a responsibility to give people opportunities to do what they can do. It’s a fundamental tenet of democratic society. Libertarians who believe in a completely minimalist state, and don’t feel we have that responsibility, are harming humanity.”

Choosing a role model is a private decision.

Who will you channel? Mitch Kapor or Paul Graham?

Image credit: HikingArtist

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Entrepreneurs: the Truth about Yelling

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Entrepreneurs: the Truth about YellingAn AlwaysOn post explaining How to Get Yelled AT caught my attention and should catch yours.

Verbally it had the typical male orientation, but there is plenty for women who are just as likely to be alpha males as guys, so ignore the gender stuff.

Supposedly, those who yell in the military and sports do so because they care, which is true only when the words yelled aren’t abusive (as they so recently have been).

Outside of those two areas, with the caveat mentioned, I don’t believe there is any reason to yell, since yelling rarely accomplishes anything positive.

This is especially true when bosses are yelling at staff (or parents at kids).

Often when I call startup bosses for yelling at their people they respond by saying something to the effect that if it was good enough for Steve Jobs it’s good enough for them—forgetting that from a management prospective Jobs is a lousy role model.

Generally, yelling is the fastest way to make sure that folks tune out and disengage.

So what do you do when something happens and you are justifiably angry?

Use the process I described way back in 2006; a lot may have changed, but it still works.

Flickr image credit: AlishaV

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Entrepreneurs: Expanding Your Market and Talent Pool

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffanddayna/3249165942/This post is for entrepreneurs (and thinking people everywhere).

If you aren’t actively working to engage the fastest growing segment of users you are missing a very large boat—seniors.

According to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, from 2002 to 2012 senior users increased 16% each year, while those 30-49 increased only 3% a year; research from Pew backs this up.

52% of wired boomers are using social networking sites. 32% of online seniors over 65 are using social networking sites. 57% of boomer Internet users are using Facebook, along with 35% of online seniors.

Those are hefty numbers and growing and their social media use is growing even faster. They also have financial resources that many under-30 don’t have.

Women are the other powerful market force that is often ignored, so those startups run by, and (benefit of the doubt) unconsciously for, men, may want to think again.

A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family…

That’s money, honey.

Not only money, but talent. Yesterday we looked at the legal dangers of not hiring women, but that almost pales in comparison to the lost talent and productivity inherent in not hiring/promoting women.

Warren Buffett stated cause and effect elegantly and effectively.

Cause: But an even greater enemy of change may well be the ingrained attitudes of those who simply can’t imagine a world different from the one they’ve lived in.

Effect: The closer that America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be. We’ve seen what can be accomplished when we use 50% of our human capacity. If you visualize what 100% can do…

Flickr image credit: jeff_golden

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The Danger of Denial

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

www.flickr.com/photos/livenature/211469544/Ask any working woman (or gay/lesbian or person of color) and they will tell you that discrimination is alive and well.

Ask their executive bosses and they will tell you that’s true, but not at their company.

In other words, “they” discriminate, “we” don’t.

Or, as Jonathan Segal, partner at the law firm Duane Morris LLP so aptly puts it.

We all know there is unconscious bias. It’s just others who have it. We all know there are Boys’ Clubs. It’s at the company next door.

It’s hard for many people to believe that their organization could have a Boys’ Club. That they could be part of a Boys’ Club is inconceivable because it is inconsistent with how they see themselves.

In some ways, such denial is not unlike the denial of addiction. The first step in recovery is acknowledging the problem. The first step toward dismantling a Boys’ Club is to acknowledge it may exist.

Of course, that denial only lasts until you are sued.

Flickr image credit: Franco Folini

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When Will They Ever Learn?

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wissenstransfer/7648831920/I was going to call this post “How to Make Money,” but then I remembered the lyrics from Peter, Paul and Mary’s hit song and decided it was a much better title.

After all, diversity of all kinds is a war and it’s one being lost in companies every day, whether they are old line industries or the supposed meritocracies of the tech world.

And not just diversity in the form of race and gender, but in terms of management.

Funny how so many companies that don’t “get” the need for a great culture that spawns a happy, therefore productive and innovative, workforce also don’t get diversity in fact.

They all get happy and diverse in theory and in talk, but unfortunately theory and talk frequently never make it to fact.

The facts, however, speak for themselves.

Analyzing the performance of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” over a 28-year period, the author found that these firms generated higher yearly stock returns than comparable companies not on the list. They also systematically beat financial analysts’ earnings estimates, an indication that job satisfaction is an important variable that the market does not fully value. –strategy+ business (free registration required)

And the real numbers of the future carry their own warning.

The figures highlight the rapid growth in the Hispanic and Asian populations, both of which have surged by more than 40 percent since 2000. Hispanics were 16.7 percent of the population in July 2011 and Asians were 4.8 percent. The black population has grown 12.9 percent since 2000 and makes up 12.3 percent of the nation. Non-Hispanic whites rose only 1.5 percent from 2000 to 2011, slower than the national growth of 9.7 percent, and are now 63.4 percent of the population.

It also turns out that hiring those pesky females in senior positions and putting them on your board pays off handsomely.

Over the past six years, companies with at least some female board representation outperformed those with no women on the board in terms of share price performance, according to the latest study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute.Credit Suisse

But the stats I really love come from Dr Genevieve Bell, a Social Scientist/Anthropologist at Intel Corporation.

So it turns out if you want to find out what the future looks like, you should be asking women. And just before you think that means you should be asking 18-year-old women, it actually turns out the majority of technology users are women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. So if you wanted to know what the future looks like, those turn out to be the heaviest users of the most successful and most popular technologies on the planet as we speak.

So for all those stuck in the command & control past or believe, as Carl’s and TV advertisers do, that the world actually turns on 18-34 years old males I suggest you update your prejudices and get with the program.

Flickr image credit: Tanja Föhr

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Entrepreneurs: Necessity and Compassion

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosengrant/4358801736/“Necessity is the mother of invention” is a well-worn truth, but compassion runs it a close second.

And, of course, a good dose of moxie.

Not only is necessity the mother of invention, but mothers are inventors by necessity.

As  Laurie Cronenbold, who just received a patent for a snap-on protective cup that a player can easily remove the moment he leaves the field, said, “Moms solve problems.”

Pam Ryan designed and patented a softball helmet incorporating an enlarged panel for long hair or a ponytail; she licensed it in 1998 and has sold more than a million units.

Barb Chaisson designed a cushioned bandage for girls (and some boys) who wear earrings and play soccer and other sports.

Then there are the entrepreneurs whose compassion drives them to follow their hearts and solve problems.

Two of my favorites are the ball that never dies and a totally new take on the water wheel.

Tim Jahnigen developed a ball that would never wear out, go flat or need a pump out of PopFoam, a hard foam made of ethylene-vinyl acetate similar to the stuff used to make Crocs, that brings undiluted joy to children around the world.

Cynthia Koenig dreamed up the Wello WaterWheel that moves 25 gallons of water at one time eliminating the 25% of their time women in developing countries spend carrying five gallon jugs (42 lbs.) on their heads along with the resulting injuries.

So look around; there’s a lot that needs fixing and some of those fixes could be simmering in your brain.

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