Wednesday, December 9th, 2015
I thought a lot about what I wanted to say today, but realized I’d already said it more than once.
And I didn’t feel like spending my energy on a rant that would most likely just be preaching to the choir and, if not, wouldn’t change anyone’s mind.
So this will be short, direct and honest and I’ll let you fill in the blanks.
First up, a comment from Michael Moritz, the chairman of Sequoia Capital and one of the most successful investors in Silicon Valley history, on why there are no women VCs at Sequoia.
“We look very hard. What we’re not prepared to do is to lower our standards. But if there are fabulously bright, driven women who are really interested in technology, very hungry to succeed, and can meet our performance standards, we’d hire them all day and night.”
Lots of backlash on social media, so all I’ll add is what a crock.
Hard to believe that anybody with half a brain or awareness would say something so stupid — not to mention that it’s a blatant lie.
The “not prepared to lower our standards” has been the reason to exclude women, people of color, Jews and whomever else is out-of-favor at the time.
Makes you wonder why a guy who makes his money looking at the future can’t at least come up with a modern reason for the bias.
Flickr image credit: TechCrunch
Wednesday, November 11th, 2015
Following up on yesterday’s post about women and inequality, Adam Grant linked to a previous post about his own unwitting blindness.
In that post were some stats that should make everyone, including those who think things are improving, wake up to reality and understand just how far we are from anything actually changing.
Today, U.S. corporate boards have more men named John, Robert, William, or James than women in total. Recent coverage by Claire Cain Miller has brought more chilling data to light: in math, when graded anonymously, girls outperform boys, but when teachers know their names, boys do better. [emphasis mine] And when students rate their favorite professors, they describe men as “geniuses” and women as “nice.” This is sad and unacceptable. We may be in the 21st century, but we’re still a very long way from gender parity.
In study after study, on everything from candidate resumes to professor’s evaluations to student preference, where the only difference in identical credentials is the sex, as disclosed by the name, young and old, male and female, rated the women inferior to the men.
Look at the above statement (in bold), what chance is there that anything will change when kids are already subject to the same attitudes?
Women are overtly and covertly denigrated and sisterhood is a farce.
It’s been said change would come as older generations aged out and bosses were replaced by younger ones who grew up in a more diverse, tolerant and inclusive world.
I started hearing that 50 years ago and am still waiting.
In fact, we are moving backwards; the world was far more woman-friendly in the 80s and 90s, than it is now.
So don’t hold your breath; there is a quantum difference between political correctness and authenticity.
Flickr image credit: Anthony Easton
Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
A few weeks ago Wharton professor Adam Grant wrote Dear Men: Wake Up and Smell the Inequality focusing on why men can’t seem to wrap their heads around gender inequality.
In corporate America, 88% of men think women have at least as many opportunities to advance as men.
This is the finding of a major new study—almost 30,000 employees across 118 companies—by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company.
Just 12% of men felt that women had fewer opportunities to advance in their organizations.
Today, KG Charles-Harris sent a link to an article by Marshall Goldsmith about suck-ups, with an underlying focus on how easily we see traits in others, but not in ourselves. (I call it ‘but me’)
Almost all of the leaders I have met say that they would never encourage such a thing in their organizations. I have no doubt that they are sincere. Most of us are easily irritated–if not disgusted–by derriere kissers. Which raises a question: If leaders say they discourage sucking up, why does it happen so often? Here’s a straightforward answer: Without meaning to, we all tend to create an environment where people learn to reward others with accolades that aren’t really warranted. We can see this very clearly in other people. We just can’t see it in ourselves.
And that brings us to MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™).
MAP, in case you’ve forgotten, is what underlies and drives all our thoughts and actions.
While not seeing things in ourselves may be fundamental to our MAP, that doesn’t mean we can’t change it.
To do so is a choice, yours and no one else’s.
Choice is the most valuable thing that any of us have and it’s the most painful to lose.
Remember Dumbledore? He summed it up perfectly.
“It is our choices that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, p 333)
Flickr image credit: Peter O’Connor
Monday, November 2nd, 2015
What do you do when your stock price has plunged 25% in five months and a substantial number of your executive team leave?
What’s your spin when a number of those leaving were hand-picked by you?
If you are Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer you publicly proclaim that they weren’t good enough to do what needed to be done.
“Recently, there has been external interest and speculation in a few shifts amidst our management team. The design and changes in Yahoo’s leadership team are the result of careful planning to achieve the necessary skills, passion, and the ability to execute growth in our business.’
The people who weren’t good for Mayer were scooped up by the likes of Facebook, Square, Helix and STX Entertainment — not exactly companies known for hiring passionless castoffs.
The exodus isn’t all that surprising, considering Mayer’s management style and need for control and the fact that in the three years she’s been at Yahoo there has not only been no turnaround, but everything is worse.
Of course, these days CEO all provide reasons for whatever is happening, but only rarely admit to being one of them.
As I said last January, this is what happens when people buy into their own wunderkind status.
But the truly sad thing is the ammunition she has provided to the anti-women-leaders crowd who will use her to prove that, in fact, woman don’t belong in the corner office.
Flickr image credit: Tech Crunch
Friday, September 11th, 2015
A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here
Being a woman in tech can be a serious drawback in 2015; far more so than in the 1980s and 90s — Tinder even dumped a woman founder on the basis that the company wouldn’t be taken seriously by investors. Sadly, they may have been right.
Leave it to Slack, valued at $2.8 billion, to do things differently.
According to its diversity report released on Wednesday, 45% of all Slack managers are female, with 41% of the entire workforce having a woman as their manager. “This means that 41% of our people report to a woman who helps set their priorities, measure their performance, mentor them in their work, and who make recommendations that will impact their compensation and career growth.” In non-engineering positions, 51% of the workforce turned out to be female. Out of the roughly 250 employees worldwide, 39% are reported to be female.
Slack is considered the fastest growing software company in history and they certainly lead the tech pack In gender diversity.
And while their racial diversity stats are as dismal as the rest of tech they are far more actively working on changing that, too.
Here are the company’s four hiring guidelines,
Examining all decisions regarding hiring/recruiting, promotion, compensation, employee recognition and management structure to ensure that we are not inadvertently advantaging one group over another.
Working with expert advisors and employees to build fair and inclusive processes for employee retention, such as effective management education, company-wide unconscious bias training, ally skills coaching, and compensation review.
Helping to address the pipeline issue with financial contributions to organizations whose mission is to educate and equip underrepresented groups with relevant technical skills (like Hack the Hood and Grace Hopper), as well as supporting a variety of internship programs to broaden access to opportunity (like CODE2040).
Attempting to be conscious and deliberate in our decision-making and the principles and values by which we operate. Changing our industry starts by building a workplace that is welcoming to all so that a generation of role models, examples and mentors is created.
Slack is practicing what recent studies have proven; hiring women pays.
Give that some thought the next time your unconscious bias kicks in leading you to reject a candidate because she is a she.
Image credit: HikingArtist
Monday, August 17th, 2015
In bygone days the ‘my father can beat up your father’ was a favorite taunt.
These days it’s more often ‘my father earns more than your mother’.
So goes the gender pay gap and has since women entered the workforce.
Much has been written and many hands have been wrung over the disparity of pay between men and women doing the same job.
But the bias isn’t always intentional.
A vast majority of them are fair-minded guys who want women to succeed. They’re absolutely certain that they don’t have a gender problem themselves; it must be some other guys who do. Yet they’re leaders of companies that pay men more than women for the same jobs.
Now an intriguing idea has surfaced playing off the SEC’s new rule forcing companies to publish comparisons of how much chief executive officers take home compared with ordinary employees
The idea is to do the same between males/females within each company.
This would be especially interesting in tech, which admits that diversity may be a great goal, but won’t happen any time soon, even in companies which have made it a priority, such as Apple.
In the event the idea gains any traction you can assume enterprise will fight it as passionately — probably more — as it fought the CEO comparison, which took five years to become reality.
Without the force of law, how likely that the comparison could become a reality?
There are two ways that come to mind.
- The first is to have a company step forward and offer the information voluntarily.
- The second is that an internal whistleblower will publish the information anonymously on social media.
The second is far more likely, especially in the data-driven world in which today’s companies must operate.
Flickr image credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
Wednesday, August 12th, 2015
Decades ago when my office was on the 35th floor of a Financial District tower in San Francisco I always had a sweater or just dressed warmly no matter the season, as did most of the women.
The cold never seemed to bother the men.
Fast forward to August 2012 when a friend emailed to say she had changed companies.
I was surprised, to say the least, since she held a senior position along with sizable stock options and I knew she would be leaving a lot on the table.
When I asked why she said it was a great opportunity, but the deciding factor had been the ambient temperature during multiple interviews — she was tired of always being cold.
Imagination? Personal idiosyncrasy?
No, actual fact, according to an article describing a new study published last week.
Finally, scientists (two men, for the record) are urging an end to the Great Arctic Office Conspiracy. Their study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, says that most office buildings set temperatures based on a decades-old formula that uses the metabolic rates of men. The study concludes that buildings should “reduce gender-discriminating bias in thermal comfort” because setting temperatures at slightly warmer levels can help combat global warming.
Just as a too warm office can slow people down and make them sleepy, so can a too cold office.
Bosses can alleviate the problem to some degree.
- If your physical space operates by zones rearrange workers based on their temperature needs, as opposed to functional or gender lines.
- If there is only one central control raise the temperature or at least try splitting the difference.
- Provide snuggies, blankets and space heaters when needed.
- Treat it as the problem it is and not as a joke or gender weakness.
While addressing the problem may have little-to-no impact on global warming, it could have a substantial impact on your talent acquisition and retention.
Flickr image credit: Lara
Friday, July 31st, 2015
A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here
This post is for all the male founders out there who don’t understand the fuss about diversity, especially gender diversity.
After all, why bother finding female talent when it’s so much easier to find male talent?
What difference does it really make? (click “Resources”)
Venture-backed companies with females as founders or executives are more likely to go public, turn a profit or be sold at a steep price (source: DowJones)
Globally, companies with diverse executive boards enjoy significantly higher earnings and return on equity. (source: DowJones)
Download the Report
The difference is money, stupid; it’s the money.
Hat tip to KG for sending me the link.
Image credit: HikingArtist
Monday, July 20th, 2015
This isn’t the first time bias has been the subject of a post, from attractiveness to the inherent dangers of your comfort zone to Google’s anti-bias training and many others.
The most important thing to learn from all this is that you are biased.
So am I and so is the rest of the human race, no exceptions.
Now neuroscience research is looking at bias and what it takes to disable it within an organization well beyond Google’s training approach, which may not do much good.
Unfortunately, there is very little evidence that educating people about biases does anything to reduce their influence. Human biases occur outside conscious awareness, and thus people are literally unaware of them as they occur. As an individual, you cannot consciously “watch out for biases,” because there will never be anything to see.
First, some basics; what is bias?
Biases are nonconscious drivers — cognitive quirks — that influence how people see the world. They appear to be universal in most of humanity, perhaps hardwired into the brain as part of our genetic or cultural heritage, and they exert their influence outside conscious awareness.
The great problem is that people can’t recognize bias until after the fact — if at all.
If you are highly self-aware you can train yourself to know areas in which you are biased based on historical perspective, which, hopefully, will send up warning flags when you face a similar situation.
But the best solution involves a team effort, whether at work, home or during other pursuits.
How then can the negative effects of bias be overcome? Collectively. Organizations and teams can become aware of bias in ways that individuals cannot. Team-based practices can be redesigned to help identify biases as they emerge, and counteract them on the fly, thus mitigating their effect.
Bias is real and it’s not going to go away because it violates what we want to believe about ourselves.
I highly recommend this article, not just for you, but to share with the various teams in your life.
Flickr image credit: Urko Dorronsoro
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015
Scott Goodson has worked at Apple, Instagram and Facebook; all hot companies known for their creativity, innovation and cultures.
Goodson recently joined Pinterest and found an enormous difference.
“I found Pinterest to be a very different sort of culture than I’m used to. One of the most unique things is that the company really values interdisciplinary work across the different functional areas of the team. The notion of empathy is deeply understood here. At other companies there’s a bit more of a competitive or even ruthless perspective, so it was really refreshing to see the level of cooperation here.”
He goes on to say,
“There’s definitely a stereotype of a successful startup that it’s often this aggressive, type A place and that’s just not necessarily true. You can have geniuses that are nice or geniuses that are really egotistical. But they’re both geniuses. So, we really want to work with the geniuses that are nice to each other and have a common level of respect.”
What neither Goodson nor the article mention is that Pinterest has a strong team of female designers and engineers.
While the founders are male, the culture they developed is one where women thrive.
“It was a revelation to join the team at Pinterest and feel like I was treated like an engineer first, not as a female engineer. In most other places, I felt like people always treated me as a “female engineer,” like I was a novelty. People even called me a unicorn to my face. It was really nice to come here and not have that gender modifier in front of who I am.” –Tracy Chou, Pinterest engineer
Pinterest’s culture fosters creative collaboration and mutual respect because it is the absolute opposite of the typical frat-boy startup culture so common in the Valley.
Flickr image credit: katdaned
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