Home Leadership Turn Archives Me RampUp Solutions Option Sanity

  • Categories

  • Archives

Ducks in a Row: Attracting Women to STEM? Simple

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015


Considering all the hand-wringing and diverse efforts to attract women to tech, it turns out that it’s relatively simple.

Lina Nilsson is a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and director of innovation at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley, noticed a quaint factoid.

…if the content of the work itself is made more societally meaningful, women will enroll in droves. That applies not only to computer engineering but also to more traditional, equally male-dominated fields like mechanical and chemical engineering.

This held true at dozens of universities, such as D-Lab at MIT, Arizona State University, University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania State University and Santa Clara University.

And it’s important to recognize that the primary, or even secondary, intent was not to attract women, but to solve problems.

None of the programs, clubs and classes were designed with the main goal of appealing to female engineers, and perhaps this is exactly why they are drawing us in. At the core of each of the programs is a focus on engineering that is cutting edge, with an explicit social context and mission.

The problem, of course, is that most existing companies and current startups are focused on money, while “women seem to be drawn to engineering projects that attempt to achieve societal good.”

Higher purpose vs. greed says it all. 

Image credit: Kurt Bauschardt

Your comments-priceless

Don’t miss a post! Subscribe via RSS or EMAIL

  • What did you think of this article?
Show Results

Kevin O’Leary Prefers Investing in Women

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Kevin Oleary

I love watching Shark Tank, whether the current season on ABC or reruns on CNBC.

My favorite sharks in order are Robert Herjavec, Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John.

My almost-least favorite shark is Mark Cuban, but it is Kevin O’Leary who I really can’t stand.

I have no problem with a shark saying no, but to listen to O’Leary tear down not only ideas, but also the entrepreneurs themselves makes me slightly ill. His criticism is rarely constructive and sometimes it is downright destructive — especially to women founders, or so it seems.

So you can imagine my amazement when I read an article in Entrepreneur Magazine where O’Leary said he preferred women CEOs.

“Women make better CEOs. All things being equal, given the choice between a woman and a man, I would pick the woman every time.” (…) “If I want high returns with low volatility, that equals a woman.”

Like I said, amazing; not original, but amazing.

There are reams of statistics and dozens of studies that prove having women in senior management roles and on the board positively affects the bottom line.

Companies that have more women on their boards and in their senior management teams aren’t just opening doors to gender equality. They’re reaping greater financial rewards.

Kevin O’Leary is emphatic that his only interest is making money. He has no interest in furthering diversity or leveling the playing field for women — but he prefers to invest in them.

That should provide a lot of creditability to the studies that are so often shrugged off or rationalized into oblivion.

Image credit: ABC Shark Tank

Your comments-priceless

Don’t miss a post! Subscribe via RSS or EMAIL

  • What did you think of this article?
Show Results

…Like A Girl

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Did you watch the Super Bowl today?

If you’re a guy you may not have paid much attention an ad from Always.

It looks at how #like a girl has always been an insult and an effort to change that perception.

“In my work as a documentarian, I have witnessed the confidence crisis among girls and the negative impact of stereotypes first-hand,” said Lauren Greenfield, filmmaker and director of the #LikeAGirl video. “When the words ‘like a girl’ are used to mean something bad, it is profoundly disempowering. I am proud to partner with Always to shed light on how this simple phrase can have a significant and long-lasting impact on girls and women. I am excited to be a part of the movement to redefine ‘like a girl’ into a positive affirmation.”

But the insult goes far beyond the days of puberty.

“Will it work for your mom?” and “so simple your mother could do it” are catch terms, especially in the software industry, to indicate the product is simple (AKA, dumbed down) enough that anyone can use it.

The interesting thing is that if you call these same guys out asking if they are referring to their mom/sister/girlfriend/wife they usually say no.

The disconnect starts early. In the Always video at 1:06 the dialog is as follows:

Voiceover: “So do you think you just insulted your sister?”

Boy: “No, I mean yeah… insulted girls, but not my sister.”

There is a giant mental disconnect for most males between ‘women’ and ‘my women’.

And it is that disconnect that needs to change.

Image credit: Always

Your comments-priceless

Don’t miss a post! Subscribe via RSS or EMAIL

  • What did you think of this article?
Show Results

Entrepreneurs: A Lesson From IDEO

Thursday, January 29th, 2015


How would you respond to the following?

  • Would you hire a woman?
  • Would you hire an old woman?
  • A really old woman?
  • Could such a woman contribute significantly to a project?
  • What could she teach your hot, young engineers?

While most founders would answer ‘no’ or ‘nothing’, IDEO thinks differently.

The company recently hired Barbara Beskind and both she and IDEO consider her 90 years a major advantage.

She applied after seeing an interview with IDEO founder David Kelley, who talked about the importance of a truly diverse design team and hires accordingly.

The aging Boomer market has companies salivating and hundreds are developing products for them.

The problem, of course, is that younger designers have no idea what difficulties older people face; not the obvious ones, but those that are more subtle.

Beskind does.

For example, IDEO is working with a Japanese company on glasses to replace bifocals. With a simple hand gesture, the glasses will turn from the farsighted prescription to the nearsighted one. Initially, the designers wanted to put small changeable batteries in the new glasses. Beskind pointed out to them that old fingers are not that nimble.

It really caused the design team to reflect.” They realized they could design the glasses in a way that avoided the battery problem.

It’s the little things that make or break products and the knowledge of the little things comes mostly from having been there/done that.

That kind of insight is priceless.

Now how would you answer those questions?

Image credit: jm3 on Flickr

Your comments-priceless

Don’t miss a post! Subscribe via RSS or EMAIL

  • What did you think of this article?
Show Results

Ducks In A Row: Sisterhood? Not Hardly

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015


An interesting article from Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant shows exactly what woman in the workplace face and the thin line they walk when they speak up.

We’ve both seen it happen again and again. When a woman speaks in a professional setting, she walks a tightrope. Either she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation for his fine idea. As a result, women often decide that saying less is more. (…) Male executives who spoke more often than their peers were rewarded with 10 percent higher ratings of competence. When female executives spoke more than their peers, both men and women punished them with 14 percent lower ratings.

The critical words are, “both men and women punished them;” again, not a surprise.

The findings in the article aren’t new or even that surprising (here are two more from 2008 and 2009); I heard similar comments more than 30 years ago.

It gives the lie to the myth of sisterhood.

I never believed in the whole sisterhood thing — the idea that women supported each other.

I got support and encouragement from the men in my work world — it sure didn’t come from the women.

That’s not to say that women don’t form solid relationships and support each other, of course they do, but they aren’t based on an accident of nature, i.e., plumbing.

They’re based on common interests and ongoing discovery.

So while ‘sisterhood’ has worked for some, it’s dangerous to assume it works for all or all the time.

Image credit: MattysFlicks

Your comments-priceless

Don’t miss a post! Subscribe via RSS or EMAIL

  • What did you think of this article?
Show Results

Ducks in a Row: Intel, $300M And Diversity

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

 https://www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress/13476023723/Dozens of ugly stories in 2014 threw a spotlight on the lack of gender and color diversity and the prevalence of bigoted and frat house/misogynistic cultures in tech.

Individuals and companies are speaking out vowing to change things — talking, talking, talking.

Intel, however, isn’t talking; it’s putting its money where its mouth is.

Intel said it has established a $300 million fund to be used in the next three years to improve the diversity of the company’s work force [goal of 14%], attract more women and minorities to the technology field and make the industry more hospitable to them once they get there.

The big difference between what Intel is doing and the rest of tech is not just focusing on STEM training and recruitment, but on changing the workplace so that those who join tech will stay in tech instead of being driven out by the current culture.

Changing culture is difficult within a company, let alone within an entire industry.

Google is already working on it, while most companies are suggesting/funding issues that are external, such as education.

Hopefully, the clout and funds that Intel is bringing to the table will makes a difference.

Image credit: Intel Free Press

Your comments-priceless

Don’t miss a post! Subscribe via RSS or EMAIL

  • What did you think of this article?
Show Results

A Ray of Hope

Monday, December 22nd, 2014


Trolls are the bane of the internet and harassing, insulting and degrading women is a prime focus.

This is especially true on Reddit, with extra attention paid to AMA sessions, such as the one held earlier this month.

…to cap off Computer Science Education Week, three women computer scientists from MIT did a Reddit ask-me-anything session to answer questions about programming and academia.

The discussion was flowing until—yup. You guessed it.

But because this is the internet, a few trolls showed up, too, asking bizarre and rude sexist questions, some involving parts of the human body. A PR person from MIT forwarded the links to us [Business Insider], asking us to expose these trolls.

To everyone’s amazement, instead of leaving it to the crowd to vote the yucky comments down, Reddit stepped in.

But Reddit aims for these AMAs to be respectful. Reddit’s policy is that it will remove comments that are “abusive or harassing” as well as “comments where there would be no possibility of a real answer, especially where it is deliberately creepy or offensive.”

Reddit exemplifies the anything goes/no censorship/trust the crowd to police itself internet.

One has to wonder if this is a sign that people have had enough, that anonymous hate and bullying are finally falling out of favor — at least a little bit.

Image credit: Rich Aten

Your comments-priceless

Don’t miss a post! Subscribe via RSS or EMAIL

  • What did you think of this article?
Show Results

If the Shoe Fits: Diversity vs. the Rules of Tech

Friday, December 5th, 2014

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIn the course of today’s culture I am a virtual nobody. Aside from this blog, LinkedIn profile and a few comments here and there over the years I have no visibility.

This was pointed out to me in an irate email that asked who I thought I was to belittle the wonderful world of tech on non-issues like diversity.

Actually, I was surprised at both the lack of four-letter words and that writer didn’t blast me publicly. When I complimented the former and inquired about the latter I was told that “Ryan” assumed I wouldn’t see anything done in social media (true), so he decided to write directly.

The following is specifically for Ryan and those who agree with him, as well as those who find these posts enlightening. And a shoutout to KG Charles-Harris, who sent me the link.

Leslie Miley wrote a post at Model View Culture called The Top 10 (%) Tech Rules, but could as easily have been “why nothing changes” or “a self-propagating culture.”

Hopefully Ryan and friends will accept Miley’s comments as valid, since his credentials are above reproach.

Working as an engineer at Google, Apple, and Twitter has afforded me a view of the hiring process that for years has produced a homogenous culture: mostly male, and significantly white and Asian.

The Silicon Valley hiring process has been homogenized to the point that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy—as entrenched as the “old, white guy” culture in the east.

I don’t believe much will change in my lifetime and maybe not in yours or your kids.

As Miley points out, habits are hard to break and breaking this systemic habit will make quitting smoking look like a stroll on the beach.

I am not optimistic about the future of diversity in tech. I see too many of my co-workers ask what university before they ask what applicants have accomplished. I see bias in the CS questions culled from the top universities, and preference given to candidates from the top companies, referred by their peers. The system now serves itself. And that will be the hardest habit to break.

That said, it could change.


Read Miley’s post carefully and then stop doing what it talks about. In other words, be your own person and stop being an organization person.

Talk about it and, whenever possible, call out those you see abiding by the system.

Then share it over and over until it goes viral.

It’s a start.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Your comments-priceless

Don’t miss a post! Subscribe via RSS or EMAIL

  • What did you think of this article?
Show Results

Ducks in a Row: Mark Andreessen’s Views on Diversity

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014


For all the talk about the lack of diversity some folks still don’t get it.

It’s a recognized fact that sometimes very smart people do or say very stupid things as reflected in Marc Andreessen’s recent comment explaining that companies actually are diverse.

“When you actually go in these companies, what you find is it’s American people, but it’s also Russians, and Eastern Europeans, and French, and German, and British. And then there are the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Indonesians, and Vietnamese.”

This is a direct contradiction of 2013 research done by Reuters.

A recent Reuters report found that the majority of Silicon Valley startup founders that receive Series A funding come from the same pedigreed cohort: either they previously worked at a large, well-known tech firm, a well-connected smaller tech company, they previously created a successful startup, or they come from one of three universities—Stanford, Harvard, or MIT.

Of course, one image is worth ten thousand words when proving this.

Andreessen also says that the lack of women and people of color in Valley companies is a function of education inequality and not having the right connections; another thought that flies in the face of facts.

Except for the fact that a recent analysis conducted by USA Today found that top universities are graduating black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering students at twice the rate that technology companies are hiring them. Last year, 4.5% of computer science and engineering graduates from top universities were black and 6.5% were Hispanic. But on average, just 2% of employees at Silicon Valley tech companies (specifically, the seven companies that have released diversity stats) are black and 3% are Hispanic.

The walls around the Valley investor community are far higher now than they were when in 1993 when he happened to meet Jim Clark, who suggested forming a company based on a program Andreessen wrote in college called Mosaic.

The Valley needs to wake up, bite the bullet and follow the lead of Google, instead of pulling Andreessen’s rationalizing over their collective heads.

Flickr image credit: Susanne Nilsson

Your comments-priceless

Don’t miss a post! Subscribe via RSS or EMAIL

  • What did you think of this article?
Show Results

Ducks in a Row: the Problem with Change

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014


After 40 years the architectural profession isn’t any more open to women than it was.

In 1974, Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic for The New York Times, wrote that it was “appalling” that the institute’s national membership consisted of 24,000 men and 300 women.

Although women now account for half of all graduates of American architecture schools, they represent only 20 percent of licensed practitioners and an even lower proportion of partners in firms…

It took pressure from Millennial men in search of better work-life balance to force some law firms to effect change, in spite of the fact that losing a second-year associate costs $200,000 – $500,000 and nearly 50% of women lawyers quit.

Paying for women to freeze their eggs is the latest perk being offered, including by Apple and Facebook.

Many in tech believe that organizations such as Girls that Code and mentoring groups like WEST will change the dismal gender diversity numbers.

Facebook, Box and Pinterest announced on Wednesday that they have gotten together to launch a new mentorship program called WEST (Women Entering and Staying in Tech). The idea is to get more women interested in computer science, and to help them be prepared for the tech jobs of the future.

Google is ahead of the pack by taking a different approach and addressing unconscious bias.

Will any of these initiatives work long-term?


Because, other than Google, none address the need for cultural change.

Changing culture is hard and it needs to start from the top, which means that leadership must change its MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™).

But considering the example set by the architectural profession I’m not holding my breath.

Flickr image credit: Peter aka anemoneprojectors

Your comments-priceless

Don’t miss a post! Subscribe via RSS or EMAIL

  • What did you think of this article?
Show Results

RSS2 Subscribe to
MAPping Company Success

Enter your Email
Powered by FeedBlitz

About Miki View Miki Saxon's profile on LinkedIn

About KG View KG Charles-Harris' profile on LinkedIn

About Ajo View Ajo Fod's profile on LinkedIn

Clarify your exec summary, website, marketing collateral, etc.

Have a quick question or just want to chat? Feel free to write or call me at 360.335.8054

Download useful assistance now.

Give your mind a rest. Here are 4 quick ways to get rid of kinks, break a logjam or juice your creativity!

$10 really does make a difference and you'll never miss it.
Always donate what you can whenever you can.

The following accept cash and in-kind donations:

Web site development: NTR Lab
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.