Women In Tech

I have a theory on why the percentage of participation of women in tech is so painfully low (~10%).  Less of a theory on why we are here, but where to go.

Tech is a barn dance, and all the guys showed up first.  Right now there is a dance full of 90% guys, and the women are peaking in their heads and seeing a bunch of dudes having a pretty good time drinking and dancing.  I would say that:

  • Nobody has locked the door
  • They were invited
  • They have the skills to dance
  • The DJ (leadership) is begging them to come in
  • The guys will have an alright time without them
  • The dance is better if they come in

I hear horrible stories of sexism in other industries, but startups seems to be a very supportive ecosystem (I’ve yet to see a firsthand ‘that is horrible’ story or hear of many).  I’ve seen an amazing amount of support, but the numbers are still amazingly low.

I propose that it is time we all stop dancing for a minute, go outside and invite someone in.

It will be a better party if everyone did.

Holiday Party

If you need some pointers on organizations that are doing a great job, check out Women 2.0 and BlogHer.  Three kick ass roll models would be Amber Case, Tara Hunt and Melanie Notkin (and many, many, many others).  Note your favorites in the comments.

  • Cal

    I'll second the Amber Case vote for sure.

  • naomimimi

    great analogy. i am 110% in concurrence. 🙂

  • I think we need Hollywood to make a movie and have Kristen Stewart as a web designer and Robert Pattinson as a web developer. That might help with the situation… (the Facebook movie coming up won't do much good, I fear)

  • andrewhyde

    Best comment ever.

  • A somewhat related and interesting read: http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/hbr/hewlett/20

    It behooves start-up founders to consider the value-add women can bring to an organization.

  • jenbonnett

    Working on it. StartupChicks (http://www.startupchicks.net) is helping the situation in Atlanta. We had at least twice as many women at last week's Startup Weekend, as the previous year.

  • It starts at school. How many women are going into engineering, comp sci, math, etc?

  • Every single semester that I taught the intro to programming course there was at least ONE guy who felt the need to say “oh great, we're being taught by a chick?” the first day.

    Startups are one thing – but sexism is very much alive and well in the tech industry. It takes a special kind of strong-willed woman to face it and succeed despite it.

    I could introduce you to dozens of women in their 20s-40s who could share stories with you – but what's the point?

    I'll go ahead and remind you now tho that Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper were “at the barn dance” well before most men… it's not that the women are only just now peeking in.

  • It all starts at school. How many women are going into engineering, comp sci, math, etc?

    Thanks for raising the topic.

  • sarahwelch

    If you're interested in helping young girls coming up in the ranks, check out Expanding Your Horizons http://www.expandingyourhorizons.org/. It's a series of conferences nationwide encouraging junior high girls in math, science, and technology. It's amazing. I've been volunteering for 7 years, and it's one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

  • Kristina

    I'm glad that my friend Ben sent me a link to this post! I agree with Grant–many of the problems arise in education. As an engineering student myself, I volunteer for many K-12 outreaches to encourage underrepresented populations to pursue science and technology. I get comments from young girls spanning from, “I didn't know I was smart enough to do this” to “nobody has ever shown me that science can be fun.” There are a lot of efforts out there (like the Society of Women Engineers: http://www.swe.org) to increase involvement, but sadly, women enrollment in engineering has plateaued for years. I could rant and rave for pages, but I will leave it at that. 🙂 Thank you for bringing this topic to attention!

  • Anonymous

    Wouldn't you count the male hecklers at NewTech as being a bit negative toward women in tech? The comments when Spyder Link presented were particularly bad. That's not exactly what I'd call supportive.

  • andrewhyde

    I would argue anyone that gets in front of BDNT and says 'paradigm shift' will receive the same amount of heckling (even Feld).

    It didn't seem like the group was looking for support, it was looking to be looked up to.

  • andrewhyde

    I've never checked out their site! Thanks for the link!

  • andrewhyde

    This is fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

  • andrewhyde

    Painfully low. Would be something interesting to look into.

  • andrewhyde

    I would expect that type of behavior from intro to programing students, not folks working in startups. I just don't see it happening very often.

    I agree sexism is still there in the marketplace, but have found startups to be a rare breed in that they are working to solve the problem and really find it a fight to fight for.

    I'm 25, I've just gone through college and joined the workforce without seeing a shining incident of sexism or favoritism, which I see as a tide shift for the better.

    I'm saying the future is looking good, we need to make this happen.

  • andrewhyde

    Rock on! That is great news! Love to see more participation in SW's. Think they are an easy entry welcome to the startup world.

  • andrewhyde

    Great read, pains me I didn't link to it in the original article.

  • andrewhyde

    How did I forget Kit! Good call.

  • andrewhyde

    Would love to see you at a startup!

  • The argument that you've not seen it isn't a great one, Andrew.

    An anecdote: my friend, a fantastically brilliant woman, was recently told by a superior that he'd never let *his* daughter post her whereabouts on twitter, due to safety concerns. Nonwithstanding this woman is in fact not his daughter, my friend had a more interesting delayed reaction to his comments.
    She said the most harassed and threatened she's felt is specifically within the realm of the contributions she's made to the tech community. In other words, she feels safer posting her location to the internet than presenting to a room of her peers, due to the response.
    I think this is more common than you assume, and something you may not see.

    PS The comment her superior made, too, is entirely sexist.

  • andrewhyde

    I'm getting many emails like this. This post came from many, many conversations I've had while traveling with folks in the startup arena. Very few people in the conversations brought up stories like these, which are painful to hear.

    I know it is out there, but moving forward with our generation, what is it going to be like? I see it running away from the old guard.

    Perhaps something to think about / hope is true: the story you share is from someone in the dance making a decision around all dudes about someone outside. Will change if everyone is involved? Hope so.

    I see many of these stories happening in the valley. boo to that.

  • Definitely. For what it's worth, dude who said the daughter line could say it because, well, his daughter is closer to our age than he is.

  • ClizBiz

    On behalf of BlogHer, thanks for the shout-out!

    Also, I'm so glad you made the point about the barn door being open and the invite open. It's a great reminder and you can't say it enough. (Although, I think once a year is plenty.)

    It's very simple: Ignorant comments are to be ignored. All the VC ladies I've known were much too smart and driven to give such morons any regard. They come from the mouths of little, little men and mean nothing.

    Meet you at the dance!

  • ClizBiz

    On behalf of BlogHer, thanks for the shout-out!

    Also, I'm so glad you made the point about the barn door being open and the invite open. It's a great reminder and you can't say it enough. (Although, I think once a year is plenty.)

    It's very simple: Ignorant comments are to be ignored. All the VC ladies I've known were much too smart and driven to give such morons any regard. They come from the mouths of little, little men and mean nothing.

    Meet you at the dance!

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