WIT: This Silicon Valley exec has dedicated her career to empowering women. Has it worked?

 

By Shanon Gupta of CNN Tech

When Sukhinder Singh Cassidy would look around boardrooms, all she’d see were men.

In her 20-plus year career in Silicon Valley, she had only sat on one gender-balanced company board.

“The candor of discussion among all participants was definitely stronger on [that] board,” the entrepreneur told CNNMoney. Cassidy knew there had to be a way to increase the representation of women.

Her solution? Hire more women directors.

“There are a number of seats in the boardroom, versus just one seat as CEO,” she explained. That makes the boardroom the perfect place to gather diverse perspectives.

Three years ago, she created theBoardlist, a site that connects female leaders with opportunities on tech company boards — 75% to 78% of which have no women at all, according to the company’s research.

The site invites executives and investors to help identify and recommend candidates. So far, more than 2,000 female business leaders have joined the site.

Since its launch, theBoardlist says it’s helped place more than 100 women on private and public company boards, including Aparna Chennapragada to Capital One’s board in March.

Before launching the theBoardlist, Cassidy was the founder and CEO of the online shopping network, Joyus, and the CEO of Polyvore, a website that allowed users to make fashion collages. This year, she became the president of Stubhub.

CNNMoney asked Cassidy about her fight to make Silicon Valley more inclusive for women, the power of #MeToo and the scariest part about running her own business.

Where did you find your inspiration for TheBoardlist?

I was a serial entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, serving on public boards, and asked by a venture capitalist, “What can we do to solve the problem for women in tech?” (He was referring to the lack of women in the tech industry.)


I suggested that 100% of VCs in the valley could act now by putting a great woman leader on the board of every company they funded. I believed we could change the game significantly with this one simple act at the top.

While I pitched the idea to him and several other VCs, none took me up on the offer. A year later, I continued to be frustrated by the continued narrative about how there were so few women in tech, and I wanted to provide a tangible solution.

I reached out to 50 influential leaders in Silicon Valley and they helped me launch theBoardlist in less than 45 days.

Has the #MeToo movement had an impact on theBoardlist’s goals or mission?

Our mission has not changed from the day we launched: improve gender diversity in the boardroom.

What has changed is the environment in which we operate. Movements like #MeToo have brought greater visibility and accountability to behavior in the workplace, causing more people to seek out ways to address the issue.

So, while our mission hasn’t changed, the urgency and demand for solutions like theBoardlist have certainly increased.

Have attitudes toward women in Silicon Valley changed since you launched three years ago?

There has definitely been movement in the right direction.

TheBoardlist recently highlighted 30 public and private tech companies that have at least one woman on their board. We receive requests from men and women alike every day for qualified female talent to fill open board seats.

But, when we look at the overall picture — with theBoardlist’s research showing that only 7% of board seats at private tech companies filled by women — we know we still have a long way to go.

What’s the scariest part of your job?

The scariest part is living in constant uncertainty over a period of years, not months.

As a founder and CEO in the tech industry there are two big truths: Change is constant and timing is everything.

Innovation de facto means doing something different from the status quo. But consumers may not yet be ready to adopt even the best new ideas, despite what you build.

And while you are trying to find the right product for the market, the landscape itself keeps changing with new competitors and other companies also pivoting into your space. This creates even more uncertainty.

While I’ve gotten comfortable living with constant change, the fear of pouring all I’ve got into a company or idea and knowing it might not pan out never quite goes away.

If I could tell my 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?

To relax. It all works out as it’s supposed to for each of us.
I was even more intense and impatient when I was younger, but I did ultimately find my place in Silicon Valley where I thrived by embracing my strengths and going where they were valued.
I believe you can’t “force” everything to happen, but you can feel confident that if you know who you are and focus on excelling in one or two areas where you shine, you will find your professional and personal success.

What brings you the most joy?

Personally, my children and family and being with them. Professionally, its building new experiences that consumers love and working with tremendous people along the way to achieve that goal.

If you could have dinner with any influential figure from any time period, who would it be with and why?

Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi, because I’m awed by leaders who embrace their resisters and create change over very long periods of time using patience and calm, peaceful protest.

This is often in contrast to the high speed, highly competitive and rapid return mindset we practice in industries like technology. Seeing the lasting and global impact of leaders of this type is inspiring on both a leadership level, but also a deeply personal one.

I’m especially inspired by their abilities to create change using fundamentally different skills than the ones I have.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Creating and building new joyful, delightful or empowering experiences that lots of people love to use.

I’d also like to be remembered as someone who was able to accelerate the success of others throughout my professional career, and who always acted with great authenticity and integrity.

What’s something most people probably don’t know about you?

My parents were doctors, but my father loved being an entrepreneur as much as he loved medicine.

He exposed me to every aspect of his business from a very young age and taught me the value of working for myself. I look back on him today and understand the power of being raised by the quintessential entrepreneur.

If you weren’t a founder and CEO, what would you be?

I’d be a film producer because I loved making movies in high school and am always moved by the power of great storytelling through film.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Work really hard and do great work for great people. There is no substitute for the value of putting your head down and being known as the person who will over deliver without ever needing to be asked.

WIT: 5 Ways Women in Tech Can Take Action in 2018

 

 

By Rana el Kaliouby Co-founder and CEO, Affectiva as Featured on Inc.com

I just got back from attending CES 2018 in Las Vegas where over 180,000 people descended on the city to discuss all things tech. At Affectiva, we are spending more time in the automotive space as car companies look to capture driver and occupant state to improve safety and optimize the in-cab experience in autonomous vehicles. So CES was THE place to be to meet with existing and prospective automotive partners. And busy it was. I was in back-to-back meetings all day on Tuesday: eight meetings altogether. Twenty-four men. Only one woman besides myself. I attended a panel on the future of intelligent cars: all (white) males.

The lack of women on stage was a recurring theme at the conference: the keynote addresses were overwhelmingly male and so was the speaker lineup for the Consumer Telematics Show, prompting the hashtag #CESSoMale. As co-founder and CEO of an AI company, I am used to there not being many women in the room especially in AI. But still, the notable absence of women on stage and in meetings, with everything going on around us, felt surreal.

Later that evening, I was fortunate to be invited to an intimate “Women in Tech” dinner hosted by Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President, Business Development at Microsoft and Microsoft Ventures. For what it’s worth, I was recommended for the dinner by a male colleague who is in tech investing – so yes, there are AMAZING guys out there who are advocates for women!

A role model for women in tech, Peggy spent many years at Qualcomm before joining Microsoft as one of CEO Satya Nadella’s first hires. The other women at the dinner were equally accomplished. In fact, this was the most women tech investors I’d ever met in one place. There were also women founders of very successful startups in the mobility and media space as well as heads of products and business development at billion dollar companies. That none of these women were on the CES stage baffled me. It baffled all of us at that table.

I attend a fair amount of these “women events” but this one was different. Just a couple of nights before, Oprah Winfrey had given an inspiring speech – a call to action to women (and men) to speak their truths especially as it relates to inequality in all its forms. As we went around the table sharing what we are excited about in 2018, I felt an incredible sense of optimism. There was also consensus that it was time for action. Trending hashtags are not enough.

The conversation inspired me define five actionable things that I feel inspired to take on in 2018:

1. De-stigmatize Emotions.

At dinner, we had a heated debate about whether it’s OK for women to show their emotions at work. I was surprised that the women at the table were split on this. Several felt it hurts our careers and is downright “unprofessional”. Others challenged this: why is it OK for men (take Steve Jobs for example) to express their frustration by yelling and swearing at others, but it is not OK for women to express their frustration say through tears? Why is it that the emotional male leader is seen as assertive and powerful, whereas an emotional female leader is seen as weak?
I’ve spent my career giving computers the ability to recognize human emotions, so I know very well the stigma around emotions. It is why, in 2009 when we were spinning out of MIT Media Lab, my co-founder Professor Rosalind Picard and I avoided the word “emotions” in our company name and early pitch decks. But it is 2018 and the world has changed. There is now increased recognition that emotions drive people to act and are so critical, not just in the culture of an organization but also in how companies choose to engage with their users. It is time that we de-stigmatized emotion and as Jack Ma, Founder and Chairman of Alibaba puts it, celebrate what makes us human: our capacity for passion, compassion, understanding.

2. More Women Camaraderie and Support for Each Other

Enough of the queen bee syndrome. When a woman on your team or in your network comes up with an idea, make sure she gets credit for it. If you are in a meeting and a fellow woman gets cut off, stand up for her, for instance by saying “I’m actually interested in hearing the rest of what Zoe has to say – Zoe please continue”. Share and amplify the success stories of other women – this is not a zero sum game! Also, be generous with your connections. Vouch for women on your team and women in your network. Make introductions, help them get on company boards and on stage. Help them expand their responsibilities and celebrate their successes. I especially look forward to supporting the awesome women on Affectiva’s team.

3. Partner With The Men Who Get it And Challenge Those Don’t.

But this isn’t just about women supporting each other. Men play a crucial role here too. Collaborate with and reinforce those men who get it; challenge those who don’t. I have been fortunate to have amazing male mentors and advisors who celebrate women in tech. On a personal level, these men celebrate my successes and cheer me on when it is challenging. These men care about gender parity and focus on that with intention – routinely recommending women in their network to event organizers and company boards. I am also lucky to work with team members who are strong advocates for getting more women in STEM. Even though Affectiva is co-founded by two women scientists, our science and engineering teams are still predominantly male. This is something we recognize and are actively working on. Forest Handford, Engineering Manager at Affectiva has put guidelines that insure that gender (and other biases) don’t creep into our interviewing process. In one case, Forest advocated for hiring a female intern. He reminded everyone that male candidates often over inflate their abilities while women generally undervalue their abilities. Over the past year, with Forest’s leadership, we have been able to attract four female interns; up from one the prior year.  

4. Be The Leader You Want To See.

Be you. Own the leadership style that makes you you. If you are an empathetic leader by nature, embrace that. Your team is better for it. I personally believe in bringing your whole self to work and being open and transparent, even vulnerable. I believe that builds trust, loyalty, and a sense of belonging and passion. All these things that are fundamental in the office.  Challenge gender norms. For instance, it should be ok for both men and women to talk about their kids and other non-related aspects of their life at work. 

5. Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone.

Get out there. Build your personal brand. Get on stage, even if if it is outside of your comfort zone. Not because you are a woman, but because you are an expert on what you do. Reach out to events where you think there should be more women speakers and make recommendations. I personally do a lot of speaking engagements in tech, but am committed to getting more involved on the automotive tech stage. 
This is the year of action. There are not enough women in AI. We need to start a network of women who are in that field in academia, business, and investment. My goal for 2018 is to identify those women, reach out to them, support them and perhaps host an event for Women in AI. If that interests you, please reach out to me and let’s make something happen.

What do you think about these suggestions for taking action for women in tech? Sound off in the comments below!

Weekly Round Up 1/12/18

 

 

Again?! Steve Jobs may have been a tyrant when it came to the details but, this sh*t rarely happened on his watch.

Yet another macOS High Sierra bug: Unlock App Store system preferences with any password.


With all the Technology surrounding these guys, you’d think they’d pay better attention to the world around them. I mean, I know they live in a bubble, but c’mon!
Data Sheet—Darkness Hits CES Amid the Tech Backlash.

 

And my hometown made the list! Charlotte NC for the win!
Tech’s New Hotbeds: Cities With Fastest Growth In STEM Jobs Are Far From Silicon Valley.

Wait, does this mean no more Jitterbug?!
Tech for the elderly is a growing area, but founders should think more about whether their gadget will be used.

 

I think Steve would be more worried about the lack of leadership in his company right now, actually.
The ‘father of the iPod’ says tech addiction would worry Steve Jobs if he were alive today.

 

What, bribes don’t work on Congress anymore? Since when?!
Tech executives join more than 100 business leaders calling on Congress to move quickly on DACA.

 

You know, when I was a kid, I remember my parents writing to Captain Kangaroo and asking him to cut his programming in half so I’d watch less. SMH
Kids and Smartphones: Should Tech Companies or Parents Set the Limits?

WIT: Blonde Silicon Valley CEO Dyes Hair To Be ‘Taken Seriously’, Women In Tech Say She’s ‘Not Alone’

‘The old stereotypes die hard.’

 

A Silicon Valley CEO has revealed she dyed her blonde hair, wore loose-fitting clothes and switched her contact lenses for glasses in order to be “taken seriously” in the workplace.

Eileen Carey, who runs software company Glassbreakers, told BBC News: “The first time I dyed my hair was actually due to advice I was given by a woman in venture capital

“I was told for this raise [that she was pitching to investors], it would be to my benefit to dye my hair brown because there was a stronger pattern recognition of brunette women CEOs.

“Being a brunette helps me to look a bit older and I needed that, I felt, in order to be taken seriously.”

While people on Twitter are up in arms about a woman changing her appearance for a job, women in STEM have told HuffPost UK that Carey is “not alone” in feeling this kind of pressure and that sadly, it’s nothing new.

Charlotte Attwood, digital marketing manager at Women In Tech said it “does not surprise [her] that women in tech feel the need to change their appearance to be taken seriously”.

“I think in general, women struggle to be taken seriously in the IT sector as it has always been seen as a male dominated sector,” she told HuffPost UK.

″[Gender equality in tech] has definitely improved in recent years as there are a lot more women in higher roles within the tech sector, such as managers and CEOs, however it is still a huge issue that needs to be resolved.”
Helen Wollaston, chief executive of WISE, which campaigns for gender balance in science, technology and engineering, agreed that a woman feeling pressure to change her appearance for a job is “sad”, but not surprising. 

“I know from the stories we hear at WISE that she is not alone,” Wollaston told HuffPost UK.

“There are some brilliant women out there – brunette, black and blonde [haired women]. Giving them higher profiles in the media, in business and in schools and colleges is helping to change perceptions, but the old stereotypes die hard.” 
Anne-Marie Imafidon, co-founder of Stemettes, added: “Sadly, how someone looks still affects how they are treated and so in this case she’s decided to ‘comply’ and dye her hair. Until the wider social norm changes, underrepresented groups will feel pressure to ‘change’ themselves to get ahead.”

Therese Stowell, principle product manager at software company Pivotal has previously blogged about the need to encourage gender diversity in tech.

She too said she is “not at all surprised” to hear a CEO in the industry felt under pressure to change her appearance.

“While tech companies have been working to address gender equality, deep societal biases can be hard to shift. Human beings are programmed to make snap judgements, so it’s a challenge even for people who are actively working to be inclusive,” she told HuffPost UK.

Their comments come after a report by the New York Times uncovered the extent to which women in tech face sexual harassment in the workplace earlier this year.

Two dozen women in the industry told the paper about their experiences of being harassed by mentors, investors and other male colleagues. 

Wollaston said things have improved for women in STEM in recent years, as “more companies see the business benefits of gender-balanced teams”, but far more needs to be done so that women in tech have the opportunities and respect they deserve.

“Ultimately we need gender balance in technology, from classroom to boardroom. When women no longer stick out because they are in a tiny minority (only 10% of this year’s A level computing students were girls), we will be able to be ourselves  – judged for our ability rather than the colour of our hair,” she said.

“I would like to see more men call out sexist comments and inappropriate behaviour, especially men in positions of power and influence. If we’re serious about this, we can work together to create a culture where all or us can do our best work and thrive.”

Imafidon added: “The glass ceiling is made up of bad managers and bystanders. The culture needs to change to one where people are not only aware of their biases, but are able to call [out] when they see others acting on biases. If there are no repercussions then norms won’t change.

“The number of ‘exposed’ investors who have now lost their jobs or influence after women speaking out shows that there is too much of a culture and ‘norm’ around that behaviour, where it isn’t called out.”

Meanwhile according to Attwood, the gender pay gap is central to issues of gender equality in tech. 

“This needs to be resolved urgently in order for gender equality to improve within the workplace. It also boils down to the stereotype of the people that work in the tech sector, which starts in schools,” she said.
“If we encourage children in schools that technology is just as relevant for women as it is for men, this will give girls the confidence to choose technology as further education and careers.” 

For Stowell, gender equality in STEM must “start with leadership” in order for things to improve further.

“We need to counteract implicit bias with initiatives like sponsorship that encourage women to stay and advance in tech,” she said.

“At Pivotal, we work hard to create a healthy and accessible atmosphere. We have frequent conversations with our dedicated diversity team, and are discussing a potential code of conduct for the industry: one that is open, supportive, and promotes mutual respect.”

What’s your reaction to Eileen’s transformation? Sound off in the comments below!

WIT: Uber Can’t Find a Woman to Be CEO, So Has Bravely Narrowed Their Search Down to Three Dudes

 

 

By Tom McKay of Gizmodo

Uber, the ride-hailing giant which became mired in internal fighting and leadership intrigue after the resignation of its former CEO Travis Kalanick, appears to have scared off every female candidate willing to entertain the notion of replacing him.

In fact, the Washington Post reported Friday, numerous high-profile female executives including Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki, General Motors’ Mary Barra, EasyJet’s Carolyn McCall and Hewlett Packard’s Meg Whitman have all been approached to lead Uber but have all turned the offer down or are no longer considered likely hires. The three people left on its candidate shortlist are all men, with outbound General Electric chairman Jeffrey R. Immelt considered the top contender for the job.

“We are disappointed, of course,” Joelle Emerson, chief of diversity consultancy Paradigm, told the Post. “It could have communicated a commitment on the company’s part to having a more inclusive culture. Though certainly I don’t think hiring a woman would have guaranteed that.”

The Post noted the motivations of each woman who turned down the job is unknown. But a recent New York Times piece on the turmoil surrounding Whitman’s decision to walk away from the potential job suggested Kalanick is sabotaging the hiring process as part of a comeback attempt—just weeks after he was pressured into resigning over allegations he saw a widespread culture of workplace sexual harassment.

Uber’s challenges are not limited to rampant sexism, but ongoing legal battles with self-driving car company Waymo and angry drivers, upstart competitors like Lyft, annual losses in the billions of dollars ($2.8 billion in 2016 alone!) and the resignations of most of its senior leadership.

While there are many reasons Kalanick’s detractors on the Uber board might be desperate for a fresh direction, and especially a new CEO who is not an old white dude, all of these factors could help explain the embarrassingly handled search for a new CEO. Who wants to become the public face of Uber’s failure if the company continues to tank? And who wants to become the female CEO blamed for not cleaning up Kalanick’s mess?

What do you think of Uber’s attempt to right their ship? Tell us in the comments below!

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