WIT: Why the Trolls Are Winning the Internet: Ex-Reddit CEO Speaks Out

She sounded the alarm on Silicon Valley. Now the former Reddit CEO is finally seeing things start to change.

 

By Kimberly Weisul of Inc.com

Ellen Pao knows the startup world–and its skeletons–inside and out. The former venture capitalist and one-time CEO of Reddit is now the co-founder and CEO of Project Include, a nonprofit that advises tech companies on diversity and inclusion. Pao first rocked Silicon Valley in 2012 by suing her employer, legendary venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for gender discrimination. Though she ultimately lost, her lawsuit sparked a long-overdue reckoning about how the tech industry treats women and people of color, and helped lay the groundwork for the ongoing #MeToo movement.

In a wide-ranging interview, Pao explains why this is a critical moment for women in Silicon Valley, calls for greater regulation of the biggest internet companies, and warns entrepreneurs against the worst mistakes she sees founders make.

So much has happened in tech in the past year, from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal to #MeToo. What, if anything, do you see changing?
We’re only starting to find out what can happen to our data on the big tech platforms, and how little control we’ve had over it–and even Facebook has had over it. It’s 100 percent clear the tech platforms cannot manage themselves. I’m not a fan of regulation, but that may be the only way to make things better. We’ve reached the last resort. Other options have failed.

For women in tech, this will be a really important year. We’ve had all these things happen, and now we have people who are actually open to change. I want to push as much change through as possible.

You’ve worked in venture capital, at startups, and at big tech companies. What value do you think VCs bring to startups?
They bring value in their networks. And they’ve seen a lot of things, so they can potentially help you troubleshoot. But they also bring a lot of baggage. VCs want a board seat. They may have giant egos and want you to do something a certain way. They may want you to go public, or sell earlier than you want to sell. They may be tracking metrics that you don’t believe in.

So do you advise founders to seek, or avoid, venture investors?
I don’t know that I would raise venture capital unless I really believed in the investor. I hope that in the future we can find alternative sources of funding, that it becomes easier to self-fund, and that people can get to profitability earlier.

When you invested in startups, what mistakes did you see entrepreneurs make repeatedly?
The worst was when entrepreneurs tried to postpone solving difficult problems, hoping they’d just magically disappear. That never happens. Especially the people issues–those get worse unless you have a conversation with those involved. And even then it’s 50/50–but if you don’t have the conversation, you can be 100 percent sure that it will get worse.

Also, don’t spend your money just because you have it. Be frugal, because your runway is really important. You don’t want employees who are there just because you’re spending a ton of money on events or on alcohol or on a fancy chef. You want people who are there to do their work and not for the fringe benefits. Focus on giving them great work to do and valuing the work that they are doing.

You left Reddit in 2015, after becoming interim CEO and trying to crack down on the site’s widespread hate speech. How have the large social-media platforms changed since then?
They’re more siloed, and more artificial. The idea of having authentic inter­actions on these platforms is less realistic. Instead, we see people marketing propaganda, or pushing for their idea in a way that might not be truthful.

It makes me really sad, because the internet is such a powerful tool, and it introduced this idea that you could connect with anyone. And it’s been turned into this weapon used to hurt and harass people.

What does that mean for the people who run these companies? How should they be responding to the abuse on their platforms?
You always have an obligation to keep your users safe, to make sure they are not going to be harassed or shoved off your platform for expressing their ideas, or attacked in real life by people sharing their private information.

Those should have been principles from the beginning. I do think the people who started the internet thought it was going to be a force for good, and I don’t think they anticipated the level of harassment and invasiveness and harm that people would use these platforms for. But at the minimum, you want to prevent bad things from happening on your platform.

What limits on free speech, if any, are acceptable in trying to curb online harassment and bullying?
The definition of free speech has become convoluted. It originally meant protection of the press from government intervention. Now it’s come to mean that people should be able to say whatever they want on tech platforms, which are run by private companies. This idea, that private companies have this obligation to allow any kind of speech, is actually not something that is legally required.

Tech companies created some confusion early on, because a lot of founders used “free speech” as a marketing angle. “Express whatever ideas you want!”

But when you make it a free-for-all, people unfortunately come out with their most terrible insults, and this horrible online harassment that we’ve seen get worse and worse over the past several years.

There has always been some censorship on platforms. They have always taken down spam and some child porn. It’s just when you get into certain types of content that people get really upset.

One of the big problems is that these platforms were built by homogeneous teams, who didn’t experience the harassment themselves, and who don’t have friends who were harassed. Some of them still don’t understand what other people are experiencing and why change is so important.

Is it possible to create a place where people can safely express any ideas online, no matter how controversial?
I don’t think it’s possible anymore except at very small scale, because the nature of interactions at scale has become very attention-focused: “The angrier and meaner I am online, the more attention I get.” This has created a high-energy, high-emotion, conflict-oriented set of interactions. And there’s no clear delineation around what’s a good or a bad engagement. People just want engagement.

Are any tech leaders taking this problem seriously?
I have been really impressed by [Medium founder and Twitter co-founder] Ev Williams’s coming out and saying, “Look, we didn’t understand back then what the internet was going to become, and we really need to rethink what we’re doing.”

Another problem is that employees who manage the behavior on these platforms are not valued. It’s hourly work, and the people who do it aren’t necessarily trained that well. So you’re expecting people who are clocking in and clocking out to figure out hate speech–which constitutional law professors are still constantly debating.

On top of that, you’re asking them to deal with hate and harassment directed at them personally. At Reddit, we had employees who got doxxed [had their private information published online]. So there’s a lot of fear, and it’s justified.

Meanwhile, the employees don’t see an upside; nobody really seems to be holding them accountable for making sure the platform rules are being followed. So any rules are not implemented well.

These platforms, especially Facebook, collect a large amount of data. Why did it take the Cambridge Analytica scandal to raise widespread alarm?
Because the data collection was marketed really well–a thumbs-up seems so innocuous! You don’t realize you’re sharing a ton of information–and it was very incremental. We had the Likes–and then all of a sudden the app was available on my phone, and that seemed really con­venient. It wasn’t explicit that all of this information, all of your actions on your phone, was going to Facebook, and that you were opening up your friends’ data. There were so many changes and new privacy policies that after a while people gave up tracking them–and Facebook didn’t wave it in your face. It’s not like the company said, “Hey, we’re taking all your data, and we’re doing all this stuff.”

Your trial, followed by Susan Fowler’s account of widespread harassment at Uber, helped lay the groundwork for the #MeToo reckoning about sexism, harassment, and sexual abuse throughout the business world. Is it worse in tech than in other industries?
In tech, there is such a concentration of power in a small set of venture capitalists and a small set of CEOs that people aren’t sharing all their stories–the #MeToo stories, the discrimination stories, and the retaliation stories.

Some of the stories I’ve heard behind the scenes are much worse than stories that have been shared publicly. People still want to be able to find jobs, and they want to be able to raise funding for their companies. It’s a rational decision not to share your story. And I don’t think we can really understand what’s happened in each of these industries without having heard all of those stories.

Do you feel you’ve been penalized for telling your story and for suing Kleiner Perkins?
There are people who won’t talk to me. There are people who believe the negative press campaign. A woman who runs a fund recently reached out to me, and she said, “I am sorry, because I really thought you were crazy when you sued. I see now why you did it and why it makes sense. I had pushed down all of my feelings and my experiences. I apologize, and I thank you for what you’ve done.”

But this is six years after I sued, and she’s finally saying something about it.

There are still a lot of people who believe that I was wrong to sue. It’s been such an uphill battle for so long. I don’t know if I’ve come out the other side yet, where I can say it’s been a positive. But it’s been very rewarding to see so many other people speaking up, and to see that shift from doubt and skepticism into empathy and belief. That’s happened in the past couple of years, and it’s been such a relief. 

I don’t think of it as about me personally. It’s more that the industry needs to change, and we’re making progress, and that’s a good thing.

How much progress have you seen for women in Silicon Valley?
Things are incrementally better. You can actually talk about an experience that you’ve had and not be met with skepticism or told that you’re crazy. People who have reported problems have gotten attention in a way that was not as negative as the attention I got.

Now there is a feeling that we need to change. The mindset at first was, “We don’t believe there’s a problem.” Then people admitted there was a problem, but it wasn’t their problem. Then they understood that they needed to make changes, but said they couldn’t because it was a pipeline problem. And now we’re at a point where people admit we need to change, and that they have some responsibility to do it. We’re just now starting to see companies say, “I want to change and I want to be revolutionary.”

This is going to be a critical year, because now people are willing to do some work. This is the best chance we have. We can see the move toward true inclusion–meaning not just women, which a lot of efforts are only focused on today.

The important part of this next wave of change is to try to keep people working together. It’s very easy to have people fracture and say, “There’s only one spot allowed for diversity, so we’re all going to fight for it.” But we need to be more supportive of one another. We need to understand that if we all work on inclusion together, it’s going to be faster, broader, better, and more thorough than anything we can do on our own.


Companies often cite the “pipeline problem,” the argument that there aren’t enough women or people of color with the degrees necessary to succeed in tech. Is that a real problem or an excuse?

There is a pipeline problem, but a lot of it is self-manufactured. Companies use the same recruiting firms. They have a process where it’s easier for a certain type of person to get through, so then the recruiters bring in that type of person, and build a huge pool of only them.

There are fewer women with computer science degrees, but that’s also an excuse. You don’t necessarily need a computer science degree. A lot of people are self-trained, and a lot of people who are successful in tech aren’t engineers. But it’s not only engineering that has a dearth of women. It’s across the whole tech industry, so it’s a much bigger problem.

I’ve heard people say #MeToo hasn’t helped women, it has just made men scared of hiring women.
Of course it helped. People said the same thing about my lawsuit–that VCs would never hire another woman, that it was going to prevent people from meeting with women, and that it was going to destroy any kind of gender progress that had already been made. That’s just sensationalistic–and also a little bit pissy, for lack of a better word. It’s like, “We don’t like this change, so we’re going to dig in our heels.”

Plenty of longstanding research shows that diverse teams perform better. So why do we still see so many all-white, all-male partnerships?
Some of these companies are so data-driven, so metrics-oriented–yet once the data is staring them in the face, their emotions override it, and they think they don’t need to change. I think there’s a comfort zone, and there’s a fear of women in the workplace. Sometimes they’ll say, “Our culture is so inappropriate that we can’t bring a woman into this environment.”

So how do you change an entrenched culture, like Uber’s?
It is so hard. You have to be vigilant about every interaction. You have to make sure if there are violations of values that you’re on it. Uber’s culture is in its DNA now, and I haven’t seen all the courage required to do the tough changes. The company is going to have to fire more than 20 people. It’s going to have to really dig in and spend time on it. The change agent needs to be the CEO.

There are some signs that Uber is not quite there. I don’t understand why it doesn’t have the diversity and inclusion lead reporting directly to the CEO. Chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John’s leaving is not a good sign–especially when Uber is putting $500 million into branding. That’s not good.

What do you tell the well-meaning CEO who hasn’t thought about inclusion or diversity a lot but wants to be one of the good guys?
There are a lot of very basic things: Make inclusion either an explicit value or part of all your other values. Make sure you step back and look at all of your processes: How are you recruiting people? How are you building your pipeline?

Are you rewarding people for bringing in their friends, who probably look like them? Are you getting a look at as many candidates as possible, or are you looking only at candidates who are on your homogeneous radar? Are you then going through a fair process to bring candidates on board? Or are you using trick questions that people with friends in the company will be able to answer, because they get a heads-up?

If your leadership team is not diverse and inclusive, then clearly this is not a priority for you. It also means that you have a limited circle. It may be because of your recruiter or it may be because of your board. But if your executive team doesn’t have much diversity, that’s going to be a problem, because the company won’t be able to attract people. And if you do, you’re not going to get them to stay, because they won’t see anybody who looks like them in the top ranks.

The early results from the first group of companies to work with Project Include show some progress in creating gender diversity but not racial or ethnic diversity. What can we learn from that?
Diversifying by race can be harder than diversifying by gender, from an emotional perspective. A lot of men will say, “I want to bring women in, because I want my daughter to have a chance.” It’s very oriented toward the people they have a direct connection with. When it comes to somebody from a different race or ethnicity, they may not have that connection.

And companies are still doing one thing at a time: They focus on gender first, and then the next group. Or they’re going to attack it one phase at a time because it’s so hard. That is not inclusion. That means you may be widening the group of people included, but you’re still excluding all these other people and your processes are still not fair. And the people whom you are theoretically including are probably still treated differently, because your culture is based around exclusion. That’s the piece people sometimes don’t get, because they don’t want to. There are specific problems for specific groups, but the focus and end goal is change, of the whole industry, for everybody.

WIT – be offended, be visible and stop feeling guilty!

Top tips from adidas’ Nicola Marie Beste – plan for your hour of power

By Madeline Bennett of Diginomica

Imposter syndrome; a lack of helpful role models ; female students discouraged from tech subjects; unconscious bias: these are all common themes that recur during discussions around diversity and gender in technology.

At the recent Women of Silicon Roundabout event, Nicola Marie Beste, Senior Director Projects & Programs at adidas, presented some practical ways women working in IT can overcome these challenges. Beste has encountered plenty of the above during her 20 years working in IT. Her aim now is to help other women succeed in the tech sector, but also to encourage organisations to embrace flexible working for all staff.
Here are her top tips for surviving and thriving in IT.

Call out casual sexism

Beste’s first experience of sexism at work came in her 20s, when she was working as a coder and risk assessor. She was invited to work with a team of 30 systems and manufacturing engineers, tasked with designing a manufacturing simulation system and developing its engine:

I researched, I read about it – I didn’t know a lot about engines so I really studied. I wanted to make sure I was going to be the best risk facilitator there so that I was able to help these people with their great minds come up with a solution.

Beste’s efforts paid off and she managed to help the team find a way to do the project. After the session, they all went for lunch. During the meal, a senior member of the group turned to her to offer some feedback:

He said, ‘When you took your jacket off, people listened to you much more.’ I took a deep breath and said, ‘You have deeply offended me. I spent ages working out how to make this group come up with the solution that we have and it’s not ok and I am offended.’

Then I ran to the loo, had a little bit of a cry.


I decided right there and then that’s enough. It’s not ok to have sexism in the workplace, it’s not ok to make little jokes like that and it’s certainly not ok to say something like that to a young woman in a lunch break. And it is ok to say ‘I’m offended and don’t say that again’ and it’s best to say it out loud and publicly.

Protect your time

Beste insisted that nobody should be working 60 or 70 hours a week. Instead, we should be more clever with our time, and this means starting the week knowing what you intend to do and protecting that time.

Finding your supporters within and outside the workplace is vital to proper time management. One of Beste’s key supporters is her husband, who also works in tech. They sit down every Sunday, get out their calendars, and plan who’ll pick up their two teenage children, drop them off and take them to their doctor’s appointment.

It also pays to seek out employers who truly embrace the concept of flexible working. Before starting at adidas, Beste was working from home and was very nervous about taking a job back in an office with two small kids to look after. But she took the plunge and decided to join adidas after a promise of flexible hours and an on-site kindergarten.

Beste organised a summer play scheme for her kids so she could fully focus on those first few weeks at work – but then on her first day realised that her childcare finished at 5pm rather than 6pm. Her new boss’s reaction proved she had joined the right business: the response was, block out 4pm in your calendar for the next six weeks, let your colleagues know where you are, and go pick up your kids:

You have to give everybody a break. When you’re talking about planning and having your supporters, you need to make sure that you’re not adding a little bit of that ‘She’s not doing her job, she left at 3pm again today’. Men have kids too – that’s how it happens. Make sure your guys also have that time when they need it.

Flexi hours for all – not just parents

Flexible working shouldn’t just be about people with kids, according to Beste. Everyone should be given the opportunity to take some time to do something different, and will become better workers for it:

Maybe you’re a single person, maybe you want to go to a theatre group, maybe you want to go for a run at lunchtime, maybe you want to learn a new language. Whatever it is, you need to make sure you leave time for yourself because if you don’t develop as a person, you’re not going to be a good employee either. We really believe that at adidas. So think about making sure you plan your time. It’s  not a crime to go home on time.

Of course, not all employers are as supportive as adidas, so what was Beste’s advice for those women working at less forward-thinking employers? Start working for someone else, in short. All companies should promote learning for their staff, Beste maintains, as if they’re not savvy to the latest trends, how can they be the best person at work and outside it.

No-one’s perfect

We spend too much time trying to get a certain look or be a certain way, and feeling like a failure if we don’t achieve it, Beste said:

I feel guilty I ate that muffin but it tasted delicious, I feel guilty that I didn’t do sport this morn, I feel guilty that I didn’t have time to talk to some of my team leaders who are going through a difficult situation, I feel guilty that my son wasn’t there when I called last night and I didn’t call back to talk to him, I feel guilty that I’m feeling a bit nervous if I’m doing a good presentation right now.

We have to stop feeling guilty. You can’t do it all. Things go wrong all the time and that’s ok. You can fail. Stop feeling guilty all the time, when you leave on time, when you’re giving your kids time, if you want to go and do something that isn’t your job. It doesn’t mean you’re not passionate about your job. You’re looking after yourself and you’re looking after your company.

Be visible

Beste noted that many of the women in the audience during her session were sat at the back, despite lots of empty free seats at the front. She urged everyone to sit at the front and be visible rather than hiding at the back.

And women need to “stop taking the minutes” – it might be you who has the next idea on how to make your company’s API integration faster, or how to connect that back-end ERP system to the finance system and make it work smoothly:

How can you say that if you’re always the one taking the notes? We’re not a bunch of secretaries, we shouldn’t be doing that. When you come to a meeting, sit at the front of the table and make sure people know you’re there.

Keep learning

Being visible comes with a caveat though – don’t sit upfront and push your ideas if you don’t know the answers. IT is constantly changing, and therefore you have to constantly learn. Beste said:

I want to encourage you all as technical women to never stand still with that. Plan your hour of power.

The hour of power is a scheme initiated by adidas’ CIO for everyone to have an hour in their week to learn something, with the time blocked out in their calendar as an out of office. Beste explained this could be anything from what Google or Uber are doing, to digging deeper into an emerging technology like blockchain or researching a buzzword you heard and want to learn about:

Make sure you learn. As women we need to promote ourselves as technical people and the way to get to the top of your game is to know what you’re talking about, understand the latest trends and make sure when you do sit at the table, you’re able to articulate it and be the best. If you’ve got your devices with you, why don’t you plan [your hour] now?

WIT: Fitbit’s lousy period feature proves the need for more women in tech

 

 

By Cara Curtis of The Next Web

Once again it has being proven that more women are needed in tech after Fitbit’s period tracking feature only allows women to log their menstrual cycle if it lasted for 10 days or fewer.

How long does your period last? Five days? A week? Two weeks? A month? It’s a question that doesn’t have a consistent answer month by month.

Your cycle can alter depending on your lifestyle and type of contraception. Not to mention the obvious, but every woman’s body is different. Or maybe this isn’t so obvious for the guys behind Fitbit’s latest menstrual tracking feature.

Fitbit
has been around since 2010 and in its time has sold more than 75 million devices globally. The period health tracking feature however, was only added onto Fitbit’s devices in May 2018.

Why did it take eight years to introduce the feature when women have been tracking their periods since the beginning of time?

The feature works in a similar way to other fertility and period tracking apps like the disastrous Natural Cycles. It tracks a woman’s period length (unless it’s over 10 days), it will then send notifications two days before the user’s period is due to start and it also claims to provide information about fertility, but don’t get me started on that.

For the millions of women out there who suffer from conditions like Endometriosis – this condition makes a woman’s period length vary from 21 to 35 days – the period tracking feature therefore becomes difficult to use with the current limitation.

Asides from the limited time you’re allowed to be on your period for, the menstruation tracker only allows a user to choose from five period “conditions” (or as we call them, symptoms). These include, acne, headache, tender breasts, or sickness.

Whilst these symptoms are what can happen to a woman during her menstruation, it seems that Fitbit have forgotten to mention the other common issues like food cravings, cramps, bloating, moods, muscle aches, tiredness, and stress (the list goes on).

Twitter user @Stephanenney took to Twitter when she noticed her FitBit set limitations to the length of her cycle. After attempting to extend the length, she was greeted with a notification explaining, “Periods should be between one and 10 days” with the two options been “OK” and “Cancel”.

 

Nothing like an app telling you what your period should be like, eh?

Fitbit announced that any users concerned about the limited period tracker should go to the suggestions board which welcomed many users expressing their anger towards the limitation.

Some of Fitbit’s moderators have joined in the discussion and agreed at times but currently, Fitbit have showed no signs of modifying the feature.

One user nailed it on the head with her comment on the forum, “Locking the entire female population into a 10 day period makes me wonder how many women were involved in creating this feature… please fix”

While it’s great that leading fitness companies like Fitbit are finally paying attention to women’s health, this particular feature was set up to fail due to ignorant research (and the apparent lack of female employees).

This feature had the potential to provide interesting data about a women’s body and what happens during their cycle. Until this feature gets a needed update, and then another one, I’ll stick to using my calendar.

WIT: Robotics Barbie joins the corporate call for diversity

Robotics Barbie is also part of a Mattel Inc. initiative to promote new jobs for girls, in line with a public pledge the company made earlier this year.

 

By Jeff Green of Bloomberg

Robotics Barbie is a lab-coat-and-glasses-wearing robotics engineer, a far cry from the 1992 “math class is tough” version. Appropriately, she’s also part of a Mattel Inc. initiative to promote new jobs for girls, in line with a public pledge the company made earlier this year.

In February, Mattel senior vice-president Lisa McKnight joined 40 executives onstage at the Makers women’s diversity conference to make a range of commitments towards improving women’s professional lives.

McKnight promised 10 such dolls this year; advertising group UM said it would double the number of women of colour at every level of its organization; LinkedIn said it will add job coaching for returning moms.

These kinds of pledges have in recent years become a kind of progressive calling card for companies looking to keep and attract young talent. There’s a promise for every interest group, with a wide range of commitment and accountability.

Some 300 CEOs have signed on to the CEO Action coalition, which seeks to share successful diversity initiatives. Many members of that group are also part of Paradigm for Parity and Parity.org, which have similar missions to increase all forms of workplace diversity.

The Thirty Percent Coalition, 3% Movement, and 2020 Women on Boards ask signees for a commitment to specific levels of female representation. Others focus singly on LGBT rights, or ethnicity, veterans or the disabled or in a specific field such as the Tech Inclusion Pledge.

“There are strong social norms right now around committing to these kinds of goals,” said Dolly Chugh, an associate professor of management and organization at the NYU Stern School of Business.

She has studied how public pressure changes diversity behaviour. “If you’re among the minority of CEOs who isn’t signing the pledge or promise, you’re violating a norm and norm violations make people very uncomfortable.”

By most measures, two decades of increased efforts to improve diversity have slowed or stalled. Parity for women in boardrooms is still at least three decades away. Women and people of colour are dramatically underrepresented in top management. At the CEO level, white men still occupy 95% of the seats.

In some specific areas, though, public commitments have prompted change. Formed in 2011, the 3% Movement was named after the ratio of women creative directors in the advertising world to men (they now make up 29%).

The more the merrier, says Shannon Schuyler, who heads corporate responsibility at PwC. The professional services company started CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion a year ago. Almost 90% of the organizations either have or are planning to add unconscious bias training. “This is about the CEO saying that they will put themselves out there, to really be able to make the change happen,” Schuyler said.

Robotics Engineer Barbie, which comes with a humanoid robot and laptop, will partner with the Tynker game platform and Black Girls CODE to encourage girls to embrace computer science, according to Mattel. The company says it has introduced 17 dolls focused on careers and female role models, more than the 10 promised.

Among the other companies on the Makers stage with specific goals was Adobe Systems Inc., which promises gender pay parity at all locations by the end of this year, and is at least 80% there already, said Donna Morris, executive vice-president of the customer and employee experience at the maker of Photoshop.

AT&T Inc. and L’Oreal SA promised to improve their representation of women in advertisements, as measured by progress on the scorecard generated by #SeeHer, an organization that has its own pledge to improve the portrayal of women by 20%, as measured by viewers, by 2020.

“People really, really, really value keeping a promise,” said Ayelet Gneezy, an associate professor at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego, who has studied how people react to promises honoured and broken.

“It’s really about the value of trustworthiness and reliability,” Gneezy said. “So there’s also a risk to not keeping the promise. I don’t really care what they tried to do, I care what they did.”

How do you feel about the new line of STEM Barbie dolls? Sound off in the comments below!

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: Hidden Figures, Unsung: One Woman’s Fight To Be An IBM Programmer In The 70s

 

 

 

By Everett Harper of Forbes.com

In 1975, a 34 year old black woman with a high school education, and three tween kids, sat with dread before her final exam. She had risked her job as a secretary at IBM, and her marriage to take the Introduction to Programming course — and it wasn’t going well. Before the final exam commenced, her instructor walked up to her and said, “Jackie, you seem like a lovely lady. Go home and take care of your kids. You are dismissed.” Jackie left class, sped down Harrigan Road in her brown Pontiac Catalina station wagon, to pick up her three sweaty kids from daycare before she got hit with a late fee. As the kids fought over the radio (“not Edmund Fitzgerald AGAIN”) she wondered if she would have a job the next day.

IBM, the forgotten diversity pioneer in technology

IBM was one of the most powerful companies in the world in the mid sixties through the seventies. The S/360 mainframe revolutionized computing, giving processing power previously available only to government and universities, and made it accessible to business. By 1971, the $8.3B company offered the full slate of free or nearly free benefits to its 270,000 person workforce — healthcare, scholarships, and nearly every engineering class under the sun. They hired women for managerial roles twice as fast as their employment growth, and as result 15% of their workforce were women in 1970. To give that context, the number of women at Facebook grew 4% from 2014 to 2017 while their employee base grew 43% [CNBC] Thomas Watson Jr., CEO of IBM, personally committed to inviting and recruiting African-Americans to “white-collar” jobs in the mid-sixties, and one of them, Mark Dean, designed the first PC.

Jackie’s husband Jim was one of those recruits. He trained first in the US Navy, running a radio transmitter and electronics shop on the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Independence. IBM recruited him to be a systems engineer in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1963. Jackie came with him, and soon had three kids in three years. She decided to go back to work in 1972 as a secretary for the old Selectrix typewriter division in East Fishkill, NY. Jackie was highly disciplined — be on time, prepare, focus, get things done. But she also noticed how much of the world was being run by men carrying boxes of punch cards and magnetic tape. She realized that she was sitting in the middle of the revolution. So she decided, no more typewriters — I want to be a programmer.

Despite the progressive environment, this was a bold statement in 1975. She was a black woman with a high school education from Westinghouse High School in the poor neighborhood of Homewood in Pittsburgh, PA. She had no extended family in small-town Hudson Valley, which still had KKK meeting announcements on AM radio alongside the VFW and PTA. But, “we understood that coming from a hard family life that we could do more. We knew that the money and the means was not there. But once we got to a place where education would be number one, then my kids could go far.” However, Jackie also knew when to take her opportunity — and that was Intro to Programming at IBM.

So you think you want to be a Programmer, Ms. Jackie?

 

For nine weeks, weekdays from 8am to 5pm, she took the class that had a reputation of being designed to “make or break” students. They started with Assembler and, “it was like a foreign language to me. Flowcharting seemed quite simple, yet putting that in code — programming language — was very difficult for me.” The class was diverse — 30% were women. While this might seem surprising, the number of women with computer science degrees was rising until the early 1980s.

Her classmates were recent college grads, having taken the higher math classes that Jackie lacked. There was one final drag on her ability to learn. “Even though my husband was a programmer, he was not supportive of me learning this skill.” As a result, when other students stayed after class to get help from instructors, or stay all night to finish assignments, Jackie had to pick up kids, shop for groceries, and make dinner. She fell way behind, failed her interim exams, and as the final exam approached, she was seriously demoralized.

“Most people who fail,” Jackie said, “go home and stay home.” Not her.

When she arrived at the IBM East Fishkill building, Edward Holden, her manager and sponsor, called her into his office. They talked about what she’d gone through in the course. At the end of the meeting he said, “Jackie, you have a job. Take the next few weeks, review programming, study what you need, and retake the exam.” With Holden’s encouragement and clearing her schedule, she found programming courses in PLS, PLI and APL at Duchess Community College, Marist College and took them all. “I was able to regroup, it wasn’t so foreign, and I knew what I was looking for and that helped.” This time she was ready.

Jackie Harper had a 25 year career as a programmer and then software coder at IBM. Her husband still wasn’t supportive, but she didn’t encounter resistance within IBM. “In fact, the guys seemed excited when a woman came in. They were happy when a woman made manager.” She worked floor control manufacturing systems, engineering design systems and eventually global services. She learned many of the assembly languages at IBM, then eventually db2 and early versions of SQL. The diligence to simply debug a program is astonishing to anyone who is working in modern software. When she came to the Truss office her stories raised a lot of eyebrows among our engineers about the things we now get to take for granted.

Leadership: creating space for others to do their best work

 

Since I first heard this story in 2012, I’ve wondered what made Ed Holden, a white male middle manager, stick his neck out for his black female secretary. As I researched this story, it is clear that the IBM ethos was a significant influence. This was a company that sponsored IBMers to go back to get a Ph.D without requiring them to return. Jackie recalled, “If you proved you were a worker, and could adapt to IBM’s unwritten rules: ‘don’t swear, don’t talk politics, don’t call names’, you could find a place at IBM.” (I added another unwritten rule: “suit, tie and hose”, and we laughed). Holden’s sponsorship was more than a gesture — it was an action, backed by institutional commitment, that demonstrated his belief that Jackie would rise to the occasion.

Jackie created space too, for herself and her kids. In the seventies, sending your black children to college was not a given, especially if neither parent had a college degree. Jackie’s particular genius was shifting the family framework to “where are you going to college”, instead of “will you go to college”. I never recall a day when college was an “if”, and that change in mental model has incalculable value in being an entrepreneur or leader. To me, one of the reasons STEM and inclusion programs are crucial is because they change “if I can” into “when I do” . I was raised in a legacy of leaders who remove obstacles and create space for others to excel — from Thomas Watson Jr. leading IBM, Ed Holden leading his team, and Jackie Harper leading her family. Now that’s part of my core purpose and how I lead my company at Truss.

My hope in writing this story is to invite women to tell their stories — of insight, ambition, perseverance and achievement — out loud! As Tiffani Bell, CEO of Human Utility, wrote on Twitter

Ultimately, this is the story of discovering that your mother is a badass. Lucky me. Happy Mother’s Day, Jacqueline Harper — programmer, coder, engineer.

Weekly Round Up 5/4/18

Welcome to my world…
Black lawmakers are impatient with tech’s lack of diversity and are threatening regulation to force the issue

 

This is too insane not to be true…
Drone ‘swarm’ buzzed off FBI surveillance bods, says tech bloke

 

Hard to do when the guys that make them are socially retarded….
Making technology socially responsible

 

Great…being single has been so easy up to this point…
Tech is turning love into a rightwing game

 

Wait…what?!
Do patents tell us what’s next for bicycle technology? Not necessarily.

 

Budget friendly and tech are not 2 words used together very often…
Essential (and budget-friendly) tech I use every day

 

I love how this is a thing now…
Addicted to your smartphone? Technology is trying to help

 

This is a cool use of drones.
Intel drones offer high-tech help to restore the Great Wall of China

 

Good idea…
Co-founders of dating app Huggle on their mission to change social media, one app at a time

Tales from the Orchard: Apple should open a university that’s free for everyone

Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Student debt is at an all-time high. It’s time for Apple to help out.

By Scott Galloway of Wired.com

Apple’s ability to create low-cost products and sell them at premium luxury prices has landed them with a cash pile greater than the Russian stock market and the market capitalisation of Boeing and Nike combined. The big question is whether Apple has an obligation to spend this enormous pile of cash? And, if so, how?
My suggestion: Apple should launch the world’s largest tuition-free university.

The company has roots in academia and its brand foots really well with creative services and education. But, ultimately, I also think this idea is an enormous profit opportunity.

How can Apple make it tuition-free as well as profitable? It needs to “flip” the current funding model, by making it tuition-free for students and by charging companies to recruit there. At the moment, companies go to universities and think of them as their giant HR departments. The reasons are obvious. Universities are great at screening applicants, picking smart people, ensuring they can work in groups and that they are emotionally stable. Universities aren’t in the business of educating, as much as they are in the business of granting credentials to its students. Apple would be very good at attracting the best candidates. And in exchange for access to those students, corporates would be willing to pay a lot of money.


Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Student debt is at an all-time high. So we need to flip the model and put the costs of education on to the corporation. Apple could also deploy a bidding system, similar to what Google and Facebook do in advertising, where corporations bid to have first access to the very best students.

Apple is already 60 to 70 per cent there. It has the brand and it would attract incredible applicants. What makes a quality school? Sure, it’s the faculty, but mostly it’s the brand’s ability to attract the best and brightest. As long as the best and brightest apply to your programme, you’re going to have the best and brightest faculty.

As long as you have the best and brightest faculty, you will have the best recruiters showing up, who will pay the most. And as long as you have the recruiters who will pay the most showing up, you get the best and brightest applying.

Apple would immediately get several million applications. Or enough applications where they can have an outstanding faculty. And then, by offering free tuition, they can place competitive pressure on my colleagues to start offering tuition at a lower price.

This is desperately needed because currently we have this cartel that makes OPEC look cuddly and socially conscious.



I work with one of the best faculties in the world – and I think two-thirds could leave and not be missed. Now, does that mean they should be fired? No. But does it mean that they should be making as much money as they do, without the same competitive pressures that everyone faces in the marketplace? Of course not. This just translates into outrageous tuition fees which kids finance with debt. Which means they get houses later; which means they start families later; which means they take fewer risks – it’s a drain on the economy.

So, I think a healthy dose of this tech-inspired efficiency and competition would be a great thing for academia. Today, we currently have the wrong attitude. We turn away people and take pride in our exclusivity. It’s like a homeless shelter bragging about the people it doesn’t let through the door. The whole mentality is screwed up.

Apple Stores could be used as campuses for the Apple University. The stores are in highly dense, populated areas; they’re not used after hours and they’re already starting to give some classes.

Alternatively, what if Apple had taken their space ship and turned it into a university? What if they said it was a university from the hours of 6pm to 10pm? And what if they said that three per cent of its 150,000 employees that have credentials as being the best and brightest in the company become the adjunct professors in this university?

With Apple’s profits, I believe it could start the equivalent of the University of Texas, the University of California or the Michigan state system – but ultimately, I think it could start the largest free-tuition system in America. It would be good for society, it foots to their brand and I think it would be wildly profitable. What it would really come down to, to make all of this work, is execution.

As told to WIRED consulting head Tom Upchurch

How do you feel about an Apple sponsored university? Sound off in the comments below!

Weekly Round Up 3/2/18

 


Well, if our government can’t be bothered….

3 ‘tangible ways’ tech companies can help solve our gun violence problem

This is easy. STOP. ASSOCIATING. WITH. THE. N.R.A.
Have Big Tech Companies Become The Bad Guys?

I applaud all efforts to try and fix the gender gap no matter how fruitless they seem.
The Leaky Tech Pipeline explains how to address diversity and inclusion

This guy clearly didn’t see this week’s X-Files…
‘You Can’t Be Afraid of the Tech’


Seriously, this sh*t is terrifying.

The X-Files Recap: When Tech Attacks

 

Any sentence that includes the words ‘China’ and ‘War’ makes me very nervous.
Apple’s Chinese iCloud is one battle in ‘a bigger tech trade war’

For years, Apple was the only religion I knew and Steve Jobs was my only deity.
A Short History of Technology Worship


This is why you need to watch your Social Media posts, people.

Anita Hill-Led Anti-Harassment Commission Looking At Technology To Identify Abusers In Entertainment Industry

WIT: 3 Ways to Advance Women in Tech

 

 

By Sammi Caramela of Business News Daily

While more women are opting for careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), there’s an existing struggle for them to advance in the industry. Many female students aren’t motivated to start a career in the industry simply because they don’t believe they’ll have the chance to progress.

“Ensuring better female representation in STEM should not be thought of as a gender issue but a business issue,” said Sripriya Raghunathan, vice president of systems and software engineering at HARMAN. “Bringing more women with careers in STEM to the workforce will contribute to an employer’s competitiveness in the marketplace and foster innovation.”

Women should feel as confident as men in their decision to pursue STEM careers. Here are three ways to improve advancement of women in STEM.

1. Start with schools.

According to a survey by iCIMS, 61 percent of recruiters said they are most interested in hiring candidates with majors in STEM, but only 23 percent of college seniors graduate with that degree – and an exceptionally small portion is female.

“To nurture women in STEM, we need to start at the school level,” said Raghunathan. “Employers should create programs that allow their women leaders in STEM to share their experiences and stories with young women who may be considering a career in STEM.”

Partner with schools and offer conferences, events and presentations so experts can connect with female students. Don’t wait until they’re already settled in college with a different major; start with high schools to encourage women from a young age.

2. Create leadership training and mentoring programs.

It’s important for women to feel that they’re as capable as men, especially in leadership positions. But without the proper training, they might lack the confidence and drive.

“Employers can help bridge the gap by encouraging employees to form communities focused on connecting, innovating and building career advancement and support,” said Jen Scandariato, senior director of cloud services at iCIMS. “Employers should offer resources, workshops, leadership and technical trainings, mentorship programs, and support career mobility and career pathing to promote an inclusive environment for all employees.”

Everyone needs a mentor, and this is especially true for women in a predominantly male industry. Having someone to look up to for advice or inspiration can make a difference in their entire career.

“Employers should build mentor programs for women looking [to] advance their career to tighten the gender gap in male-dominated STEM fields,” said Nisa Amoils, venture capitalist at Scout Ventures. “The lack of women in STEM can make it more difficult for women to develop professional relationships that advance their careers.”

According to Raghunathan, these programs should do the following:
• Provide tips to students and young women starting their careers in STEM
• Offer ways to strengthen strategic, leadership, communication and technical skills
• Empower female employees through sponsorship programs
• Connect new women with senior female leaders

Raghunathan added that mentorships can help both new and existing female STEM employees, and attract and retain talent.

“With a solid mentorship program, companies can improve the onboarding experience for new female STEM employees,” said Raghunathan. “This helps in creating a great first impression as an employer and also from a talent engagement standpoint.”

3. Offer returnships.

More than half of women in STEM think a parental leave would decrease their chance of getting a promotion; but 82 percent of office professionals and 95 percent of millennials would be interested in a returnship program in the future.

Returnships are similar to internships, but for those who have been absent from their careers for an extended period. This is a great opportunity for both mothers and fathers to refresh their brains and redevelop their skills in the workplace.

“As an employer, if your organization establishes a returnship for mothers, there should also be a formal program in place for men to have a returnship, because we are seeing more men becoming caretakers as women progress in their careers,” said Scandariato. “Men and women should have equal opportunities to take time away from their career to grow their family, and be able to easily transition back into the workplace without penalties.”

 

Do you think these 3 suggestions will work to get more women into STEM? Sound off in the comments below!!

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