WIT: We all must think about ‘balance of tech’ – Randi Zuckerberg

 

By Peter Hamilton of the Irish Times

“Nobody ever came up with an idea that was going to change the world when they were 24/7 glued to their phone”, Randi Zuckerberg, an entrepreneur and former Facebook employee, has told delegates at a conference.

Speaking at the Pendulum Summit, a conference in Dublin’s convention centre, Ms Zuckerberg said that “we all have to think about the balance of tech”, warning that while it can do incredible things, it doesn’t spur entrepreneurship by itself.

An older sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Randi began her career in digital marketing at advertising agency Ogilvy before joining the social media giant in its infancy.

She told the conference about the company’s ‘hackathon’ events, where “every few months everyone at the company was invited to pull an all nighter…there was one rule, you could not work on something that was related to anything you did on your day job.”

Ms Zuckerberg herself came up with the Facebook Live idea at one of those Hackathons. While the first ever transmission was only watched by two people the idea ultimately became a success after Katy Perry launched a world tour on the platform and “politicians from around the world saw an opportunity to speak directly to their constituents” with Barack Obama becoming an early adopter.

Ms Zuckerberg quit the company after the successes of Facebook Live because of a “complicated relationship with both tech and Silicon Valley”.

“On one hand I loved being part of a company like Facebook that was changing the world, I loved being in Silicon Valley where everywhere you walk people are talking about solving big problems. I hated being the only woman in the room for 10 years,” she said.

“Even today, my best advice for young women going into technology, is to have a mans name like Randi.

“I had a growing complicated relationship between the huge digital divide we see in the world. We live in a world today where some of us have amazing access to technology and advice and business and speakers. All of us in this room we are so lucky and then right in our back yard’s are millions of people who don’t even have WiFi access, and millions of people who are going to be left behind from this new economy and for me, I had trouble sitting with that.

“Some of the very tools we were working on and creating, they were used very differently by the world then how we dreamed they’d be used. For example, I remember waking up during the time of the Arab Spring and feeling so proud, waking up every morning thinking, wow, we’ve given a voice to everyone.

“And then I woke up the day after this last election in the United States and thought, wow, we gave a voice to everyone. It’s complicated,” she added.

Ms Zuckerberg is now the chief executive of Zuckerberg Media, a company she founded, and has just finished writing 30 episodes of a television show based on a children’s book she has written called “Dot”.

WIT: The top keynote speakers at CES are all men. Here’s why that’s a problem

 

By Monica Chin of Mashable

CES, the world’s largest electronics trade show, kicks off next week, with the first official events starting Sunday, Jan. 7. At the conference, attendees will get a glimpse of the year’s newest technology, hear keynote speeches from top industry leaders, and try futuristic products. 

But this year will be marred by a glaring weakness in the CES lineup: The top keynote speakers (those who will address the conference audience alone, rather than as part of a panel) are all male, and five of the six are white. 

Needless to say, people are outraged. 

In fairness to the Consumer Technology Association, the group that organizes the conference, it did add women to the CES lineup in other places. 

The organization’s website now lists two female panelists and a female moderator on its “C Space Keynote” and a female moderator on its Mobile Innovation panel. Karen Chupka, CTA’s senior vice president of CES and corporate business strategy, is listed as presenting CTA’s keynote along with Gary Shapiro, CTA’s president and CEO.

However, the website only states that Shapiro will be giving the address. 

But all of the women CTA added to its lineup are panelists or panel moderators — none are giving keynotes themselves. 

The lack of diversity among the conference’s top speakers is frustrating in its own right. This conference comes just months after the genesis of the #MeToo campaign in which thousands of women spoke out about sexual harassment in their workplaces. It also comes after the explosion of stories such as Susan Fowler’s harrowing expose of her mistreatment at Uber and a Google engineer’s public claim that women are biologically inferior — both of which cast a bleak light on the state of diversity in the tech industry. The perspective of a woman is important if not necessary to creating a comprehensive picture of the industry today. 

Additionally, diversity is good. Plenty of research indicates that companies have better growth, better equity, less debt, higher quality products, and are millions more valuable when women hold top leadership positions. Surely, seeing female executives deliver keynotes at the world’s largest electronics show can only inspire more women to seek such positions, and empower their companies to hire female executives. 
But everyone makes mistakes. What’s more infuriating is CTA’s defense of its all-male lineup. The organization claimed the lack of diversity was not that much of a problem and not its fault. 

“Female business leaders are critical to the success of our show and the entire tech sector, and their position at CES extends beyond the keynote stage to our conference sessions and entrepreneurs exhibiting across the show floor,” reads Chupka’s response to criticism on CTA’s blog. 

I shouldn’t need to explain why this response is insufficient for anyone that actually cares about equal opportunity. It’s great that we have a lot of women in executive roles, but the opportunities to are still too few and far between, and it’s a symptom of broader societal discrimination. 

Secondly, CTA claims it’s not to blame. “To keynote at CES, the speaker must head (president/CEO level) a large entity who has name recognition in the industry,” Chupka says in her blog. “As upsetting as it is, there is a limited pool when it comes to these positions… the tech industry and every industry must do better.”

Yes, CES. These industries must do better. But so must you.

There are clearly many, many women in the tech industry who fit this description.

Kristin Lemkau, JP Morgan Chase’s chief marketing officer, tweeted a list of 32 women who fit CTA’s criteria that she claims took “less time than it took to drink coffee,” including IBM CEO Ginny Rometty, A&E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc, and Mattel CEO Margo Georgiadis. Twitter responders added dozens more. 

 

Amazing women innovators in tech and media who would slay any keynote anywhere. Came up with these in less time than it took to drink coffee. In no particular order…
Other ideas?

CTA cannot simultaneously wave its hands and claim that they are tied. Claiming that minorities aren’t getting hired because they just aren’t qualified was academia’s answer to this same criticism last century. Since then, we’ve grown up to realize that in many instances, diversity outweighs meritocracy. If CTA can’t find a single female CEO willing to deliver a keynote, it should change its requirements. 

While women make up less than 20 percent of computer science programs in the U.S. and UK, they make up around 50 percent of those programs in India, Malaysia, and Nigeria. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that hiring is incredibly sexist.

In other words, a woman needs to do more work to get to the top jobs that CES covets so dearly than a man of equal aptitude — and therefore, a man who might give a keynote equally well. 

Organizers of worldwide events can scramble to find female speakers to put on panels for the sake of diversity alone, and that’s a start. But it’s not enough. These organizers need to realize that the most capable women in their industries, women who will deliver keynotes that will blow their minds, might be barred from the top spots because we live in a society where barriers exist to women attaining those positions.

CES’ current standards bar incredibly qualified individuals who could make the conference better. 

CTA, if you want the best possible keynotes at CES, find women. If 100 women can’t make it, reach out to 100 more. If there are no female CEOs of global companies, look at smaller companies. If you need to stick with big companies, look at COOs, CMOs, CTOs, CBOs. Most importantly, don’t pretend there’s nothing you can do to solve the problem, and don’t pretend it’s already solved. 

It doesn’t just hurt women when a lineup of keynote speakers is entirely men. It hurts your conference, tech companies, and all of us. 

What do think of the lack of female representation in the Keynote speakers selected for CES this year? Sound off in the comments below!

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