Women Who (Do) Tech: Moving Forward, Seizing the Future

by Cathy Brooks (@CathyBrooks, CathyBrooks.com)

This is not another post about the “issue” of why there are fewer women in business and technology. This is a post about doing something about it.

You would think based on coverage, like this article last April in the New York Times and this more recent post in the Wall Street Journal that women had made little to no progress in Silicon Valley.

Hogwash.

To be fair, if we’re talking raw numbers women are still at a disadvantage. There are fewer of us, especially if we’re talking about hands-on, up to your elbows in code technologist work. The numbers on the business side are better, but there still isn’t anything really resembling parity.

My question is: Why on earth should that be a problem? It shouldn’t.

My bigger question is: Can we PLEASE stop complaining and just start doing the work? From the response I’ve heard in the last week to the Wall Street Journal post it would seem the answer to that may well finally be YES!

Sparked by a post penned by Michael Arrington, a litany of women stamped down their collective foot. The time has come to grab the glasscutters and storm the ceiling. Is there chauvenism? Yep. Is there misogyny? You bet. In continually talking about these things, we’re wasting time. I for one am done wasting mine and on Wednesday, September 15 I’ll be joining about 800 other women who feel the same way. The gathering is the third annual WomenWhoTech Telesummit.

Started in 2007 by Allyson Kapin of RadCampaign in response to the lack of opportunities for qualified female speakers, WomenWhoTech takes a decidedly proactive tone in its content. Rather than commiserating about how challenging it is to be a woman, this one-day virtual conference tackles topics like launching start-ups, diversifying founding teams, best practices in open source development and female ferocity as a business asset.*

Speaking about the premise of this Telesummit, Kapin notes that if you wait for the challenges to go away, you’re wasting time. She said, “Sexism … racism … all the ‘ism’s. Are they going to disappear any time soon? Probably not, but if we band together we can address the issues. Instead of being reactive, it’s time to be proactive and productive and become part of the solution.”

Some additional related articles on this subject:

*Disclosure: Cathy Brooks is moderating the WomenWhoTech panel discussion on female ferocity.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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  • http://www.eastridgeprint.com Renee

    FINALLY! A post that firmly puts its foot down and points out that while we're at a disadvantage now, we're not going to gain anything by sitting around complaining about it. We're going to do something about it by continuing to perform at the highest possible levels, by proving over and over again that it doesn't matter whether we're a woman or not, and by teaching our daughters the exact same thing so that when they get out there, that glass ceiling will shatter just a little more.

    • http://otherthanthat.com cathybrooks

      So glad this resonated with you, Renee! As for that ceiling, I say invest in a glass cutter and keep it in one's back pocket (or well accessorized bag) :)

  • Allyson

    Great post Cathy! Love the discussion in the comments section too. Some great points being raised. I hope we can continue these conversations tomorrow 9/15 at the Women Who Tech TeleStummit – http://www.womenwhotech.com

    • http://otherthanthat.com cathybrooks

      Oh we shall …

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  • http://www.stickystarfish.com Angela Beasley

    I love this post and the comments. I received an invite to a business seminar a couple of months ago titled “how to be assertive in business without being a b*tch” or something of that nature geared towards women. I thought to myself “WOW” hmmmm….I have never noticed a seminar titled “how to do business or how to be assertive in business without being an a-hole or complete jacka**” for men. So yeah, I definitely agree. Lets get down to business and stop worrying so much about what people think because we are women.

    As for me, I'm still waiting for the seminar titled, “I'm a woman, I'm serious about what I do, I don't care what you think and yes, I can get the damn job done better than anyone else”. Let me know when and where because I want VIP tickets!

    • http://otherthanthat.com cathybrooks

      Thank you for chiming in, Angela. Sounds like you'll want to read the book on which I've just embarked writing … it's all about female ferocity as a business asset :)
      Stay tuned! And in the mean time … keep being badass as from your brief comment I get a sense that's a category into which you fit!

    • http://www.stickystarfish.com Angela Beasley

      Thanks Cathy, Let me know when you finish. I would love to read it!

  • Bobette

    I don't really understand the issue. Should more men become kindergarten teachers because there are more women doing the job? Should men band together and form groups to battle against a perceived enemy? If you want to work in tech, super. If you don't don't. It just seems silly to me to think this is somehow an issue when it's not. Men are dominating the Waste Management field! Gather your torches ladies and get in there and make a difference!

    Sorry, but it's completely absurd to me. One of my (female) friends is a programmer. Has been for years. So what? She's actually started branching out into olives, because tech is soulless and exhausting. She's 100 times happier working outside.

  • http://iamkhayyam.blogspot.com iamkhayyam

    Strange that no men are commenting on this post. I find that quite odd in comparison to the other articles cited above. However, something resonated in me when I read this article, in particular, the quote from Allyson Kapin, “Instead of being reactive, it’s time to be proactive and productive and become part of the solution.” Now the part that resonated deeply was not to be reactive. When we learn to respond instead of react, the solution stares us straight in the face, it's called a challenge and an opportunity. Yes, an opportunity to rise up gather momentum and move toward a solution.

    Reading Anna's comments are exactly how I feel. It doesn't matter to me if you're a man or a woman. It also doesn't matter if you're beige, white or taupe. As soon as we can recognize that our differences make us all the same, then we're on to something. And as long as you're are the best at what you do and I'm the best at what I do and we do good things with our collective talents… then a good day has been had.

    Cathy, you're on to something here. And if I may say… you #growgirl :)

  • http://twitter.com/gosmart4u Misty Lackie

    I stopped wasting my time 8 years ago when I started my own tech business. I think Anna’s comment is spot on. I also think Bobette has some good points. I have many female friends that no matter how hard I try to convince them wouldn’t come near tech because they would rather be working in other jobs that they deem more rewarding. Is it truly an issue of fewer women in tech because of stereotypes or is it an issue of this industry not being appealing or rewarding for many women?

    Being a women in tech has never stopped me from getting work or customers. I truly feel if you are good at what you do and you are able to offer something of value, at the end of the day your sex won’t matter.

    Now being a women in politics is an entirely different story :)

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  • http://blog.vinko.com Vinko

    I am a man so I add my 2 cents worth.

    I don't understand all the so call people who complain that there are no women or not enough women in tech. I personally do not see an issue. I know many women in Hong Kong and in North America who are in tech. I admit of the people I know in the tech industry, the ratio of women to men low, but I don't see an issue.

    As long as there are equal opportunities for both genders in the tech industry, who cares how many of each are in the industry.

    • http://otherthanthat.com cathybrooks

      Vinko – had posted an extensive response to you but the system seems to have eaten it. Will pen another a bit later as right now am prepping to moderate a panel discussion about … female ferocity in business :)

    • http://otherthanthat.com cathybrooks

      First, thanks for commenting, Vinko! Appreciate your perspective. So the question I have for you is what kind of women you are counting in that number. Are you counting admins? Are you talking about women in junior/mid level roles or C-suite? Are you talking about engineers or sales/marketing/business side?

      What this discussion really is about is women in positions of leadership – founding/running companies, coding and building technology etc… That latter category is definitely lacking on diversity as noted by the article to which I link above. The former category is definitely getting better.

      As far as why it matters that there be more balance and diversity I'll posit this … recently I was speaking with a friend who works at a small start up. They have about 15 people. Of that number only 1 was a woman. That woman left the company (maternity leave) and my friend said something very interesting happened. He said that her departure marked a decided change in the business – that having her around – just a different “energy” … different way of approaching challenges … different way of communicating … had been vital in the company's culture and overall business. They're not sure that she's returning after maternity leave, but as i understand it they were in the process of doing hiring and were set on finding top females for the jobs.

      Any organization that has no diversity, no balance, is missing out, IMO … so when you ask “who cares” I would reply that we all should.

  • http://otherthanthat.com cathybrooks

    Note to Misty & Iamkhayyam – a thank you for your comments and a note that I will respond to them a bit later this AM … right now rushing to a meeting but am eager to extend the points you raised!

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  • Sherry Chris

    Cathy I read your post with interest, in my industry which happens to be real estate many of the technology leaders happen to be women. For the most part these women are not developing new apps and that type of thing, but they are early adopters of technology and are effectively using it to drive sales. They are well versed in how to establish and optimize a sophisticated blog, develop and nuture on-line communities, and openly share at conferences andevents. So my question would be – is the perceived problem industry specific?

    • http://otherthanthat.com cathybrooks

      A good question, Sherry … I think that there's definitely a substantive dearth in some industries like tech that have been traditionally male dominated … mostly because of the flow of candidates from the educational system. Generally the number of women (young girls) going into the sciences, math etc… has been lower. One of the links in my post shows the trends on that. There was a spike in the 90s, but it's dropped off again. To be clear, though, that refers to woman “technologists” the ones who code, build the stuff etc… as opposed to women who work in the tech industry (I'd fall into that category). Overall the number of women at higher level positions is lower – though better than it used to be. The other lack as the WSJ article points out is the shortage of females running VC funded companies – though many folks have pointed out to me there are MANY woman business owners but they tend to start/run businesses that don't take the VC route.

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