Category Archives: Astia

Where Are All The Women, Apple?

Ok, we know hi-tech has a woman problem. We know Silicon Valley has a women problem. We know that women comprise only 30% of Google, Twitter, and 20% at Apple (and 31% of Facebook) while many companies won’t even release their numbers–perhaps because they’re too ashamed. (For the hi-tech companies in the S&P 500 that do reveal their numbers, they average only 29% women–and only 20% in management.) The fraternity of male engineers in hi-tech–obviously rule the roost in the Valley.

But it looks like Apple is best positioned to win the “Where Are the Women?” award this year, given the total absence of women on stage at their product rollout last week. All the presenters–I counted six over the two-hour event–were men, not to mention the four fellows in U2 who performed towards the end. (Not a lot of women in the audience either, except for the first few rows.) And this despite the fact that Apple has come under fire from shareholder groups for the scarcity of women on their board (one) and upper management ranks. And only 20% of Apple women work in tech jobs.

There are women VPs at Apple–including the former Burberry CEO, Angela Ahrendts, who is now VP of Retail and Online Stores and two other women VP’s–who could have played a role in the lengthy product presentation, which would have sent a loud communication to women watching that they’re not only welcome at Apple, but they’re welcome in Apple’s executive suite. Why did it not occur to CEO Tim Cook to include at least one of them?

As an owner of a hi-tech startup and as someone who has worked in corporations for decades as an employee or business consultant, I have wrestled with this issue for a while–the absence of women in corporate leadership in general and in hi-tech leadership specifically–and have come to some conclusions.

First, too many businesses see the absence of women in leadership positions as primarily a gender equality issue and not a leadership issue. Businesses need to see that it’s in their economic self-interest to have women in senior leadership positions.

Study after study shows that women bring a different value set and a different vantage point to leadership. Women are more motivated by intrinsic rewards, their relationships with coworkers, and longer-term success than men. Also, as Sally Helgesen and Julie Johnson report in The Female Vision, “Researchers find that men tend to focus deeply and narrowly on a single perception or task, whereas women’s attention is often simultaneously engaged by many different things.” In fact, “Women’s domestic experience, socialization, and evolutionary development” have habituated them to see the world differently. Their “broad-spectrum” awareness, as contrasted with men’s more analytic focus is a vital complement to men’s strengths. That’s the whole point of diversity: a richer mix of perspectives enables smarter decision-making.

Secondly, too many businesses don’t see that the lack of women in leadership puts them at a disadvantage in understanding their customers. Women make the majority of purchasing decisions for most products. Though exact numbers are difficult to verify, Neilson.com in an article “US Women Control the Purse Strings” points out that women are expanding past their dominance in consumer goods purchases to “other big ticket purchases.” This includes hi-tech. The Anita Borg Institute reports that half of computer purchases are made by women. Other estimates are as high as 66%.

This raises rather obvious questions such as: Shouldn’t the workforce represent the market? Wouldn’t women in leadership positions in business provide some insight into consumer preferences? Wouldn’t we expect that women know what women want?

It’s not surprising that an Illuminate Ventures white paper on hi-tech start-ups concludes, “Organizations that are the most inclusive of women in top management achieve 35% higher ROE and 34% better total return to shareholders versus their peers.” Meanwhile a McKinsey & Company, “Women Matter”, study reports that European companies with the highest level of gender diversity in senior management outperformed, on average, their sector in terms of operating results (EBIT 11.1% vs. 5.8%) and stock price growth (64% vs 47%).

I am a long-time Apple customer who began with the original Macintosh in 1984, and I have been an Apple shareholder for many years; but after seeing no women on stage at the Apple product announcement–and reading for years about the under-representation of women in Apple’s upper management ranks–I am now reevaluating my product loyalty to a company that just doesn’t get it about women.

Warren Buffet sums it up well. “We’ve seen what can be accomplished when we use 50% of our human capacity. If you visualize what 100% can do, you’ll join me as an unbridled optimist about America’s future.”

It’s time for Apple to share in that vision, imagine what would be possible for Apple if they did.

Playing by the rules, surely you jest!!!

In regards to  the article Playing by the rules article in the Globe magazine section on Sunday 11/4/13  I am appalled; as a women entrepreneur, the CEO of WomenLEAD, Inc, a 2013 Mass Challenge Finalist and one of 10 Education Category finalist in the Verizon Powerful Answers competition; a member of the Boston Club (14 years); a member of the She-E-O’s  and 85 Broads.

I agree with the premise that women entrepreneurs receive only a small percentage of VC money, but Fiona Murray does not have her numbers right and her suggestions of how to solve the problem are insulting to women.

Recent statistics that relate to women in the venture capital industry come from The Diana Project, Illuminate Ventures and several other organizations that aim to expose gender inequality. The data raises huge questions: Why do big-named venture firms appear to be discriminating against women? Are the firms “old boys clubs”? Do founders struggle to trust women on their boards? Are females passed up for venture jobs?

Homophily, or “the principle that people naturally favor others like them” and networking issues apply when male venture capitalists choose to invest in certain companies.

Female-founded companies make up only 10% of venture-funded startups, and only 3-5% of female-owned businesses receive venture money.

These numbers are even more confounding when it is considered that women-operated, venture-backed companies have 12% higher revenues than those of men.

The solutions to the problem that Fiona Murray proposes in this article are insulting to women and lack a systemic perspective of the problem.

Her solutions of Wear a uniform; Speak confidently and assertively; Network ; and Watch sports does not address the issue .

The root cause of the problem is that men have a bias about women entrepreneurs, they are not aware of their biases and the VC industry has been an “all boys club”.

I was recently at a meeting with Steve Case speaking (former AOL CEO and on Obama’s team for entrepreneurial policy). He addressed this issue at the meeting offering that crowd funding would help to level the playing field for women and in fact he suggested that the “all boy’s club” needs to shift to include women.

Another man at the meeting chimed in with “well after all women start up knitting stores and catering business so they do not need VC’s they can cover all of their costs with 20K”. I was amazed that this gentleman could not see how insulting his biases were, I was also embarrassed for him. This bias and way of viewing women entrepreneurs demonstrates the same thinking that has caused such a chasm in VC funding of women owned business.

Jules Pieri; CEO of the Grommet said this in her 9/1/13 post on Huffington post;

“Starting high stakes companies depends on having access to capital. Like sports, you can’t train, compete, or win without meaningful infrastructure. With only 4-9 percent of venture funding going to women, the damning lack of infrastructure is obvious.

The good news is women stand ready with legions of investment-worthy companies. The track record of female founders even shows superior investment returns compared to male founders.

Jules  Pieri’s suggestion is that the government role could be simple: remove the lucrative carried interest tax loophole from any venture firms that do not fund women’s businesses proportionate to men’s”.

This well thought out systemic perspective will surely get to the root cause of the issue and will mandate a solution. There are also Angel investing groups focused on supporting women owned companies like Golden Seeds, Astia and Pipeline Fellowship all committed to making an impact on this issue.

WomenLEAD, Inc is out to make a global impact by developing women as leaders with our online personal advisory board platform.  We are committed to having women entrepreneurs get the resources they need through Angel and VC funding so that they can turn their big dreams into reality.

Ilene Fischer  CEO WomenLEAD, Inc