Category Archives: Women Who Lead

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.

Egyptian Women Entrepreneurs and Mass Challenge Women Finalist Teams Inspired Each Other

As an expression our commitment to advancing women as leaders, WomenLEAD Inc, hosted a group of a dozen Egyptian woman entrepreneurs last week at Mass Challenge offices. Thank you  to the Mass Challenge for co-sponsoring the event , and World Boston who coordinated; with the US State department to bring these women to Boston.. We had dynamic discussion, with four women owned Mass Challenge startups joining in, about many challenges and similarities of woman entrepreneurs here and in Egypt. Topics included how to find angel investors, what barriers we all face, including those  unique to women founders. WomenLEAD Inc.’s CEO and Founder Ilene Fischer demonstrated WomenLEAD’s innovative platform, and how building a Personal Advisory Board can create exponential growth for individuals and companies.

The Egyptian companies included hardware and software companies, sustainable energy companies, online translation services, marketing services and social impact products like a safe, cost effective water pump. Four Mass Challenge Finalist companies with women CEO’s/Founders shared their experiences as women.

egyptian women 2

entrepreneur. When asked what they will take away from their experience in the US, which included visiting three other start up  incubators around the country, one Egyptian woman stated “I have learned the world is open to me and that I have to help myself to help my community. I have more skills to learn and training to take to achieve my goals.

Another was so inspired by Mass Challenge and enjoyed meeting other female engineers. “Only 10% of women are engineers, and it feels so good to be around women here. When we have a problem we close our mind and say ‘there is no solution, but we just have to change the way we look at a solution and ask ourselves Why and Why not’…we should try it!”

After exchanging business cards around the table, all agreed: If women met around the world, there would be no war. All the women at the table both the Mass Challenge start up and the Egyptian Women Founders/ CEO’s were inspirational and determined to make a difference in the world; creating jobs and having their companies make a social impact.

Helen Drinan: A Woman Who LEADS in Academia


Helen Drinan - Photo
Few women can claim to have had a direct impact on the lives of thousands of young women, but Helen Drinan has done just that. As president of Simmons College in Boston, she is both a role model to her students and an active contributor to their academic and career success.

Like many successful women, Drinan has shown her talent for leadership in multiple fields. Before joining Simmons College, she was a leader in healthcare and business who hired, recognized, and empowered women employees. While serving as executive vice president of Bank Boston, she developed strategies for diversity and work-life policy that were recognized locally and nationally.

Drinan did not achieve her success overnight. Along the way, she faced some enormous challenges, including an abusive boss. But she fought back, approaching the problem with grace and fortitude. The incident set her up for success and gave her insights that would prove useful when she became a leader herself and could influence workplace policy.

As she wrote in the Huffington Post:

I believe to this day that standing up against this behavior, calling on executive leadership to take a support position, making a very tough decision (to end the matter without further conversation), and to continue working very hard, not only saved my career, but also helped me continue to ascend into leadership positions. […]  In the end, clear goals, education, experience, and confidence will move the ranks of talented and motivated women to great heights.

For her personal professional achievements across fields, for her commitment to empowering women leaders in her own company, and for her willingness to share her own story with others, we recognize Helen Drinan as a Woman Who Leads in Academia and Inspires Others. 

Helen-Drinan

To learn more about how the revolutionary WomenLEAD platform supports women’s development as leaders individually and within organizations, please check out our main page at www.womenleadinc.com and consider supporting our Indiegogo fundraising campaign. Follow us on Twitter @WomenLEADInc. 

 

30WomenWhoLead

30 Women Who Lead

The team at WomenLEAD Inc. is excited to launch our 30 Women Who LEAD campaign!

For the next two months we will be honoring women who have proven, through their own success, that women have what it takes to lead companies across all sectors.

One of the core ideas behind WomenLEAD Inc. is the belief that women are fully capable of leadership at the highest levels. Women are poorly represented on corporate boards and in executive leadership positions: They make up just 14 percent of corporate leaders in the United States, 5 percent in Italy, and as little as 3 percent in Scandinavian countries.

But the reasons for this problem have nothing to do with women’s capabilities. The 30 Women that LEAD we honor during this campaign prove it.

Follow us as we honor these outstanding women and the message they send to companies around the world: When they are given the right opportunities, Women LEAD.

To learn more about how the revolutionary WomenLEAD platform supports women’s development as leaders individually and within organizations, please check out our main page at www.womenleadinc.com and consider supporting our Indiegogo fundraising campaign.