Tag Archives: technology

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.

Jennifer Chayes: A woman who LEADS in technology

J ChayesWho says girls aren’t good at math? No one who’s met Jennifer Chayes, Managing Director and Distinguished Scientist at Microsoft Research New England and Microsoft Research New York City.

Chayes earned her Ph.D. in mathematical physics from Princeton and has taught at UCLA and the University of Washington, in addition to doing cutting-edge research on how the Internet works.

You read that right. Using her background in mathematical physics, Chayes models and analyzes how people use technological and social networks. Thanks to her research, she shares no less than 25 different patents, and has coauthored over 110 scientific papers. She was the first woman to lead one of Microsoft’s research labs.

But just as impressive as Chayes’ professional accomplishments is her commitment to supporting women in her field, for which she was awarded the 2012 Women of Vision Award for Leadership from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. (Check out her acceptance speech here.) When she started teaching at UCLA in the 1980s, she realized that many female students suffered from a lack of confidence in their abilities. She now works with DigiGirlz, a Microsoft initiative to encourage female high school students to consider careers in technology. Women make up 44 percent of the researchers at her lab in Cambridge. She is also an advisory board member of WomenLEAD, Inc.

Chayes believes that young women need role models and greater self-confidence, but she is also working to combat inaccurate stereotypes of science work that discourage many women from participating. As she told Mass High Tech in 2012,

“We lose most girls in middle school. They don’t necessarily realize that careers in math, science and technology can be really collaborative. They have these images of working in a solitary mode. [...] Any of these young girls can help to envision the future. They should realize there is tremendous creativity in this field. It’s not a solitary endeavor.”

We have no doubt that many young women now will someday say that Chayes and her work inspired them to pursue careers in technology, and we commend her commitment to improving work conditions for women in her own lab while continuing to shatter stereotypes about what women can do. Jennifer Chayes is a true trailblazer for women in technology, and we are pleased to recognize her as a Woman Who LEADS In Technology.

Jennifer-Chayes

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.