Tag Archives: women’s leadership

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.

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. 

 

 

 

 

WomenLEAD, Inc: The Big Idea and Why It will Work

WomenLEAD,Inc has just become a finalist in the MassChallenge, the world’s largest startup incubator. Between now and October we will have free office space, access to interns, and free coaching from mentors; experienced serial entrepreneurs. During that time we’ll be building the first release of WomenLEAD, and we’ll need to be able to pay for software developers to help us turn our ideas into a working system. That’s why we’re launching this campaign. Your contributions will help us get to the place where we can start getting paid by companies for our work. We expect the beta to be completed in the fall with a January 2014 public launch.

Let me give you a little background so you can determine if this is an idea worthy of your support.

In the US women and men are equally represented in entry-level jobs. But women only occupy fourteen percent of the senior executive ranks. Other than the fact that seems inherently wrong, who cares?

Well, it turns out companies do. A study by the Harvard Business review showed that 52% of women in Engineering, Science and Technology leave their careers mid-career. Not to start families, but because they find the work environment unsupportive, they have unclear career paths and they have no role models.

Companies care because it costs them around $100,000 to replace these highly-skilled women.

Equally compelling are studies that demonstrate that companies with women on their boards and on their senior teams perform better financially. A lot better ( 53-84% better on return on Equity according to Catalyst)

From my perspective, this is great news. I’ve been championing women’s rights for decades, having founded one of the first battered women’s shelters in the country, having worked on the Equal Rights Amendment Extension, and recently supporting women in their careers as the CEO of a non-profit dedicated to advancing women in STEM.

This is great new because companies now see it is in their best interest to do something. Instead of having to fight for equality, there are many companies who now are COMMITTED to do something.

So here’s the idea. I’m creating a online application for women to build their own online “Personal Advisory Board”. What’s an advisory board?

Whenever I’m facing a new opportunity or challenge, I reach out to this incredible group of women who have become members of my “Personal Advisory Board“, Their advice and guidance has been invaluable. In my last role I tripled our organization’s revenue and doubled the membership. I attribute this to the deep relationship I have with the women  and men on my personal advisory boards.

I’m inherently a networker, at business functions multiple times a week where I get to meet powerful women. Over time casual relationships turn into deeper relationships and I’ll ask them to join my personal advisory board.

I realize that not all women network the way I do, nor are they located in cities where there are many opportunities for networking, so something else is needed. Specifically, women need a way to find people for their advisory board online.

WomenLEAD is building an online platform to enable women to build their own “Personal Advisory Board“. The idea is simple. You search for advisors using a matching algorithm that helps you find people who can meet your needs. You start a conversation, either on line or on the phone, and if you find you click, you ask if they’ll join your “Personal Advisory Board”.

Once they’re on your “Personal Advisory Board”, you can talk with them individually or as a group about whatever is of interest to you in your career. Working with a multi-site team? Find out who has experience who can help. Have a challenging manager? Get advice on how to handle it. Putting together a career road map? Share it with your “Personal Advisory Board” and get their feedback.

If you have people you already know you can add them as advisors – women and men – buy just sending them an invitation from WomenLEAD, Inc.

It’s my belief that women will advance further in their careers if they have a strong supportive group behind them. And this is better than traditional one-on-one mentoring because a single mentor may not be able to provide you with what you need when you need it.

It turns out that companies also think this is true. I have four large companies, including a Fortune 150 and a Fortune 10 who are interested in making WomenLEAD, Inc  available for their employees.

But I need to show working software to be able to get their business. Once we have the first clients on board, we’ll be able to make the investments in the WomenLEAD to fully realize our vision, including online training, leadership assessment and communities focused on specific interest groups (e.g. women in biotech).

But we need that initial working system to show them, which is where you come in.

Once we get the first solid beta ready, we’re convinced we can get funding from potential customers and investors, but we need to take that first step and get development under way, which is how your contribution will be used. We are asking you to contribute to our Indiegogo campaign so we can achieve these goals.

I think that this is a tipping point for women now – businesses recognizing that it is in their best interest to support their women employees. I think we have a solution that will enable women to dramatically make progress in their career. I have evidence that companies will buy this solution. But I need some capital to get us started.

Will you help? If yes, click here and be taken to our Indiegogo campaign where you’ll be able to donate in just a couple of minutes. Thank you!

Deborah Dean: A Woman Who LEADS in Corporate Law

Debbie-DeanDeborah Dean has a unique name for her personal advisory board: The COTTON CLUB – from COT, or Circle of Trust.

On her journey from corporate attorney to corporate vice president, the support of Dean’s personal advisors made a huge difference.  Even now that she is a vice president at leading global software firm Dassault Systemes, she still looks to this trusted group of women for advice.

“They have served as a sounding board to help me crystallize my goals and understand the political landscape that exists in every company, as advisors to help me strategize as to how to approach and overcome challenges, and as a cheering squad to bolster my self-confidence,” Dean says.

Not only has Dean achieved tremendous career success for herself, she has become a champion for others. She leads an initiative to support women inside Dassault, helping them achieve personal and professional growth. That initiative also supports technical education for three girls in Rwanda, which she hopes will change their lives.

Since 2012, Dean has served on the board of Women in the Enterprise of Science and Technology (WEST) and recently co-authored an article on women’s advancement in the workplace through the Center for Women in Business at Bentley University.

Dean encourages younger women to set up their own personal advisory boards to help them achieve career success. “The business world is vast, with many twists and turns, and it is important to draw on the wisdom and views of others who are either in the same working world or who have gone there before,” she says. “Others have trailblazed – There is no need to keep blazing the same trail. Learn from those who have gone before.”

For the impact she continues to have on women in her company, in her field, and all over the world, WomenLEAD is proud to recognize Deborah Dean as a woman who leads.

Debbie-Dean

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