Sep 30

Not Enough Women in Tech? You Really Shouldn’t Blame (All) the Men

So I spent this past week at TechCrunch Disrupt. I must say, I had a great time and it reinvigorated my interest in technology and its benefit to people around the world. After seeing Eric Schmidt and Beth Comstock speak and just hearing the conversations in the hallways, I realize we are truly blessed to be part of such interesting times.

As you may know, I took part in a panel about women in technology. I didn’t feel we really got anywhere with it and it felt awkward to witness what felt like a cat fight on stage. Ugh. Don’t let that sway you, please. There were some really interesting women up there and it was really hard to get a word in edge wise. There were also some interesting women on panels, like PayPal’s Laura Chambers, who discussed geolocation and mobile payments.

Panel aside, what I noticed was this: most guys were happy I was there. Women complain there is a lack of women in tech. Guess what? SO DO MEN. Imagine you work 12 hours a day on a startup. You don’t have much time to go out. It can be really hard to meet women, not just to date, but even as friends. I found the vast majority of guys at TechCrunch Disrupt to be very supportive and kind. They want women in the space just as much as women want to be in the space.

So while it is indeed true that some guy claiming to be an angel investor from Connecticut pitched me for sex not long after I pitched a startup, it is also equally true that all guys I told this too found it as appalling and funny as I did, and many of them thought it was awesome that I am going to apply to YCombinator. It’s all in our perspective. Life is full of misogynist boogie men and if you let them get you down, you end up missing out on a lot.

So now that that’s said and done, here were some of the highlights of the conference for me:
Eric Schmidt Talks About AI: This talk reinforced my admiration for all things Google. They aren’t just interested in being a search engine. They want to incorporate the ability to find things into our everyday life. Unlike Schmidt, I sorta like driving my car though and would be sad if it drove itself.
Steve Streight Discusses What It Was Like to Found Green Dot: Green Dot isn’t a sexy startup. It’s just one that makes sense. I like that. It was also great to hear from someone who didn’t start a company at 22 with nothing to lose. Streight had six kids and I can’t imagine what it would be like to start a company in that situation.
Michael Arrington Sells TechCrunch to AOL: This was a smart move. Money doesn’t corrupt unless you are corrupt already. Having more cashflow means TechCrunch can do bigger and bolder things for more entrepreneurs. I approve.
Chamillionaire Points Out How Far We Have to Go: It’s easy to get caught up in the insular world of early adopters. Chamillionaire pointed out that there are a lot of talented people who have no clue what this scene is about. They don’t know about Spotify or Creative Commons, and they really should. We can’t just focus on what’s next–we need to see who we are leaving behind and how much good it will cause to bring everyone up to speed.
J’aime Ohm Wins the Hackathon. J’aime created an iPhone app that helps women stay safe called WiseDame. She is awesome and WiseDame looks like a great app. Follow her.
MC Hammer: The guy is too legit to quit. Just ask Erick Schonfeld.

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  • http://twitter.com/brianthecoder Brian Smith

    I never got where this whole sentiment of men being anti-women in tech came from

  • Kathysierra

    Awesome. Thanks Michelle. There are many things we need a lot more of in tech, including women… but gratitude and appreciation for what we *do* have often goes missing. I keep coming back to the Louis CK video about how “everything is amazing and nobody’s happy”. Of course we have a long way to go in so many areas, but sometimes a shift in perspective can change everything… nearly overnight.

  • http://borasky-research.net/2010/08/29/getting-started-with-the-social-media-analytics-research-toolkit/ znmeb

    Michelle, is somebody “curating” all the comments about women in tech arising from TechCrunch Disrupt? I can get a dump of the hashtag archive easily enough, but I think there should be a central “blogroll” / RSS feed / Yahoo! Pipe or something.

  • http://borasky-research.net/2010/08/29/getting-started-with-the-social-media-analytics-research-toolkit/ znmeb

    Well, everything *isn’t* amazing. but at least there are some thought leaders changing stuff so thought followers like me have a future.

    And what, pray tell, are *you* up to these days, Kathy? ;-)

  • DS

    Hi Michelle – First time reader and commenter. I really enjoy your honest and authentic voice.
    I am a 33 year old married man with a 6 month old daughter, and I was raised by my mother, grandmother and 2 older sisters. I am totally shocked and disgusted and can’t believe some of the comments and anon cowards on this topic. It really is a shame that the TCD panel discussion wasn’t planned better in advance to build some positive momentum with the spotlight and camera’s rolling on your all-star panel so the audience could have walked away enlightened and engaged. I am the founder of a fresh start-up and because of what my product is, I always envisioned a management team, board of advisers and/ or board of directors comprised primarily of strong professional and tech-savvy women. Interested to know your thoughts on how I would go about sourcing potential candidates who would add a diversified skill-set and complement one another? Are there any women start-ups/ tech companies out there that you could point me to as an example of a strong, successful and trusted company? Obviously I cannot join women-specific associations, clubs, etc. and would appreciate any and all help that would allow me to become more ‘in-tune’ with what is clearly going to be a significant opportunity in tech, and beyond, going forward.
    Thank you,

    DS

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_45377RM55O7MSGCOSI467BDO6A Jay

    I agree that tech needs more women. Although, I don’t believe it is because tech men are looking to find someone to date. One of the things a lot of men tend to do is treat tech as a playground and not as a business service. This is where we have found the forces of outsourcing bringing pressure on a tech industry that isn’t working on ensuring they are delivering the best services to their business partners. I believe that by bringing more women into the tech field, we will start to see our industry become more process oriented and this will help to fend off the outsourcing pressure and make the tech industry a better place to work. As a hiring manager, I have tried to ensure I have interviewed female candidates for open positions and hired as many qualified women as I could, but it was difficult to find women experienced or interested in infrastructure.

  • Anonymous

    Honestly I haven’t paid that much attention.

  • Anonymous

    It would depend on what your startup does. It’s key to pick people who know your industry.

  • Anonymous

    Kathy,

    First of all, thanks for commenting. You’ve always been an inspiration to me.

    I try to stay positive. I often feel trapped in the middle because although I see we have to improve the work situation for many women, I don’t feel the answer is segregating ourselves. I will admit that some things seem easier for my male friends, simply because they have established networks of friends. Very often those same powerful friends would rather date or hit on me than help me. While I certainly don’t fault men for being heterosexual and I sometimes reciprocate, it can be a bit confusing.