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Equal Pay Day: Pay Equity and Startups

Next Equal Pay Day: Tuesday, April 12, 2011

American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This gap in earnings translates into $10,849 less per year in female median earnings, leaving women and their families shortchanged. The wage gap is even more substantial when race and gender are considered together, with African-American women making only 62 cents,and Latinas only 53 cents, for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.

National Women’s Law Center

Equal Pay Day is the date that symbolizes how far into 2011 women must work to earn what men earned in 2010. This year, it’s April 12.

The Paycheck Fairness Act was reintroduced in Congress today (after being killed last December by a Republican filibuster), and more recently the AAUW’s come out with anothre report, The Simple Truth About the Pay Gap, demolishing the arguments of the guys who deny there’s a problem.  My posts from the last couple years ( #fairpay and Women Don’t Ask and What would it mean if women were paid as much as men?) cover a lot of this, and as always, there’s a lot of great stuff being written — check out the #fairpay hashtag for links.

After all that it’s hard to come up with something new to talk about.  So let me just spend a moment on the area of gender equity I’m personally most involved with right now: representation of women at startups.

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“Tissue turgor” and pink elephants: about Y Combinator (DRAFT)

DRAFT! Work in progress! Feedback welcome

y combinator logo

One advantage startups have over established companies is that there are no discrimination laws about starting businesses. For example, I would be reluctant to start a startup with a woman who had small children, or was likely to have them soon. But you’re not allowed to ask prospective employees if they plan to have kids soon. Whereas when you’re starting a company, you can discriminate on any basis you want about who you start it with.

— Y Combinator founder Paul Graham, in How to Start a Startup

Christopher Steiner’s The Disruptor in the Valley in Forbes discusses how this essay, along with Paul’s Harvard talk, eventually inspired red-hot technology incubator YC. He doesn’t include this quote, alas, and also doesn’t mention the reports in the Mercury News and Wall Street Journal of YCs #diversityfail or Tereza Nemessanyi’s XX Combinator.  I guess they didn’t fit  in with the article’s subtitle: “Paul Graham’s Y Combinator has stormed Silicon Valley and pioneered a better way to build a company.”

YC has indeed had a huge impact.   Christopher reports that YC typically puts about $15-$20K into the companies in return for a 5% equity stake; with over 400 companies in their portfolio they’re a powerful force in the tech startup world.  With the help of a lot of gushing coverage in the TechCrunch and their buddies in the tech press, 30 of their of the 36 startups in the most recent crop incubator have gotten funding since Demo Day in August, many of them over $1 million.   Collusion is soooo hot these days so it’s as good a time for a fluff piece as any.

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Collective intelligence, diversity, and social networks

Originally published as “Hold that thought”
(Part 5 of “TechCrunch, disrupted”)

The day after TechCrunch Disrupt ended, a fascinating study on “collective intelligence” led by Anita Woolley of Carnegie Mellon University appeared in Science.   The researchers found that a group’s success in solving problems wasn’t correlated to the average intelligence of the group, or the IQ of the smartest person.  Instead, it was related to “social sensitivity”, whether everybody got to participate in the discussions, and the number of women in the group.

The article’s behind a paywall, but Malicia Rogue’s On savvy and groups discusses it in detail and provides a lot of background.  There’s an excellent discussion on GeekFeminism, a podcast on CBC, and good articles in National Geographic, NPR, Science Daily, and The Globe and Mail.

Nobody mentioned it in the press coverage, but these results also align with Scott Page’s underlying model of the value of cognitive diversity in problem solving. Diversity = Productivity summarizes Scott’s work showing why diverse teams perform better than individual experts or even teams of experts — if they can work together effectively, that is.*   So while there’s a lot more to discuss about this study, for now let’s just accept its results at face value and hypothesize that they apply to larger teams as well.

Now consider a group that we’ll call “TechCrunch and friends”.  How effective would we expect them to be at problem solving?
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Constitution Day 2010: We’re all talking to each other

A lot of these people that are upset in this country are upset with big government, and for a lot of the people, including these Tea Party people, they don’t like the PATRIOT ACT.  There is a constituency out there that is not just on the left, but is also on the right and in the middle, that knows that this bill had some very serious problems. So, I am looking at organizing with people of all different backgrounds and political ideologies, to fight for the rights of perfectly innocent Americans, which are being violated and continue to be violated, by some of these provisions, even of the Obama administration

— Russ Feingold, interviewed by Glenn Greenwald on Salon

September 17 is Constitution Day.  This year it’s in the wake of major court victories for marriage quality, right in the middle of the Bradley Manning Support Network‘s International Days of Action, and next week we’re expecting votes on the DREAM Act and an attempt to break the McCain filibuster on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. There’s a lot to pay attention to here.

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A #diversitywin as an opportunity: Women talking with women (and a few guys too) at the #wwt TeleSummit (UPDATED)

Women Who Tech

Slides from the TeleSummit are available on Slideshare

The speaker list for today’s sold-out Women Who Tech TeleSummit is amazing, amazing, amazing …  @jillfoster, @digitalsista, @blogdiva, @missrogue, @randomdeanna, @conniereece along with TeleSummit organizer Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaigns (aka @WomenWhoTech), and that’s just the first hour!

There are some guys speaking as well at this year’s event, including @clayshirky and @kevinmarks along with @maryhodder, @lynneluvah, and @WomenWhoTech examining how people in a position of power judge and promote others on the Self-promotion: Is This Really a Rant About Gender? panel.  And I’m particularly psyched about Building the ultimate user experience, including experience goddess @ooonie of IfWeRanTheWorld (which I just blogged about in Emo-ware: What does emotional software look like? and If She Ran the World …)

Some of the other great topics include launching your own startup, diversifying your tech teams, and female ferocity.  And then there are afterparties in DC, New York, and SF. Maybe next year we can do one in Seattle too 🙂

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Emoware: What does “emotional software” feel like?

Originally titled What does “emotional software” look like?
See the first comment for more

28 percentThose of you who know me as a software engineer have no doubt heard me talk repeatedly about if you look at computer science as a social science it’s clear that there are a lot of consequences to the lack of diversity in the discipline.  One of them is a lot of the design space just isn’t getting explored.

Most software today is designed and developed by teams and companies (or open-source projects) where the power is with white guys whose cognitive style is analytical and reductionist.  A lot of developers would agree with the Microsoft Technical Fellow my former Ad Astra colleagues once worked with trying to design an asset-based thinking workshop: “I’d much rather not talk about emotion”.   Functional, sparse, flat designs with limited configurability in the style of 37 Signals are great for people who like that kind of interaction.  A lot of us don’t, and our needs are badly underserved.

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Women in tech startups: how each of us can help change the ratio, parts 2 and 3 (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  Feedback welcome!

Part of a series for NWEN’s blog

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Links from the Arrington/TechCrunch women in tech kerfuffle (UPDATED)

WWII image of a woman: Yes we can!Even over the three-day weekend here in the US we continue to see some excellent discussions, for example Qworky advisor Gayle Laakmann’s Blame Men — And Women and Audrey Watters’ “Ambient Un-belonging” Arrington’s got another post up too.

Looking ahead, the Women In Tech teleconference on September 15 includes TechCrunch CEO Heather Harde is on the “Female Ferocity” panel.  There’s the sold-out Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Atlanta at the end of the month.  And late last week, Arrington tweeted that they were going to add an all-women panel to TechCrunch Disrupt to discuss “women’ issues”.*   So I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more about this …

Hopefully as we move forward, as well a continued focus on the underlying issues and realities of structural biases against women and minorities, we’ll also see a lot more discussion about what people can do. Mary’s Where to after the required reading? on Geek Feminism asks for suggestions.  I’ve got a draft response in What each of us can do; feedback welcome.

In any case I thought it would be useful to collect the links to what’s been written so far.  It’s really striking how much good stuff there’s been on blogs and Twitter (I collected some of the tweets that caught my eye in various comments in another thread**) so hopefully the list it’ll be valuable to anybody else writing about it.

First though, in a comment that the Arrington’s of the world will no doubt dismiss as pandering, I’d like to take a moment and express my admiration for the women in technology who have been doing such great work to change the ratio.  The women I know who speak out on gender equity aren’t “whiners”, as they’re so often dismissed by people who don’t want to hear what they’re saying.   They’re remarkably successful despite the huge biases against them, and somehow manage to find time for diversity work in addition to having careers, friendships, and often families.

Of course they’re frustrated when privileged guys who clearly haven’t looked at the problem in any detail deny there’s a problem, attack women and allies, and disclaim responsibility — and who can blame them?  Despite that, though, they’re a remarkably positive group … and with good reason: they’ve invested a huge amount of time and effort here over the years and it’s really starting to pay off.

So kudos and respect to you all.  I’m impressed by what you’ve accomplished and proud to know you  And thanks, too: the technology world is a much more pleasant for your efforts!

And you know, stuff like this makes a big difference. There was a very encouraging episode late last week in response to Chiara Atik’s Guest of a Guest article on TechStars New York’s ratio of 46 male mentors and only two women. When Cindy Gallop brought it up on Twitter, David Tisch of TechStars quickly reached out.  Props  all around. More of this please!

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Women in technology startups: a few things each of us can do (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  Work in progress, feedback welcome!
revised version intended as a two-part series on NWEN’s blog

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Fretting, asking, and begging isn’t a plan: the Arrington kerfuffle and women in tech

also cross-posted on Feminism 2.0

WWII image of a woman: Yes we can!

Success in Silicon Valley, most would agree, is more merit driven than almost any other place in the world. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what sex you are, what politics you support or what color you are….  Statistically speaking women have a huge advantage as entrepreneurs.

Michael Arrington in TechCrunch

Privileged much? *

The lastest firestorm about women and entrepeneurship got kicked off by Shira Ovide’s excellent Wall Street Journal article Addressing the Lack of Women Running Tech Startups.   Shira’s article has some fine quotes from Dina Kaplan, Yuli Ziv, and Fred Wilson, and this from Rachel Sklar of Change the Ratio:

Part of changing the ratio is just changing awareness, so that the next time Techcrunch is planning a Techcrunch Disrupt, they won’t be able to not see the overwhelming maleness of it.

I thought it was a great read.  But not everybody agreed.

TechCrunch: Too Few Women In Tech? Stop Blaming The Men. Or At Least Stop Blaming Me.

Every damn time we have a conference we fret over how we can find women to fill speaking slots. We ask our friends and contacts for suggestions. We beg women to come and speak. Where do we end up? With about 10% of our speakers as women.

Oh please.  Fretting, asking, and begging isn’t a plan.

Yes, it’s hard.  Stop whining.  Take some responsibility.

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31 months later: The Economist’s Debate on Privacy (DRAFT! Feedback welcome!)

DRAFT! Feedback welcome!
Revised version to be posted on Tales from the Net.

Economist Debates: Online Privacy.A debate between Marc Rotenberg of EPIC and Jim Harper of Cato, moderated by Martin Giles.  Because, y'know, who cares what women think?

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Go Seattle! The Innovate 100 Pitch Slam at pii2010

pii2010 logopii2010 (privacy identity innovation) got off to a fine start yesterday with a great opening reception and the Innovate 100 Seattle Pitch Slam.  While a few of the participants were from the Bay Area, Seattle-area startups Optify, InternMatch, and Pathable took the top three spots, with Tweetajob and IdeaScale also representing well.  Go Seattle!

And props to the Innovate 100 team and pii2010 for getting a more diverse group of participants than we often see in events like this.  As well as good racial diversity, two of the speakers were women — quite a contrast to the all-male feel of TechStars, Y Combinator, or last spring’s NWEN First Look Forum.

Shameless plug: speaking of the First Look Forum, we’ve extended the application deadline for the fall event to August 23.  If you’re an early-stage startup, please check it out!  If you’re thinking of applying, there’s some tips here and here.

The pitch slam started with a one-minute “Quick Pitch” competition, with Secret123, Puzzazz, Open Mobile, aNEWSme, wishpot, and InternMatch competing for the last open spot in the finals.  I was impressed by how well most of the presenters conveyed what they were doing in just 60 seconds.  The crowd went wild after InternMatch’s dramatic reveal at the end of their minute: the person giving the presentation was actually an intern!  Gotta love that.   So it wasn’t at all surprising that they moved on to the finals.

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