A tidal wave in progress? I ♥ Innovation at the Women 2.0 PITCH Conference

The sold-out Women 2.0 PITCH Conference’s opening keynote features Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and Hunch,* on “Making and the True Path.”  The rest of the sessions look great too: case studies by Robin Chase of Zipcar and Julia Hu of Lark, and the “$50 Million Panel” featuring Deena Varshavskaya of Wanelo, Leah Busque of TaskRabbit, and Sheila Lirio Marcelo of Care.com.  There are a bunch of intriguing finalists for the pitch competition — including Tara Hunt’s Buyosphere!  And the judges for the competitions are no slouches either: Aileen Lee of Kleiner Perkins, Dave McClure of 500 Startups, Naval Ravikant of AngelList, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy of JOYUS … looks like a #diversitywin to me, and some great networking too!

A couple of weeks ago I had coffee with Pemo Theodore, who’s interviewed dozens of investors and entrepreneurs for her excellent  Why are Women Funded Less than Men?.  We both had the same feeling: momentum has steadily built over the last couple years** and it feels like there’s a tidal wave in progress.  The women-in-tech and women-near-tech communities are extraordinarily well networked.  And the data is compelling.  Here’s Vivek Wadhwa’s summary from his recent Inc article:

An analysis performed by the Kauffman Foundation showed that women are actually more capital-efficient than men. Babson’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor found  that women-led high-tech startups have lower failure rates than those led by men. Other research has shown that venture-backed companies run by women have annual revenues 12 percent higher than those run by men, and that organizations that are the most inclusive of women in top management positions achieve a 35% higher return on equity and 34% higher total return to shareholders.

So while there’s still a long way to go, the trend is in the right direction.  Kudos to all the amazing women, the much smaller number of equally-amazing guys, and the outstanding organizations like Women 2.0, the Anita Borg Institute, Astia, Pipeline Fellowship, Women Who Tech, She’s Geeky, the Level Playing Field Institute, Geek Feminism and so many others how have worked so hard to make this happen!

Combine the momentum and community with great content and plenty of opportunity for networking, and it should be a great conference.   I’ll be live-blogging it in comments — and feel free to jump in as well.  Stay tuned!

jon

* and strong pseudonymity advocate!

** here on Liminal States threads like  Guys talking to guys who talk about guys, A #diversitywin as an opportunity, Fretting, asking, and begging isn’t a plan, The third wave and the anatomy of awesome, and Changing the ratio have some of the highlights

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Anxious Masculinity Under Threat: Google+ and Diversity, part 6

Google+ in rainbow colorsGoogle+’s naming policy isn’t failing because it’s poorly implemented, or because Google’s enforcement team is stupid. It’s failing because what they’re trying to do is (1) impossible, and (2) antisocial.

— Bob Blakley, Google+ Can Be a Social Network Or The Name Police — Not Both, Gartner Blog Network

I wonder what folks at Google thought of Chairman Eric Schmidt’s description of Google+ as an “identity service” which requires people real names? So friendly! So out of sync with what they’ve been telling the media! So … creepy!

It’s hard to see this going over well in the rest of the world, where everybody is sooo eager to share their personal information with a US company so that it’s subject to the PATRIOT Act. And here in the US, Gartner is only the latest to point out how destructive this is for Google+.

Despite its imperfections Google+ was on track for being a grand slam, taking a big chunk of audience from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and yes even Quora.* And now? The joy of the brilliantly-executed launch has dissipated. Passionate early supporters are now so anti-Google that they’re switching to Duck Duck Go and even Bing.

“Data-driven”?

“Operational excellence”?

How embarrassing.

Anxious masculinity under threat

Basically, any situation in which a group of less privileged people makes critiques or observations of the dominant group in a way that threatens to upset the dominance of that group, to change the established order somehow, or to at least make the established order seem less virtuous, normal, and inevitable, is a situation in which the tone argument gets pulled out.

Sheila Marie on “the tone argument”

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WiseDame: Now *that’s* what I call disruptive (part 6 of TechCrunch, disrupted)

WiseDame: making safe living easier, one application release at a time

Is it just me, or does WiseDame seem far more disruptive than most of the startups pitching location-based ideas?

— Jon Pincus, on WiseDame’s just-relaunched site; originally from A celebration of disruptive women

J’aime Ohm won the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon as a solo hacker with a personal safety iPhone app.  WiseDame’s tag line is “making safe living easier, one application release at a time”. It takes basic safety practices – letting friends or family know what time you expect to be home,  leaving a note about your plans for the day – and makes them better, faster, and easier.  Brilliant.

And a great case study in agile software engineering, too. J’aime started with an idea for a product she wanted and a set of use cases based her own experience. Next she talked with a bunch of potential early adopters who were variants on a target persona (“women who go out”) and had enough information to build a prototype. Which she did, and iterated rapidly continuing to get feedback, all in less than 24 hours.

As Cindy Gallop of If We Ran The World highlighted in email:

this product came out of FEMALE USER NEED AND EXPERIENCE.  The number of tech ventures meant to deliver a gender-equal UX with all-male founding teams is ridiculous.  And equally, male geeks are going to miss a lot of concepts that can sell to vast numbers of women (the primary purchasers in many sectors and the primary influencers in many others).  Let the women in, for chrissakes!!

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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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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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What would it mean if women were paid as much as men? (DRAFT)

Draft! Please do not link here!

Update, April 20: Rrevised version has been posted on Qworky’s blog, Better Software/Better World

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DRAFT: Want to make meetings better? Qworky is recruiting for a diverse open source project!

Update, December 17:  Thanks to all for the excellent feedback, here and in email!

I’ll be splitting this into two posts, which will appear on the Qworky blog

Thanks also to those who expressed interest … if you’d like to get involved, stay tuned — or get in touch via the contact information at the bottom of the post.

As a company we view diversity as a vital ingredient to sustained business success.  We value unique perspectives and traditionally under-represented viewpoints in the software design process. We welcome collaborators from every walk of life. We welcome people of any gender identity and expression, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, experience level, discipline, educational background, culture, and political opinion.

— Qworky’s draft diversity statement
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Diversity and technology conferences, part 1: the Government 2.0 Expo

We received 189 valid proposals for talks at Expo Showcase.  A few people, men and women, submitted two proposals, but the vast majority submitted just one.  Of these 189, only 41 (or 22% of the total) were from women, with 147 proposals submitted by men.  I have no reason in particular to offer for this. Perhaps women would like to comment on this blog about why a two month open call for proposals for anyone with a good idea for a five minute talk about Government 2.0 was dominated by 78% men.

— Mark Drapeau’s Government 2.0 Expo: Women by the Numbers

The women in technology community has been doing a great job of highlighting lack of diversity in conference speakers, using mechanisms like the #diversityfail Twitter hashtag and act.ly.   Mark’s post provides some interesting data on how an O’Reilly conference he’s co-chairing wound up with more than two-thirds of the presenters being male.  While I’m not actually a woman, I’d nonetheless like to take him up on his invitation for discussion about how the submission process became so male-dominated.

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A #diversityfail as an opportunity: guys talking to guys who talk about guys

How can an entrepeneur planning a startup that’s going to develop some revolutionary software that relates to how people work together discover truly game-changing product and business model possibilities?  One approach is to look at a situation in a different way than everybody else.  Easier said than done, typically … unless you’re lucky enough to discover a collective blindspot in current thinking.

Scott Page’s book The Difference highlights the importance of diversity in situations like this. The way I think of it is that a non-diverse crowd will fail to explore a lot of the possibilities.  Strategically the best opportunties are likely to be in the areas that the are getting marginalized today.  So whenever I see a #diversityfail related to the “web 2.0” and mobile technology/business world, my ears perk up and I start paying attention.

2009-07-08_1145

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#p2 and prioritizing diversity: background reading for Thursday’s tweeting

#p2 tweeting* Thursday April 30

7-8PM Pacific/10-11PM Eastern
Draft agenda and discussion here
Please join us!

#p2 logoTwitter is an opportunity to engage with communities currently marginalized by the “progressive blogosphere”

— Tracy Viselli and Jon Pincus, The #p2 Hashtag and Strategies for Progressives on Twitter on The Exception

#p2 is a resource for progressives who prioritize diversity and empowerment

— #p2’s wiki and Twitter profile

Because #p2 (aka “progressives 2.0”) is the closest thing to a broad communication mechanism for progressives on Twitter so far, I’m not sure how many people realize that the primary focus is on diversity. So here’s some background reading about #p2 for Thursday’s tweeting  on how progressives can organize more effectively on Twitter.

Let’s start with a question that I think doesn’t get asked enough.

Do progressives care about diversity?

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Equal Pay Day: #fairpay and Women don’t ask

Blog for fair payAccording to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2007 the ratio of women’s and men’s median annual earnings reached almost 78 cents on the dollar for full-time year-round workers, up from just under 77 cents in 2006. This is the narrowest the wage gap has ever been, but it’s only an additional one cent on the dollar. One cent is chump change. It isn’t real change.

— from AAUW’s Equal Pay Day, April 28

African-American women earn 62¢ and Latinas earn 53¢ for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. #fairpay #fem2 #p2

— @NWLC on Twitter

One of President Obama’s first actions in late January was signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law.  That’s only a first step, though; the next battle in the fight against wage discrimination is the Paycheck Fairness Act.  The PFA updates the 45-year-old Equal Pay Act in many important ways, and passed the House with strong bipartisan support, and is currently before the Senate as S.182.

The AAUW’s site has a bunch of ways you can help: call your Senators, wear red,* blog about it, share on Facebook and join their group and cause, and tweet about it using the #fairpay hashtag.  It’s all important; do as much as you can.  There are a couple of things I’d specifically like to highlight.

Let’s start with Twitter, where this is another great opportunity for hashtag-based diversity activism.  Activity via #fairpay accomplishes several things.  Most obviously, it raises awareness: whenever you tweet, all your followers are reminded of the wage gap.  If some of the Twitterati start retweeting, or there’s enough activity that #fairpay winds up in the top 10 “trending” hashtags, a lot more people will see it.  So tweet away!  If you’re not sure what to say, the National Women’s Law Center has some tweeting points you can use as inspiration.

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#women2follow: collaborative empowerment on Twitter

Today is #Women2Follow - Recommend great women in UR twitter community to follow.

Today, on Twitter, I saw another woman, Allyson Kapin (who goes by @WomenWhoTech), get frustrated when she saw a list of “top” folks in social media that, once again, omitted all but one woman…. Soon after, a discussion ensued, and, within minutes, Kapin started a new “event” on Twitter…

Denise Graveline on The Eloquent Woman, February 25

The idea behind #Women2Follow Wednesdays is straightforward: to recognize and promote women in the technology and social media field — and help people find each other.  If you’re on Twitter, it’s easy to participate.

  1. Tweet a list of one or more women on Twitter you think people should follow, along with some info about why.  Make sure to include the #women2follow hashtag!
  2. Watch others’ recommendations and find interesting people to follow

Like I said, easy.  Here are my recommendations over the last three weeks.

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