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!


* 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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Blog for Choice Day: What will *you* do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?

Today’s the anniversary or Roe v. Wade, and this year’s Blog for Choice Day topic is “What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?”  Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but reproductive rights remain under assault.  The Obama Administration’s hand-wringing before finally denying an religiously-affiliated hospitals an exemption from the requirement that they provide contraception, and the strident anti-choice rhetoric from all the Republican candidates, show just how far the window has shifted.  It’s time to move things back.

Here’s what I’m doing:

  • My vote and my volunteering time are “in play” in 2012.   Along with civil liberties and LGBTQ issues, one of the things I’m judging Obama, Cantwell, gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee and other candidates on is how assertively they’ll fight for women’s right to choose.
  • And I’ll continue to raise awareness, with friends online and off, and discuss the issue.  Yes, I get in people’s face when they make excuses for anti-choice politicians — or downplay the importance of the issue.  [I’m looking at you, Ron Paul supporters.]

What are you doing?


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Booberday: Google+ and Diversity, part 8

Google+ in rainbow colorsSummary: it’s a “share pictures of your cleavage because of… breast cancer! yeah!” meme. That meta-meme is potent, folks. Got something you want people to do? Claim it’s about preventing or ameliorating or alerting or grieving breast cancer. You are now the untouchable saviour. The end.

— Mary, on Geek Feminism

A surprising number of guys don’t seem to get why so many women found the G+ weekend meme of sharing pictures of cleavage under the guise of “breast cancer awareness” offensive.   Mary’s article is a great roundup, with quotes from Christa Laser, Randall Monroe, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Peggy Orenstein, as well as links out to Twisty on I Blame the Patriarchy and Lauradhel of Hoyden about Town … but even so, there’s plenty of whining about “censorship” and mansplaining about how women who feel objectified are just wrong.  Sigh.

As M. M. Faulkner said six weeks ago on Pay Attention People in Why Women Users are Important for Google+,

Furthermore, although making a joke here or there, posting a somewhat mysogynist photo, or remarking on women’s love of Farmville may seem harmless enough, I think we need to recognize there is a larger picture. What I am speaking of is a collective conscience that forms when people are bombarded with the same images and messages over and over and over. The message for the past week has been ramping up and it seems to be suggesting that we are simply are not as “ready” for Google’s latest social media network. It reminds us, as women, we are in the “wrong place” at Google Plus.

Of course there are plenty of exceptions.  All of the people I’m following steered clear from Booberday, and guys like Randall Monroe and Mohamed Mansour (who worked overnight to get out Filter Stream for Google+) really stepped forward.  But still.

A heck of a lot of women have been talking for months about things that make Google+ a hostile environment to women … and Google’s largely ignored them.

I wonder what, if anything, they’ll do in the aftermath of Booberday?

Check out the previous posts in the series: A Work in Progress, Why it matters, #nymwars!, A tale of two searches, The double bind of oppression, Anxious masculinity under threat, and Still a Ways to Go

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#mooreandme and #p2: learnings for progressives on Twitter (REVISED DRAFT)

Draft, work in progress. Feedback welcome!

Last updated February 5.

#p2 logo

Twitter is an opportunity to engage with communities currently marginalized by the “progressive blogosphere”. Demographically and stylisticly, Twitter is far less male-dominated than the big blogs of the progressive blogosphere …

— Tracy Viselli and Jon Pincus, The #p2 Hashtag and Strategies for Progressives on Twitter, February 2009

Twitter is, quite possibly, the best available medium for this particular kind of protest. The format has a number of features that level a playing field that tends to push women into the outfield.

How #Mooreandme Worked, Lili Loofbourow, December 2010

Twitter was an instinctive choice for #MooreandMe, because it made the target of the protest accessible and ensured that he could hear us. But I liked it as a medium for #DearJohn too, because it was really equalizing, it wasn’t hierarchical, it ensured that voices and perspectives could influence the conversation regardless of how well-connected or well-known they were, and it was a very visible, trackable way to register dissent.

– Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown, interviewed in where is your line?, January 2011

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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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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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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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#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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#amazonfail and we’re not done yet: links and perspectives (UPDATED with new links)

amazon.fail ... and you're done

Update, April 21: added some additional links here

Amazon’s stock has recovered, bouyed by Friday’s report that Kindle sales have exceeded expectations. Traffic on the #amazonfail hashtag is much lighter.  The auction for AmazonFail.com is over, at least for the time being.

But I don’t think this issue’s going away quite that quickly.

Right now it feels like everybody’s taking a step back and reflecting.  There’s general agreement on the narrative described in the National Coalition Against Censorship’s #amazonfail explained in a flowchart and there’s a theme starting to emerge in the tweets on #amazonfail and blog posts:

It’s not over.

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