[Interesting Article] What’s missing from conversation about women in tech? Men

From USA Today, written by Google VP Knowledge Alan Eustace and published yesterday, What’s missing from conversation about women in tech? Men

  • Throughout the past decade, I’ve spoken to thousands of women about the need to make the technology industry more welcoming. But it’s too often all women — I’m preaching to the converted.
  • Research has shown that when a group that is commonly discriminated against speaks up on their own behalf, they can be seen as complaining, and face consequences as a result.
  • People who speak up on behalf of a minority group but that are not from that group are often perceived as more credible.
  • Why is it that every one of the hundreds of technical woman I’ve met in my career can easily recall an experience with a male colleague that made her question whether she belonged? Why don’t I know any men who say they’ve ever made anyone feel this way?
  • But it’s up to all of us — especially men — to make sure that when they get there we are ready for them — and that they are valued. Only then will these brilliant and talented women cease to be “female engineers” and be recognized for what they are: engineers.

I’m glad to hear someone from the top leadership team at Google speaking out on this. and of course, coming from a man it adds credibility ;-). Eustace also mentions his two daughters in the article – I think imagining your own children facing these challenges often is what pushes people to become advocates for change.

I agree valuing the contributions of women engineers is one of the most important things to be done. Part of the challenge (and it’s not the fault of any one man) is that when an environment is mostly men, guy stuff will prevail, whether it’s the type of jokes told, how people posture in meetings (especially when decisions are being made), and what topics small talk will center on. I’ve found that playing along as one of the guys helps you to fit in, but that doesn’t change the work environment and “make sure that when they [women] get there we [men] are ready for them”. All I’m doing by fitting in is pushing the problem down to the next group of women to walk through the door.

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[Interesting Article] Many Women Leave Engineering, Blame The Work Culture

From NPR in August, Many Women Leave Engineering, Blame the Work Culture.

  • Close to 40 percent of women with engineering degrees either leave the profession or never enter the field
  • The biggest pushbacks female engineers receive come from the environments they work in
  • Compared with other skilled professions such as accounting, medicine and law, engineering has the highest turnover of women
  • “We’ve found that women stay in engineering because they want to make sure they are making a difference,” she says. “If women feel they are making that difference, retention levels will be higher.”
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How to Start a Startup – Lecture 3 Paul Graham

I’m enjoying the first week of the Y Combinator class How to Start a Startup. The most recent session was with guest lecturer Paul Graham about the Counterintuitive Parts of Startups, and How to Have Ideas. Paul writes regular essays on startup topics that I enjoy (like real, in-depth essays), so I was expecting his session to be good.

Even if you don’t have time to go through all of the readings, or don’t think you can keep up with twice weekly lectures, take 50 minutes to watch this (or one of the other) sessions. I’ve been enjoying watching over lunch (or while nursing my 2 month old – hey, it’s more intellectually stimulating than Facebook!). Or, instead of watching a TV show tonight, take some time to learn and grow your mind.

My main take-aways from Paul’s talk.

  • How to prep for a start-up? Learn about things that matter, work on what interests you, and work with people you like and respect
  • If you think of tech as a fractal that is ever expanding, every point on the edge is an interesting problem
  • Even the guys who act like they know what is going to work don’t – while running Y Combinator Paul ‘guessed’ at companies that would be successful
  • Growth graphs have no gender – do well and make a product people want and need. Paul had tweeted out a growth graph of a woman-founded startup that was having trouble getting funding, and he quickly had investors asking what the company was (though he acknowledged that women have a harder time getting funded).
  • You don’t need productivity or efficiency tricks when you are doing what you enjoy and what comes naturally. And it takes time to figure those things out – part of why he recommends people don’t start start-ups while in or right out of college.

Share what you got from the talk, and let me know if you are engaging regularly. I have a discussion group going over email with a few people.

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[Resource] Starting a Startup

The opportunity to access fantastic course material online for free continues to grow and amaze me. This fall, there is a class being put on by Y Combinator at Stanford on ‘How to Start a Startup‘ with an impressive set of guest lecturers. The class lectures will be posted every T/Th. I’ll be following along, and let me know if you’d like to like to join me in discussing and applying what is taught.

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It’s About Time – MIT Breast Pump Hackathon

This is awesome – MIT is putting on a ‘make the breast pump not suck’ hackathon event through the Media Lab. I was just talking to someone last week about the lack of innovation in breast pumps, and that the perception is that it isn’t glamorous enough or high growth market to go after as a business and investment opportunity. One month in to pumping, I can attest to the annoyance of the many parts, the noise, having to set up/sit down/clean up (and not having enough time while pumping to do much other than FB or an email or two). Woohoo MIT!

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Two WSJ Blog Posts – Where are Women, Not Dumping Family

It’s been a bit since I wrote a post. For those who know me personally, you’ve likely already heard or seen the news that I became a mom just over three weeks ago. Isaac Hazen Johnson was born Monday, July 21 2014 at 1:41 pm PDT, weighing 8 lb 1 oz and measuring 22.5″. We’ve been having a good time getting to know him, interact with him more, and learn what it means to be parents. He can do no wrong – even his crying makes me smile, and I can’t wait to teach him and show him the world. 

Isaac Hazen Johnson

Peaceful sleeping baby

In the last few days there were two WSJ blogs published that I’m ‘related’ to (one much closer than the other), and which deal with topics that I care about. My good friend Summers McKay served as inspiration for a piece asking “Women, Where are You?”. She had made a call for volunteers to serve as mentors and speakers, and in her initial call, only 1 of 19 volunteers was a female. She followed that up with an email (which prompted the blog post by John Greathouse), and more women did volunteer, once specifically asked (and called out?). I do agree that women aren’t as likely to raise their hand, or think that their story, opinions, and experiences are worthy of serving on panels or as mentors. I also appreciate the point that volunteering, and showing leadership to the next generation, is not about ‘you’ at all. I love John’s recommendation that children be brought along to see their parent in a new light (especially as I sit here looking at my little one), but is that acceptable in professional environments? I have a two day seminar I’m taking part in next month, and Isaac will be coming along (likely with my husband during the event, with me periodically being with him for feeding and being together). How will that be received? 

The second article is up today, and came to my attention through the lovely Facebook ‘friend of a friend’ article stream (that seems to be getting out of control, but in this case I’m glad I saw it). My fellow MIT alum and AXO Reshma Khilnani is friends with Yun-Fang Juan, who is sharing her experience of being a women in tech and a mother, and the career decisions she has made to ultimately “Not Dump Her Family for Work“.  Yun-Fang shares that she elected to remove herself from the Facebook workforce when she thought she couldn’t perform at the level she expected of herself after having her daughter, and that most recently she has started her own company Fundastic (along with outsourcing some housework and childcare) to find her own answers to how to have a career and to be a mother.  In response to her article, I commented:

Speaking from my own experience, and what I have seen in a lot of other women – we hold ourselves to very high standards on what is acceptable or what must be done for work, often to a higher standard than what others may have. We think we can’t do it, or we can’t do it to the level we used to do it at (99% right), but what we need to do is learn to work smarter, delegate more, and focus on what really has to be done.

I do agree support of flexible work and not requiring ‘face time’ is very important. That was (and still is) a big deal in aerospace.

And I do agree women need to stay in the workforce, but I think parts of the system must change and/or women need to find other solutions (as you and I have), rather than expecting women to push through it.

AND – It feels good to be back and writing! 

Posted in Entrepreneur, Family, Flexible, Leadership, Mom, Women | 2 Comments

The Birth of the United States of America – Challenging Conventional Wisdom (& Are We Listening)?

I took a seminar class from Prof Maier on the American Revolution (I think there were 8-10 of us in the class), and I often cite it as one of my favorite non-major classes. She pushed us in the material we read and consumed, but her eyes would light up each time we came together and had the chance to question/learn about the history of our country, especially while living in Boston. I’m sorry to learn of her passing, but felt her come to life again in this review of her research and writings.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) originally shared:

On our country’s birthday, we reflect on the contributions of the late Pauline Maier, a celebrated MIT historian who challenged conventional wisdom about the events that led to a new United States of America.

What Have We Learned from Pauline Maier?

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Bachelor Degrees to Women (and Inversely, to Men) Over Time

Degrees Awarded to Women Over Time

Degrees Awarded to Women Over Time

From the Flowing Data blog that I follow (lots of cool graphs and data depictions), I saw an article showing the percentage of bachelor degrees conferred to women by major from 1970-2012. It was written by Randy Olson, a current Computer Science PhD student at Michigan State.

There are several things that jump out, and which are being discussed in the comments at the bottom of the article (along with a lot of other great references on the subject).

  • The % of Computer Science degrees going to women had been growing (along with Math, Architecture, Physical Sciences) through the mid-80s, but it has now declined to less than 20%. Math, Arch and Physical Sciences have settled at a little over 40%.
  • After growing slowly in the 80s and 90s, the % of Engineering degrees has been flat at just under 20% for the last 10 years
  • If you invert the chart (which Olson did on a follow-up post), there are several degrees where women have and continue to be dominant – health professions, public administration, education.

I was surprised by the decline in CS degrees, or really, surprised at how much the numbers had grown in the early to mid 1980s.

I think it’s worth taking the time to read comments on both his ‘women degree’ original post as well as his ‘male degree’ follow-up post. To the question of why do we tend to focus on the small number of women in CS and Engineering, rather than the small number of men in health or administration – I think it’s because those are jobs that tend to be more lucrative financially, and that the reasons cited for women not going in to those industries includes a lack of confidence and/or exposure, and cultural beliefs about the professions people are supposed to be part of as a result of their gender.


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Alleged Gender Bias for Faculty at UCLA Anderson – My Business School

I’ve got mixed reactions to this article today in the WSJ – Gender Bias Alleged at UCLA’s Anderson Business School.  I’m glad Anderson has been proactive in conducting internal reviews and publishing the truth, but it’s also frustrating to see how long it takes things to change.

In my three years of 20+ classes, I had 4 female faculty/advisors, three of which were very good/on par with the quality I expected from UCLA.

I also think the little comparison bar graph would be more useful if it was focused on the schools Anderson competes with for students, as opposed to an assortment of business schools. 

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Evolution of Education

During my morning workout I enjoyed another great Stanford University eCorner podcast featuring Sal Khan of the Khanacademy.org. I’ve been following what this organization is doing for some time, and I really enjoyed catching up on how it has grown and what they are now focusing on (as well as hearing more details of the story of how they came in to being).

My big lessons:

  • Think twice about recommendations from others that first seem crazy (ie putting tutorial videos on YouTube)
  • Think huge about the potential impact of what you are doing
  • Reconsider what and how it means to learn (experiential, at varying rates).

Let me know what strikes you about the possibilities Khan Academy brings, both in education and more generally in entrepreneurship.

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700 MHz Licensed Spectrum to Bring Broadband to Rural Areas

I don’t expect folks to watch the entire thing, but here is a briefing I took part in today on bringing broadband to rural areas. Most of my talk is at 10-22 minutes, and then Q/A through the remainder.

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A One Day Bootcamp

Last week I attended the one-day AmEx OPEN CEO Bootcamp, which was held in Los Angeles, and looks to be the second in a series of events they are doing to support women business leaders. There were several hundred people there, and the agenda fluctuated between large group sessions with speakers/panels and smaller break-out sessions. Of course a good part of the day was about the AmEx brand and products to support small/medium businesses, as well as promoting organizations affiliated with AmEx, but I think that’s the standard when it comes to these types of events.

It was good for me to take a day in the middle of the week to focus on both professional and personal growth, and almost a week later, I’m still thinking through next steps and actions to take as a result of the reflective time and individual conversations I had.

There were a few activities that I thought were very effective, and would recommend doing in similar events:

  • An early ice-breaker in the day was to get up and introduce yourself to someone you didn’t know, and trade business cards. The more effective part was challenging us to find a specific reason to follow-up with the person we just met. I found this caused the introductions to more quickly move to substance, and also set a tone for conversations later in the day. Everyone there was a business leader, and it was a good reminder to act like one.
  • There were 12 minute one-on-one sessions you could sign up for, with other executives and service professionals. I was given three sessions – one with a fellow CEO, one with a government contracting professional, and one with a branding expert. I found the discussion with the CEO to be very helpful – I came to her with a critical business decision, and after a few minutes back and forth, it was clear to me I needed to have a conversation with my business partner about some high level decisions. I took two hours the following day to write down three pages of issues/decision points, including – Given our expertise, what market can we credibly address? What projects/proposals do we bring a specific skill-set toward, and which ones should we go after? This has done a lot to frame our discussions over the past week, and I’m glad to.

    The full set of speaker and agenda for the day is here, but one speaker particularly stood out for me.

    Charlotte Beers, former Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and former CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, was a fantastic and engaging speaker, and discussed how to become an authentic leader. We received a copy of her book “I’d Rather Be in Charge“, which I’m starting to read, but some of the lessons I already learned from her talk included: 

  • “Find a moment in life when you were pushed, and you were desperate – then your true self emerges, and that’s when the power emerges.” Figure out how to tap in to and use this powerful, true self.
  • “We all have a pocket of fear and a moment of fearlessness – whence does it come and what can we do about it?” Instead of letting fear hold us down, or take us over, figure out where it comes from, and how to use the times when we feel fearless to do what we know we can do.   
  • (and one that I really identified with) All things being equal, I’d rather be in charge. It doesn’t mean always being CEO, but it means being influential no matter where you are, what you are doing. YES! There is no shame in admitting to this, and being an influence! 
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February 2014, Heading in to Spring

It’s been over a month since I last wrote a post – a lot has happened, both planned and unplanned.

On the planned side, my husband and I took a trip to Peru for just under two weeks for our first visit to South America. We had a very good time, ate a lot of fantastic food, took in awesome scenery and got to practice some Spanish.

On the unplanned side, my grandmother had a stroke and passed away a week later. Her funeral and burial were held a few weeks ago, and I’ve made one more trip back to TX to help go through her belongings (on what was supposed to be the weekend she got out of rehab for the stroke). My brother put together a very nice video montage that was showed during the funeral proceedings.

While it’s taken me some time to sit down and start writing and sharing again, I have been doing a lot of thinking, reading, and talking. Maybe I’ve built up a stockpile of topics and things to share – we’ll see what comes out of my writing in the next weeks and months.

This week was Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent. I went to a meditation session and Mass earlier in the morning, giving me more dedicated time to think and reflect. Luckily, my church is pretty with it, so there is a video of the homily message delivered by Father David. He tells a story about flying an airplane while getting his pilots license while in college, going over big fluffy clouds, and then at a point looking down and realizing he is not at all where he is supposed to be. Though he was following the course and vector that he figured out was correct, he hadn’t taken in to account the wind, that was steadily pushing him in another direction. I won’t give away the trick to getting the airplane back on course for those who want to watch the video, but the messages I took away from the story were:

  • Even when we are exactly following the ‘right’ path, there are things we forgot, or things out of our control, that are moving us down the ‘wrong’ path
  • Sometimes it is necessary (and OK) to stop, admit we are off course, and figure out what to do to get ourselves headed back in the right direction
  • And though the airplane did need to get back on track to make it to the proper airport, the unintended path may actually be for the better, and it’s up to us to accept that change and not feel like we always have to be in control.

As we are moving in to longer daylight hours, and the general sense of rebirth and new beginnings that happen in the Spring, I’m taking the time to assess where my paths are right-on or somewhat off from what was intended, and then deciding which need to be corrected or which may be better on their unplanned course.

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Reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union Address

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I haven’t used this blog to talk politics, and I still don’t have any plans to do so. But – I listened to President Obama’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night, and given my interest in the topic, I … Continue reading

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Quality Time

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Happy New Year! I had a really nice break over three weeks or so, with some work interspersed with relaxation and fun. We celebrated Christmas in CA, and then we’re in TX for a week for another round of Christmas … Continue reading

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Pruning the Branches / Declutter the Network

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In the last two weeks, there has been a message I’ve been hearing that is sticking with me, and that I’m working on putting in to practice. I volunteer as a lector at St. Monica’s in Santa Monica, which means … Continue reading

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Support for Women Leading High-Growth Companies

As I’ve brought up in the past, I enjoy listening to podcasts and books while I’m exercising. The last two days, I was taking in the final Fall lecture from the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar, which featured Sharon Vosmek, the CEO of Astia. … Continue reading

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Taking a Moment for Those in the Philippines

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I know by this time most everyone has heard about and seen the imagery from the huge storm that hit the Philippines this past week. Over the last 1.5 years, through the use of oDesk (online job marketplace I highly recommend), I … Continue reading

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One Pretty Amazing Week – From South Dakota Governor’s Pheasant Hunt to Arcade Fire Album Release (and a few things in between!)

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I’ve had an awesome variety of things go in the past week, so I want to get my thoughts down and share some stories while it is still fresh.  Over the past year, I’ve been traveling to South Dakota and … Continue reading

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Taking the Time to Find Gifts in the Every Day

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I’ve had several reminders this week about the importance of taking time in life for things that are not work, whether it be hobbies, spending time with others, exploring the world around us, or just taking it easy. During a … Continue reading

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