On SLMA Radio recently, Bonnie Crater, CEO of Full Circle CRM was interviewed by me on the topic of gender equality at the C-level. The question of whether or not it is possible was the focus and steps companies can take toward this goal. But one of the byproducts of this interview is the question, "Why does it matter?"
Here is the replay of that interview:
The current situation in the tech industry has taken the issues of women in the workplace to new levels of controversy recently. For starters, the number of women in Silicon Valley has been falling precipitously over decades' time.
Ambition – and how it’s expressed – often looks very different in women.
Isolation affects women’s advancement more than we think.
Intentional, tailored development and flexibility is critical.
Women don’t want to be singled out as technical females.
The numbers speak for themselves: According to a 2013 US Census report, women’s representation in computer-related jobs has declined since the 1990s, and only 22 percent of software developer positions are now filled by women. The problem is even more acute in the VC world: A Babson College study found that in venture capital, only 6% of partners were women in 2014, down from a paltry 10 percent in 1999.
Acknowledging the problem is just the first step. Next, we must find a way to solve it. I believe the “Murray Mandate,” a requirement that companies interview women for open senior level positions, is the way forward. The Murray Mandate is named for my friend Patty Murray, former SVP at Intel, who served as the company’s HR director.
Bonnie Crater says, "As president and CEO of Full Circle CRM, I am pledging today that whenever my company has an opening for a senior leadership position, we will interview at least two women for the job. I challenge my fellow tech industry business leaders and venture capital firm partners to join me in this pledge and voluntarily adopt the Murray Mandate."
It isn't just women chiming in on this strongly. Phil Fernandez of Marketo doesn't think the Murray Mandate is enough to address the imbalance in this area. He's committed to adding two more women to his executive level, bringing to an even four and four. He's also looking to increase the number of women on Marketo's board by 3.
Why it matters from a company standpoint:
Women make up close to half of the working population in tech, marketing and sales. In some industries, more than half of the force are women. Our customers are largely made up of women. Women and men think, act and respond differently. This is not a negative thing. VIVE LA DIFFÉRENCE! By including a greater ratio of women - or more balanced selection - companies bring in new perspectives and paths to solutions. Just as diverse ages and life experiences bring in different approaches to the same problem, so do men compared to women.
When industries constantly mimic their immediate competition in methods and tactics, they all grow stale. A radio show on Leadspace Radio with David Brock about stirring it up by stepping outside what is typical in your industry. This is no different. When you are in a predominantly male industry, but the decision makers of your future clients are more mixed, you need to bring in mixed views and ideas. This is why it is important to businesses without covering the basics of gender equality and the responsibility to instill it, embrace it and institute it. We all get stuck in old ways of doing things with the same people/guys we've always done them with. Think of what we are missing by staying stuck.
That is the biggest hurdle, especially in larger companies - getting women interviewed AND hired. But what about after they are there? What about smaller companies without the rigorous guidelines in place? How do they fair when considering, and hiring women? What do they do after? These are the more common, quieter stories. As more women are finding themselves with the responsibility as the major breadwinner or equal partner to keep the family or house afloat, sometimes they make compromises based on location, scheduling and other considerations to make it fit for their family's schedule. This can lead to another issue with women being hired. It doesn't stop after the contract is signed, sometimes that's when the compromises begin.
Why it matters from a women's view:
As a executive woman in tech, even though I've worked for several men who respected me, paid me well and valued my contributions, there were those times that as "the girl" (unspoken but implied) my opinions based on years of experience, gut feelings and intuition as it related to servers, hardware, hacking and routers wasn't respected. Until it was confirmed by a male counterpart or outside party a few days later, they didn't act on my recommendations, thus costing them more loss of time, clients and money because they needed validation from a man to confirm what I was beating the drum about. I find this true especially when dealing with certain culture barriers, as well. Some of these ethnically diverse companies talk big about including all and respecting all, but cultural roles roots run deep and are hard to fight, even when they should be changed or forgotten.
I've had women friends tell me that their male clients recommended that they "calm down" and go "take a bath and have some vodka or wine" when they were being ASSERTIVE - not AGGRESSIVE in opinions of ethics, strategies and tasks. These are bullies who consider women pawns they can manipulate with more money and then abuse with condescending remarks. They HIRED a woman, but they are not treating them as equals. There is a HUGE difference when companies, especially small companies, think they have met their "quota" or actually embraced hiring women because they thought they could control them better. They still view these writers, sales execs, tech advisors, researchers, programmers, marketing professionals as the stereotypical 1960s "secretary" right out of Mad Men.
Years ago (mid 80s) I worked for a company where the sales manager became the CEO. This was a bad thing, as he was mentally abusive in his home and brought it to the office each day. There were six women at this company of 15. Three of these women, who were company C space executives, ended up in therapy. I simply quit. I was met at my driveway later that day by this former boss begging me to come back and asking, "What will you tell the others." My response was simple, "That you are crazy and I can't show up for crazy and abusive every day."
Yes, in larger companies, this is not an issue - at least not like it used to be due to labor laws, lawsuits, diligent HR policies and our mamas smacking their sons early on on the back of their heads when they misbehave or disregard a "girl's" contribution or value. I am the mother of a 13 year old smart, compassionate and beautiful daughter.
Call to Action:
What will you do for the first part of this challenge - The Murray Mandate? Look at your executive level, your board, your opportunities for growth. Look within - you may already have your next CMO under your nose and she's ready for the challenge.
What are you doing once you hire them? Are they compensated equally based on EXPERIENCE, effort and abilities? Are they considered for special projects, turned lose to create initiatives? You'll never know what you are missing out on if you always go with chocolate, vanilla or pralines ice cream. Sometimes you have to give the bacon/habanero a try!