Women Disrupt….not!

This post will start with the conclusion. You have just read a compilation of links about women in the workplace, abilities and barriers to advance and why some make it and what is stopping others. There is an amazing amount of attention on the subject, hopefully it makes an impact. The most important point is that women are not only a huge pool of talent, but also a huge economic and productivity factor.  There are some charts illustrating this point implying how women have been an influential economic growth factor, a huge consumer and customer target, a growing investor pool, political activists, in other words, real “movers and shakers,” not to be dismissed and/or downplayed! No smart organization can really afford to ignore this pool/human resource.

In the last few Women Disrupt posts, it seemed women have been making progress as they display a certain greater confidence in furthering their careers and revealing abuses in the workplace when earlier it was considered a career killer to be outspoken. These abuses have been happening in what one would normally consider “progressive” cultures in northern California, namely San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the heart of tech innovation and disruption. Google is the latest subject to controversial disruption due to an internal memo voicing the opinion from a male technical engineer describing women as biologically and emotionally not cut out for the world of engineering. Most will choose to disagree (Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd,)

The German take on this controversy in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German) starts with panel discussion including Eric Schmidt, Chairman at Google, with Megan Smith, a former Google Manager and currently working for the US government sitting next to him and the author Walter Isaacson two years ago at the South by Southwest conference. The men are caught (unconsciously) always interrupting Ms. Smith. This interrupting behavior is regarded as rather typical and symbolic.

The Google memo controversy is on top of 3 women CEOs being let go or quitting even after breaking through that glass ceiling, now calling it the glass cliff. They were Sheri McCoy of Avon Products, Irene Rosenfeld, the chief executive of the Oreo cookie maker Mondelez International, and Marissa Mayer resigned as chief executive of Yahoo.  All has happened since June this year and mostly Women CEOs are then replaced by men, thus, Women Disrupt…not! According to Bloomberg, only 3 from 19 female CEOs who left their jobs since 2009 were succeeded by women and a total of 62 women have led Fortune 500 companies since 1972.

You have to wonder why what one would describe normally intelligent people forfeiting over half the talent pool because of a different gender, race, nationality or background or or or…    After all, computer programming was originally considered a woman’s job. They were programmers of the Eniac during World War II and at NASA, as shown in the film “Hidden Figures.” That began to change when programming professionalized in the 1960s. The stereotype of an eccentric genius who would rather work with machines than people was born, according to Nathan Ensmenger, a historian at Indiana University who studies the cultural history of the software industry.

There is an abundance of analyses available these days trying to explain why the Gender Gap narrowing is only slowly making progress and often feels like two steps forward, one step back. Some attribute it to the “Bro” culture which exists not only in Silicon Valley, but many say is also quite prevalent in academia–the home of progressive thinking as well as finance!

The gender gap in financial services versus the tech sector

Source: @FT; Read full article (pay wall), WSJ-The Daily Shot 09AUG2017

Source: @michaelshermer – WSJ The Daily Shot 09AUG2017

One opinion below attributes it to what he calls “Momism”. When women become mothers, they are automatically disadvantaged, sometimes it is simply personal choice. Often they are not allowed that choice (link from 2010)!

Here is one woman who is both a CEO and mother. She happens to head up another Google enterprise called YouTube – Susan Wojcicki , CEO of YouTube responds to the Diversity Memo and to her daughter when asked about the memo’s content: “It’s not true.”

Some say the absence of diversity starts at the beginning of attempting a career at a Tech Company – How Tech Companies Lose Women During the Hiring Process (NY TImes)


This link contains some charts and in particular illustrates the (lack of) diversity in the Tech industry with some comparisons:  Visualizing Diversity in the Tech Industry with Names, Statistics and Trends… (VisualCapitalist.com)

What are some economic implications?

Now, what’s interesting is that GDP growth in the early 80’s through the mid-1990s can be partly attributed to a significant increase in the work force with the structural benefit of women joining in!

Now, we are witnessing the overall participation rate rose sharply among women but fell among men. Are women replacing men who are leaving the workforce? Many highly compensated men are retiring or “resigning” and perhaps being replaced by women who are qualified, perhaps younger and “not so demanding” (not getting it) on compensation. This might unintentionally actually close that Gender Gap!

Source: WSJ-The Daily Shot, 07AUG2017

Then again, this chart shows women are leaving the work place in increasing numbers, does this explain both the good unemployment statistics and the slower growth? Some experts would say, women participation in the workforce is no longer a structural issue whether they are coming or going. Does this explain partly the persistent slow growth in GDP?

Source: WSJ-The Daily Shot, 05JUNE2017

Some are asking why suddenly all this attention to women? On investment websites, there are regular conferences and webinars on how to service and acquire women clients. Women Disrupt was inspired by a Women in Finance conference in Berlin and by SupChina’s Top Women in Business in China, both in May this year.

Maybe all this attention to the Gender Gap is causing some of this negative trend esp. in fast growing tech companies where tremendous wealth is created and perhaps challenged by a different energy and talent. Women who do break through that Glass Ceiling are often better compensated (See Susan Wojcicki above) or Netflix Lures Shonda Rhimes Away From ABC Studios.  Talented and productive women get wooed away like men too with extraordinary contracts. As Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook would say, the more women ‘lean in,’ the more they will advance! Go for it!

More Links:

Internal Messages Show Some Googlers Supported Fired Engineer’s Manifesto  

“Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s, According to Women Who Almost Were (NY Times)

“The widespread concern in business circles about the slow progress of women to the top has spawned a virtual cottage industry of recent initiatives, from Paradigm for Parity, of which Ms. Kullman is a co-chairwoman, to 100×25, a Rockefeller Foundation initiative aiming for 100 female chief executives in the Fortune 500 by 2025. That number now stands at 32 — an all-time high and spurt from last year, when there were 21.”

TIME – Majority of Women Say Their Interest in Politics Has Increased Since Election (July 21, 2017)

WSJ: China Tech Workers Wanted: Women Need Not Apply

“When she meets potential investors, she says, they regularly pepper her with questions that her two male co-founders would never have to answer. These include: “Does your husband approve of you starting a business?” and “How are you going to balance work and life?” A couple of potential backers also told her they liked her project but they don’t invest in companies founded by women, she said.”

(T(ME) It’s Time for our Real Life Female Leaders to Act Like Selina Meyer (VEEP)?



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