The tech industry needs to be the leaders in closing the gender gap — not the leaders in “ “bro-culture”

In honor of International Women’s Day, LinkedIn asked me to write a post about how we can close the gender gap before 2086.  Here is my post.

When the technology boom began in the mid-90’s I re-started my career.  I had make a choice to be home with our two children, then three for a few years.  It was timing more than anything but in the end one of the best decisions I ever made.  I was closing the door on the fashion industry and taking some time before my next endeavor.  

After three years of full-time Momdom, I was ready to return to the work world.  Yet here’s the thing…I didn’t want to return to a job where I had zero flexibility.  The good news is the technology industry was just starting out in NYC.  The internet was going to change everything and I wanted to jump on board.

The first thing that I thought of when I saw all these new companies begin to crop up is how company culture will change.  I figured young founders are going to change the way we do business and technology would make it so that we could work from anywhere.  That was over 20 years ago.

I was lucky because I became the first employee, as a freelancer, at Silicon Alley Reporter.  I had three kids and lived in the suburbs of NYC.  I oversaw revenue from ad sales to sponsorships to business opportunities and partnerships but the killer part is that I ran all of this out of my basement in Chappaqua, NY.  I came in once a week to meet and greet but that’s it.  In that office I helped grow that business from a small 10 page printed and stapled newspaper to a full-on glossy bound magazine including a conference and an ezine with the cash I brought in.

I believed that by 2017 this mindset would be part of every growing company and that the large enterprise companies would be forced to change because of it.  Maybe I was too early to that concept but finally we are seeing shifts.  Companies are not only thinking about a 3 month maternity leave they are also giving that same opportunity to men with a paternity leave.  Some companies are extremely flexible with parents by putting family first. Parents know that they can be there for their children be it an event or because someone is home sick or they want to work out of their home a few days a week.  Technology has played a major factor in that type of flexibility and that is a good thing.

We all know that many of the start-ups that have deep back-ends in technology have built bro-cultures that look and sound like high school locker rooms.  That’s not ok for several reasons starting with the pure data that companies who have equal balance of men and women on each team have a higher rate of success.  Not surprising as everyone on the team looks at things in a different light so together they challenge each other to create the best products.

Pocketbooks always rule.  If people sold all their stock in publicly traded companies if the board wasn’t gender balanced that would make a difference.  If people refused to buy products from companies that were not gender balanced than that would make a difference.  If VC’s and other institutional investors would only invest in companies that were committed to building gender balanced teams from the very start and it was actually in the legal documents then it would change the way that companies grow.  It is extremely difficult to change culture after it has been set in place.  The companies that are full-on bro-mentality will find it very hard to shift the culture and hire females.  Just like companies build out their platforms as they grow that has to include gender balance because if you don’t build the platform right from the onset the chances for success are slim and the same thing goes for equal hiring practices.  I’d throw in there that with that comes flexibility around families needs. That means making men take that paternity leave so they make those deep connections with their children at the onstart so that they will be better husbands, partners and fathers.

I was lucky to be able to re-enter the workplace under my own terms.  It isn’t easy but what was the luckiest of all is finding myself in a position where I was a complete equal and given a very long rope with pure flexibility on my time considering I had not been working for a handful of years.

The tech industry needs to be the leaders in closing the gender gap.  We are creating the companies of tomorrow and tomorrow should not have the same look and feel in our companies as they did 20 years ago.

#IWD17