Sheryl Sandberg, the only high level female executive at Facebook.
I just finished reading THE TECH CEILING via The Daily about how women fail to occupy top spots at companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, Pandora, Foursquare, Pinterest and Yelp. This is not news, of course. The NYTimes and All Things D and many others have written about the situation and there are many groups committed to changing this. This particular article inspired me to write a response because I want to put the situation in context. It’s not that women are not in tech, it’s that they are A) Elsewhere, B) In technology companies that are not media darlings and C)Creating their own reality in other industries. Here are some statistics the media chooses NOT to write about:
- Between 1997 and 2011, the total number of businesses in the U.S. increased by 34%, while the number of women-owned firms increased by 50% and men-owned firms (which represent 51% of all U.S. firms) grew by only 25%***;
- Nationally, women own 8.1 million businesses, or 29% of all firms. Businesses owned equally by men and women numbered 4.6 million, or 17 percent of the total U.S. jobs. Women-owned businesses account for at least 22% of all businesses in each state;
- Women control 52% of all businesses in the health care and social assistance sector. The total American workforce is 145 million and 16 million of those people are in Healthcare, that is 13% of the US Payroll** Technology, in contrast, employs about 6.1 million people as of February 2012 or about 4.2 % of the workforce.*
If these statistics continue (and they will) the demographics will create a vastly different reality and set of statistics for women in the workplace. In turn, this will create even more opportunities for women to be successful outside of the white bastion of perceived power that is the technology sector and social media companies. Will the media care to report on these trends? I am not sure, the agenda is such in today’s media that reporting accurately and fairly on women’s accomplishments seems like a far away reality. Have you seen MissRepresentation yet? If not, you should. You will understand more fully where I am coming from with this comment.
Frankly, I am not sure when women will ever be statistically represented in the technology industry because women don’t live in that world and are often not welcome there. When was the last time you heard about a computer science class full of females? I am guessing NEVER! And it does not stop there. When I was in recruiting, I can’t tell you how many times I had software clients ask me “Does she have any kids? or How old is she? or What does she look like?” and many other such questions that were never asked about male candidates. To put that in context, I left recruiting in 2010.
Fortunately, women happily work in Healthcare, Education, and Services. Makes total sense to me. These industries tend to be progressive, inclusive and encouraging of women’s talent. So what if Mark Zuckerberg does not want women as part of his board? Frankly, why care? In my book, as long as our presence grows elsewhere and women continue to create new businesses, it just is not gonna make me lose any sleep. I mean, come on, these are social media companies….They are not saving babies. Sure, Silicon Valley should have more women in executive roles but right now, it doesn’t. And while social media is sexy and many a job are being created, it really does not rule or run the world, contrary to what the media might want us to believe. Women will gravitate towards businesses that welcome them, embrace their social values, won’t discriminate against them for having babies and encourage their choices. Or they will create new ones that will. It’s seems clear that with few exceptions, Silicon Valley and the VCs that support them, are not the answer for what modern women seek, so they go elsewhere or create their own reality all together. I want to hear more about the stories the above statistics speak to. Maybe, just maybe, if the media cared to cover those stories, more funding would go into women owned businesses.
I, for one, chuckle at the fact that women choose to make their money elsewhere and instead spend their non-working, ‘downtime,’ as it were, hanging out on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, Pandora, Foursquare, Pinterest and Yelp. Actually, I am laughing out loud about it.
Sources: * Moody’s Analytics, **NPR, ***The American Express OPEN State Of Women-Owned Business Report