Category Archives: Women in business

Bustle.com: the worst case of mansplaining…ever.

yup

Nah, there’s no gender bias in VC.

So, a “failed investment banker” decides that his grocery store survey of the impulse rack is where, how and why women are not being fulfilled in their quest for in-depth conversations on politics, business and technology, ooooh AND makeup tips and gossip too, and decides that he can do it better. Of course.

So, he goes to his buddies at Social+Capital PartnershipTime Warner InvestmentGoogle Ventures500 Startups, and Rothenberg Ventures, and says (after doing his grade one research of googling “women+online” for his business case),

“Hey, you guys?! Women are the future!! They’re the leading demographic of online users and they’re so underserved, I can do it better! Give me a few mil, wouldya? I can fix this!”

And guess what. They did. Seriously. And so Bustle.com is born.

Oh. My. Fuck. I don’t even know where to begin.

Reading through Goldberg’s piece on pandodaily, is an exhausting, exasperating, would be laughable experience if it wasn’t such a sadly true testament about the incestuous, celebutante state of startups, and the systemic bias toward the homogenous worldwide fraternity known as VC.

Before we get there though, let’s start where he did…

The fact that this guy states in his press release, which also apparently passes as “news” on pandodaily, that

“Politico, Bleacher Report, TechCrunch, Business Insider, Mashable, Grantland, TheVerge, Break, College Humor, IGN, Thrillist, and Gawker”

are written for men is a great indicator that this navel gazer doesn’t actually get publishing or journalism whatsoever. Wait, then again, maybe it’s just me? I wonder why when I met Jordon Crook of TechCrunch last year and we talked about the startup scene in Toronto why she didn’t tell me to hike my skirt and push up my boobs on camera, you know, for the guys? I guess I must pass the biometric testosterone sensor they have built into their sites when I login, or something. Ya, that’s it.

Further on Goldberg writes,

“Women’s publishing has long served as a symbol of “old media” stagnancy.”

You mean, that “old media” that’s just the same as the “new media” don’t you?

or this…

“What about a site that takes an introspective look at the celebrity world, while also having a lot of fun covering it?”

You mean, like JEZEBEL?! Hey Goldberg, just because you haven’t a clue about the huge number of sites that speak to women, through a woman’s lens doesn’t mean that those sites don’t exist.

Oh wait, they do exist! You know, “women’s sites” like Cosmo, and Vogue. They’re online, but of course they’re doing it all wrong, and that’s because “women publishers” have

“completely lost sight of which decade their readers are living in.”

I am so glad that Bustle is going to have paid “20 somethings” that are still in school writing on deep political issues like what Anthony Weiner said on BuzzFeed today, and “male nurses”! Phew! I can’t wait for more “awesome” “wow” and “Twittersphere” too! This is a way better business model than HuffPo. Who wants to read all that in-depth stuff on politics, business, culture & society, gaming, and tech from women, who, you know, may actually use the word feminist and not just since Caitlin Moran’s awesome missive. Clearly, Goldberg’s figured out that the writing on Vitamin W is just too, you know, male, I mean serious, for us women (or is that girls?), and who wants to hear from anyone that’s got any real life experience anywho? Definitely not enough eyebrow plucking reports included for my liking.

I am most excited that bustle.com is “ not just a publication either”, they’re investing in “technology” with “responsive design” on their site. Ooooooh, how 2010!

For the record Goldberg, “responsive design” nor “CMS” are “technology”.

Okay, enough mocking. That’s just too easy. Now let’s get a bit more serious on the real issues here, and why this is really pissing me off.

Let’s start with the word “feminist”. Oh, you opened the door Goldberg, so let’s go there.

Is this a feminist publication? You’re damn right this is a feminist publication.”

Let me simply say this; anyone that uses quotes around “income gap” is NOT a feminist. It’s not an “income gap”. It’s a fucking income gap. Your air quotes don’t make it a fairy tale, it’s a real thing. You sir, are no feminist. You’re not even a shadow of Hugo Schwyzer. You’re just a mansplaining asshole.

And speaking of assholes…

If you don’t think that there’s a bias in women led ventures getting VC funding, then you’re being willfully blind. It’s documented, ad nauseam that women only receive 4.2% of VC funding in the US. I seriously cannot think of another more perfect example than this one to animate how horribly wrong the VC eco-system is, and how every single one of the players that gave @BGoldberg money should be ashamed of themselves.

And you know why?

If a woman led initiative had come to any one of these VCs and pitched their business as piss-poorly as Goldberg obviously did, with this kind of tepid writing, and storify-ing stealing interface, they would’ve been laughed out of their offices. Soundly. And with good reason.

When sites like Bustle get $6.5 million in funding from multiple VCs, it is a glaring statement that as long as the same old same old exists in VCs, then the same old same old shit will get funded.

Lucky us.

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Startups are the best place for women to Lean In

This blog originally appeared on the MaRSdd.com blog May 3, 2013

Since the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, there’s been a slew of commentary on the issue of women in the workplace and why women and men need to all lean in together for the betterment of our economies, our families and our society as a whole. Continue reading


You can’t be what you can’t see

Originally posted on the MaRS blog: 

Language and imagery are important. These two inputs impact our thoughts, our belief systems, our attitudes and, ultimately, our actions.

The Ms. Foundation for Women knew this when they started the Take Our Daughters to Work initiative back in 1993. Marie Wilson, founder and president emeritus of The White House Project, also knew this, which is why she started the initiative to draw women into leadership roles in America.

At MaRS we are committed to drawing women into ambitious entrepreneurship, particularly with a focus on leading high-tech, high-growth companies, and we have hosted many talented writers who have told the stories of women in technology on our blog for many years.

Why do we continue to tell these stories and highlight the work that women are doing in these fields? Personal development pundits often cite the impact of writing down goals or creating vision boards. What if those vision boards don’t have any images or stories of women as scientists, developers or leaders? What if girls and women can’t see what they may be or become? That’s a future that we don’t want to see become reality and one that our world community cannot afford to let happen.

There are many dedicated and committed women and men working together to highlight women’s stories and to provide opportunities for them to picture themselves as leaders and create their own future in the fields of technology. Today, in honour of International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting two women and their teams who are doing just that.

Cassie McDaniel and Women && Tech

Inspired by FITC‘s call for submissions for a chance to win free tickets to their conference, designer, writer and illustrator/artist Cassie McDaniel created an app that was built around the “binders of women” concept: a directory of women in the technology industry that conference organizers could use to improve the ratio of women speakers at technology conferences. The app was also intended to be a community-curated platform where women could share their stories and find mentors and support as they traversed the minefield ofbarriers and challenges they faced as a minority in the technology field. The premise eventually morphed into the Women && Tech interview series.

Cassie and her core volunteer team of nine men and women are committed to interviewing 50 current tech leaders in the Toronto area (there will be men profiled as well). When asked why it was important for her to tell these stories, Cassie told me that there are plenty of women who don’t struggle with finding their way in this community and, in her experience, that’s been mostly based on their personalities. But for those women who do struggle with speaking up for themselves, asserting their presence or sharing their talents, these interviews are an important avenue to show women that ”you can get here from anywhere,” she said.

Cassie is under no delusion that using this medium to highlight women’s stories will be the sole means by which the struggles of women in the technology industry will be overcome, but she does see it as an important part of the overall discussion by at least getting people talking.

Terre Chartrand and Hackademy

Terre Chartrand  has worked in technology for most of her professional life. She knows a variety of different programming languages, comes from a background in fine arts and is passionate about providing opportunities for girls and other marginalized groups to access the knowledge, resources and skills that will see them flourish in the growing knowledge anddigital economy.

Terre, along with Stephanie Rozek and Sean Yo (all from the Kitchener-Waterloo area), created Hackademy as a response to some of the difficulties they had experienced in the tech sector and as a way to create some change. (Disclosure: Hackademy has recently joined MaRS as a client.) The team’s approach to growing Hackademy as a social venture is to provide access to training about how to code and make, while also creating an infrastructure of mentorship, so that students will be set up for success in the workplace and, most notably, girls and women will be encouraged to stay in tech.

Outreach to girls will be a particular focus for Hackademy, teaching them that tech does not have to be intimidating or scary and “isn’t just a boy thing.”

Terre gave an example of a project where girls could build a dollhouse and then create simple Arduinosolutions to wire the house and set the lights on a timing system. It is collaborative, cross-disciplined, engaging play where girls can experience different parts of what it means to “make” by using math skills and creating algorithms and heuristics.

Both Terre and Cassie agree that diversity within their teams (in gender, talent and experience) is an essential building block to the success of their projects. They both also recognize that there are particular challenges that women and girls face in the technology realm and, through their work, they’re doing their part to see that the number of girls and women in technology rise.

If you believe that “you can’t be what you can’t see,” then it is imperative that we share our stories and show girls and women that they are not alone. We need to show them that they are able and capable, and that they can be successful in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields without being minimized.

We invite you to join our Lean in Circle. Share your stories, support others and be a part of actively changing the future for today’s girls and the future of STEM industries in Ontario.

 


Getting ahead with a little help from our friends

Originally posted on the MaRS blog on Wednesday, November 14, 2012. 

Years ago, while working at TELUS Communications, I attended a morning breakfast panel with three of the company’s top executive women: Karen RadfordJudy Shuttleworth and Janet Yale. All three are exceptionally successful and driven women, and the conversation was refreshingly frank that day.

Continue reading


Beware the echo chamber

This first appeared on the MaRS blog October 19, 2012.

There’s a black hole that we’re in danger of being sucked into, and it’s more treacherous than Felix Baumgartner’s space jump. The danger I’m talking about is the echo chamber.

Usually when I reference the “echo chamber,” I’m talking about social media. I’m in complete agreement with many of the contemporary thought leaders and pundits who have written and spoken at great length on the issue (see Eli PariserElizabeth LesserClay Johnson and Rebecca MacKinnon). They all warn us of the dangers of filtering out a variety of voices and listening to only one point of view. Social media and a curated web experience are enablers of this, but it’s not just social media that is responsible for that closed perspective. It’s us. And I want no part in it.

“echo chamber” used by permission @gapingvoid

While attending the Techtoberfest event at Communitech last week, I realized a number of things.

  1. I am so proud to have surrounded myself with friends and colleagues who are passionate about what they do and what they bring to the world.
  2. I know some incredibly talented people who work incredibly hard to build an ecosystem that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship, and to drive prosperity in Ontario.
  3. We’re all in danger of stagnating if we don’t pay close attention—and fast.

Out of Techtoberfest’s 15 breakout sessions, only two were facilitated by women.

Out of a total of 19 companies that pitched, only one team had women on the stage. One.

I sat in one of those breakout sessions, titled “Y Entrepreneurship,” and while it certainly intended to be a take on the Y generation, it could have been more representative of the gender in the audience. Besides my colleague and myself, the only other women I saw in the room were part of the hard-working team thatactually work for Communitech to make these events happen.

One of the facilitators asked the audience to participate in the conversation regarding “Why entrepreneurship?”—and he encouraged us all to participate. He asked about six audience members (who he all knew by name) why they were drawn to entrepreneurship. Those six people were all male, all (seemingly) in their 20s and all Caucasian. All of the panellists were also Caucasian and male. I took the opportunity to share an observation.

Do you see the danger?

The point I made to our facilitator was thus: literature exists ad naseam stating that businesses that have women in roles of leadership perform better. They have more longevity and they realize more financial success. Whether we’re talking about entrepreneurs, the whole startup ecosystem in Ontario or each one of us as individuals, the threat is the same. When you don’t have the diversity of views and experience that come from people of different ages, different races and different genders, you’re living in that echo chamber of “Aren’t we great? Aren’t we great? Aren’t we great?.” You may be great, but without a broader scope of input and ideas, you’re about to stagnate. Thankfully, there were a lot of nodding heads in the room in support of this discussion.

There are definitely two parts to this. I tweeted my observation about the lack of women represented, and author, speaker and columnist Julia Moulden and I had a great dialogue online about the need for women to be invited into the discussion, but also about how many women don’t ask to participate or don’t say “yes” to opportunities to speak.

From that, we’ve started a new hashtag campaign. It’s time for women to stop wondering if they have something important to say or share. It’s time for them to take the mic and #BeAYesWoman.

This experience is certainly not limited to the Kitchener-Waterloo area. I see it in Toronto and, quite literally, in every startup community—both online and in real life. The startup community needs to include more women as speakers, it needs to draw more women into the entrepreneurship fold and it needs more women as leaders in their businesses if they want to succeed.

If there is anyone who can realize this, it’s the community of people I’ve met at our fellow Regional Innovation Centres and universities, and in our extended startup communities. We’re the ones changing things because we’re talking about it, we’re calling it out and we’re reaching out to do something about it, too. But this will not change through and by women alone. And it shouldn’t—because that would just be an echo chamber of a different kind.

We need everyone involved in this conversation. Everyone calling for change. Everyone striving for something more for each and every Ontarian.


Mompreneur is not a four-letter word

From my latest blog for MaRS Discovery District


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