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Motorcycle Leathers and Tiramisu

Jeff Hall

Posted on May 14, 2016 14:35

0 user

A recent Silicon Beach panel explored gender inequality in the world of tech. The big question: What proactive steps can be taken to change this dynamic?

LA Catalyst -- "LA CAT" for short -- recently held a roundtable conversation focusing on the issue of gender inequality in the tech space. 

The event was held in the Briefing Room of the Apple Store at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica -- right in the heart of Silicon Beach.

Roundtable panelists included Alyse Killeen, Kevin Lew, Mari Bower, Nancy Pearlman, Rob Kornegay and Tracey Freed.

Statistics provided on a big electronic board showed that companies with females in the management team often do better than all-male teams; additional statistics indicated female-led startups are less likely to get funded than all-male teams.

Speakers explored many possible reasons for this seeming paradox: upbringing; education; lack of mentoring; men feeling threatened by strong female leaders; female insecurities related to asserting themselves; and women choosing to start businesses that target women (and that male investors don't appreciate or understand).

According to some in the room, things are changing.  Rob Kornegay of Wilson Sonsini (a law firm that specializes in the tech space) said a perfectly well-qualified colleague in the firm who helped Apple go public didn't make partner several years ago.  She eventually left.

Today the firm has female partners.

Tracey Freed, another attorney in the entertainment field, said she had an excellent working relationship with a male mentor early in her career.  Colleagues at the time snarkily suggested she received favoritism from the boss because she was "pretty."

Flavia Sparacino, who got her PhD from MIT, said early in her professional career, she had a hard time gaining credibility among decision makers in big companies for her firm, which specialized in user experience.  This was despite her MIT DNA and long track record of inventions.

So she showed up one day at an important business meeting in her motorcycle leathers and plunked her helmet down loudly in the middle of the table. THAT got their attention — and established her “strong” credentials. From that moment on black leathers became her signature suit at important business meetings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Kornegay of Wilson Sonsini lamented the fate of a talented female colleague.

Flavia continued to research creative solutions to win over those who might have unconscious prejudices about women in the workforce. At MIT she found the best way to make friends and learn from senior male colleagues was to show up at late-night work sessions with home-made tiramisu.

Peter Mansfield of CMO.la said that in his experience "alpha males tend to get their deals funded."  But, he added, "women who act like alpha males tend to freak out older white guys."

This led to an interesting conversation, moderated by Sonya Sepahban and Leslie Huynh about the various hypotheses  surrounding why women are underrepresented in the start-up ecosystem, and real-time discussion of actionable solutions.

Several proactive recommendations were proposed by the panelists: get more women involved in investing; educate the investing community about real data (women-led businesses often do well); promote successful role models; offer tax incentives and policies that encourage investing in women-led businesses; increase mentorship and peer networking; broaden female founder networks; and "get creative" (think "tiramisu").

Perhaps the most important piece of advice: "Be yourself."

                                                                     Peter Mansfield explains what freaks out older white guys.
Jeff Hall

Posted on May 14, 2016 14:35

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Source: TechCrunch

Only 18 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees and 26 percent of computing jobs are held by women. It's worse...

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