Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn are among the top tier technology firms now announcing their Workforce Diversity reports, showing the overall percentage of women in the workforce, their shares in tech and non-tech fields, and in leadership.  The data does not cover actual wage levels, which inevitably show greater disparities.  Nevertheless, the reports tell us a little bit about why wage differences persist.

                                                            Women’s Share                                  
Company         Overall            Tech                Non-tech         Leadership
Microsoft        29%                 17.1%              44.5%              17.3%
Google            30%                 17%                 48%                 21%
Facebook        31%                 15%                 47%                 23%
Yahoo             37%                 15%                 47%                 23%    
LinkedIn         39%                 17%                 47%                 25%

If you read each report, you’ll see that each company’s HR leadership touts the many “programs” they sponsor to entice girls and women to become interested in their employment opportunities.  Clearly, those are having a marginal effect at best. Almost half of all women employed by these highly technical firms are employed in the soft-support sectors rather than in the top dollar/high salary/high-tech positions.  The highest overall employment share goes to LinkedIn which may be explained by its much higher percentage of women workers involved in non-technical areas: social media, marketing, finance, and human resources, for example.

The more sophisticated a technology firm, say Microsoft, the lower percentage of women overall and in technology fields within the company.  Microsoft has the lowest percentage of women in leadership positions of all of these companies.

Microsoft has 3 women directors out of a board of 12 people:  Dina Dublon, Teri List-Stoli, and Dr. Maria Klawe.  Microsoft has only 3 women among their top tier leadership ranks: Peggy Johnson, head of business development; Amy Hood, CFO; and Lisa Brummel, head of Human Resources.  Brummel had to release the mea culpa memos to the employees after Nadella’s interview with Klawe at the Grace Hopper event.

It is important that a firm has women in leadership, setting the example and the “tone at the top.” Dr. Klawe accomplished a great deal by directly and immediately challenging Nadella’s statement that raises will miraculously appear “for women.”  She disagreed with him, graciously, in front of 8,000 attendees, and her words echoed through the blogs-sphere for days afterwards.  Because she challenged Nadella, people went and looked at the data and discovered what we all know: women need “to ask” for equal compensation.  Women cannot wait for some “karma” or “Prince Charming” to give them financial self-sufficiency – not on the job and not in the legislative forum.

In January 2013, I wrote about several options women have for improving their financial competitiveness in the marketplace.  See: http://championboards.blogspot.com/2013/01/through-glass-door.html.

It’s the same thing, again and again, for women pursuing angel or venture capital, or board positions, or scholarships.  If women don’t ASK for the opportunities, the opportunities will not miraculously appear --- by “karma.”

Learn how to negotiate.  Learn how to present yourself and your competencies.  Learn how to compete in the modern economic marketplace. This is something women CAN do. 


Friday, October 10, 2014

Curing Nadella’s "Foot in Mouth" Disease

“It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.  That’s good karma. It will come back. That’s the kind of person that I want to trust, that I want to give more responsibility to.” So said Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, in response to questioning by Dr. Maria Klawe, head of Harvey Mudd College, in an interview at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on Thursday, October 9, 2014.

The good news is that everyone is pushing back on this archaic perspective.  And vocally so.  Nadella portrayed an anachronistic viewpoint that one of the “super powers” of women is that they can tolerate this kind of patronizing behavior from their bosses in the workplace.  Categorically, women are tired of having saintly behaviors attributed to them, while men contend successfully for the 100% of the salary scale by being mere mortals.

Nadella will go back to Redmond severely chastised, appropriately so.  He needs to stop sending apologetic memos To All Microsoft Employees and, instead, begin the long, hard task of looking inside the corporate towers of Microsoft and examining the exact payroll picture of women vs. men employees.  If there is 1% of disparity between any two people performing at peer levels, Nadella now has a responsibility of giving them back the KARMA they have already earned.

By the end of the year, Nadella needs to speak again to all of the women at Microsoft and all women who have aspirations to work in today’s technology field.  You need to tell them that “the system has been fixed” and we now can affirm that you will receive equal pay in this lifetime, not merely some promised time in the future.

It’s time for Microsoft to deliver.

Monday, September 8, 2014

MIT Technology Review: The 2014 List of 35 Innovators Under 35

Earlier I threatened to take copies of my MIT Technology review magazines to the waiting rooms where my female friends might read them instead of Self, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, etc.  The latest issue of TR presents the 2014 list of 35 innovators, entrepreneurs, and visionaries under 35 years of age.  To see the full September/October 2014 issue, go to: http://www.technologyreview.com/magazine/2014/09/

This year, we are pleased to see that 7 out of 19 (36.8%) of the Judges who selected innovators for this list are outstanding women in their own right. I have gathered their web sites so that you can read about their amazing contributions is science, technology, engineering, and math-related fields. 


Jennifer Elisseeff, Professor of Biomedical; Engineering, Johns Hopkins

Julia Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, Caltech

Cherry Murray, Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

Kristala Jones Prather, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, MIT

Laura Schewel, Cofounder and CEO, StreetLight Data

Rachel Sheinbein, Managing Director, Balfour Asset Management

Sophie Vandebroek, CTO, Xerox

These Judges located a total of 13 outstanding women (from the total of 35 innovators or 37.1%).  Their expertise is wide-ranging, with each competency offering substance and value for today and tomorrow’s scientific exploration. The quotes after their name is the citation from the TR article, along with their web site and biographical material.

Innovators Under 35:

Emily Balskus: “More precise knowledge of the bacteria in our guts could lead to better-targeted treatments for chronic conditions.”

Ayah Bdeir: “Electronic blocks that link with one another also connect art and engineering.”

Rumi Chunara: “Crucial information about disease outbreaks can be gleaned earlier.”

Emily Cole: “Can we cheaply convert carbon dioxide into something useful?”

Tanuja Ganu: “Simple devices allow consumers to cheaply and easily monitor Indias rickety power grid.”

Sarah Kearney: “A financial innovator is crafting a way for foundations to invest in clean energy.”

Duygu Kuzum: “Brain-inspired chips could mean better computer processing and neural implants.”

Megan McCain: “Heart on a chip paves the way for personalized cardiac medicines.”

Maria Nunes Pereira: “Patching holes in the hearts of sick infants.”

Julie Shah: “This MIT engineering professor is turning robots into ideal colleagues for humans.”

Mariam Shanechi: “Using control theory to build better interfaces to the brain.”

Kay Tye: “Identifying how the connections between regions of the brain contribute to anxiety.”

Kathryn Whitehead: “A systematic search discovered nanoparticles that could improve drug delivery.”

Fifteenth Anniversary of the 1st List

Outstanding women from the 1st list include the following 4 out of 10 (40%) innovators selected 15 years ago (1999).

“Anseth develops new types of photopolymers, plastics that go from soft to hard when struck by ultraviolet light. Anseth has invented novel photopolymers that actually wear away over time—a feature that promises much for orthopedic repairs.”

“Berger is leading a group of computational biologists to develop software that … predict[s] protein folding based on the sequence of amino acids. Such insights could eventually lead to new drugs to combat viral disease such as AIDS.”

“These days, robots are typically used in limited, specialized roles. But if Helen Greiner and Colin Angle [her cofounder at the company that would become iRobot] have anything to say about that, robots may soon be a more versatile and ubiquitous part of our lives.”

“Jeremijenkos aim is to pierce the ‘hallucinationthat cyberspace is somehow clean. In reality the digital domain is a world of hard truths. Silicon Valley is home to a large concentration of toxic waste sites and one of the nations largest gaps between rich and poor.”

If you recognized any names from this list, congratulations to you -- you are one of the outstanding visionaries who are on the lookout for talented women in nontraditional fields. If you recognize only Helen Greiner, one of the co-founders of iRobot ONLY because of the vacuum in your home, then read more about what a significant role robotics plays in every field of manufacturing and construction today.  You'd be amazed.