Sunday, October 28, 2012

You Don't Own Me!

Hard to believe this was recorded in 1964, and we're still fighting for the same issues. Enjoy - and Vote!!

"You Don't Own Me" PSA from You Don't Own Me on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Passion of the Entrepreneur

"Collyer's mother: Beware of passion Hester. It always leads to something ugly.

Hester Collyer: What would you replace it with?

Collyer's mother: A guarded enthusiasm. It's safer."

Classic lines from The Deep Blue Sea, and the sentiment of the England I grew up in. Passion, while interesting in poets, was a sign of weak character. One should always maintain an even keel, and in times of trial, a stiff upper lip.

But when you're building a company, or developing a new product, or growing a team, passion is essential. It's at the essence of what you're doing.

Bringing a new idea or product to market takes a level of conviction that, until you've done it, you cannot imagine. Everything sensible tells you you're going to fail. Good friends question your judgement, your parents question the risk, your bank account gets annoyed with you, your children complain when you're not around, even your spouse may have days when they wonder if you're Don Quixote.

But passion carries you through. The desire to see your vision come to life, the thrill of winning a market and customers, the intensity of seeing your product finally perform magic, the agony of losing a deal, the excitement of getting profitable, the frenzy of a liquidity event (selling your company or doing an IPO). The synonyms for passion are the every day experiences of entrepreneurs.

If you don't enjoy the heights of heaven and the depths of hell don't become an entrepreneur. Or a CEO. Or a fast climbing, ambitious executive. Because the intensity it takes to create something from nothing, or break the glass ceiling, or change the trajectory of a company takes passion, and with it the boil of your blood, or the chill of your bones that comes with the roller coaster ride.

For the true entrepreneur there is no choice. It's a drive they cannot resist. A vision they have no choice but to pursue. And if you feel that drive you are one of the lucky ones. There is nothing like it. Except maybe passion.

The Deep Blue Sea stars Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston and is a gorgeous, sensuous and heartbreaking film about self destructive passion. Pour yourself a great glass of wine, settle into your favorite chair, hold your breath and immerse yourself.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hey Girl, Ask For That Raise!

In the US women make 79 cents on the dollar vs. men, and even in technology, where talent is in very high demand right now, women make 85 cents on the dollar.

But how much of this is self-induced?

I was coaching a Silicon Valley woman last week - she's 39, a product manager, works for a very successful software company and has been offered a promotion. She wants the job, and thinks it probably comes with more money, but has not asked and is afraid to ask.

This is not unusual. For many women fear holds them back. For many men, they just assume and ask. And this leads to the men, over time, making more money than the women. If talented women were just as demanding as talented men the wage gap would not exist in tech. It might exist in less skilled jobs, but not in the tight tech market.

But the fear is real. What if? What if I ask, what will happen?

My advice is always to think through what is the absolute worst that can happen? Let's think about this...

You've been offered a promotion and you say "great, thank you! what is the base salary and bonus for my new job?"

What is your new manager going to say?
a) how dare you ask you're fired
b) there's no raise because it's a lateral move
c) you're already at the top of the range so you have to wait for a raise
d) I'll look into it for you
e) your base is x and in the new job we'll be offering you 1.2x

No manager worth his/her salt is going to judge you for asking, and if they do you should quit. Your manager is not your friend and you have every right to ask, even if it makes them uncomfortable. In fact if they are not uncomfortable you are probably not being ambitious enough. And even if they respond with (a) you're better off. You don't want to work for that turkey anyway.

So don't just ask, ask about the base, bonus and equity ranges for the new job, and how you'll be measured so you can excel, and what's the hardest problem your new manager wants you to solve so you can be working your way up to the next job.

In last week's debate Mitt Romney responded to a question about what he'd do about gender pay inequity with his now famous line about Binders Full of Women. Never mind that his comments were very misleading and the women's resumes were brought to him by the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus. He also knew women would be cheaper.

Mitt Romney's offensive remarks are not unusual. His view of women needing to get home in time for the kids and dinner (because that's women's work of course) are views I have heard all my career. But we have to be deaf to them and demand equality, and the first step is not to be afraid.

So know the pay ranges for your job and the next promotion. Ask for more money when you think you've earned it -- because you can be sure the man you're competing with is asking. And don't ever get put into a binder!

Photo courtesy of the brilliant Binders Full of Women tumblr

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dressing for success as a woman in Silicon Valley

There's a new class of perfect female executive in technology today. She wears short skirts, fitted tops, maybe a jacket or a small cardigan and heels. Always legs and heels. Her hair is perfect, her makeup light and she never forgets her lipstick.

These women were all over Dreamforce in San Francisco a few weeks ago. As I walked around the show I was struck by how much the uniformity of their look is the female equivalent of the buff, white sales guy of my early career who worked out as a part of his competitive regimen. His suit fit perfectly, his shirt was white, his hair short - the Don Draper of the 1990s.

Twenty years ago we (the women) were covered up. The admin could dress sexily in the office; professional women like me dressed in a strange male-mimicking style. Navy suits, cream shirts, shoulder pads with incredibly unattractive bows at our necks and sensible shoes. St John before it went Couture. Never a short skirt, that would be unprofessional. Never pants until the mid nineties. Combine that with early 1990s fashions and we did not look good!

But now, as women make up more than 50% of the workforce, and as women are gaining share of the executive ranks (albeit a little slowly, but it's happening) the de rigueur dress code for professional women is smooth, polished, sexy and absolutely in control. Marissa Meyer, as the new icon of workplace style, revels in Oscar de la Renta. High fashion indeed.

The pressure's on for women to look polished now. Consider Rebecca Jane Stokes' piece in Jezebel yesterday "My Boss Told Me My Hair and Makeup Were Holding Me Back". While I'm a CEO, and visible every day, I smiled as I read it because still find remembering the lipstick hard. (Confession: I think lipstick is pretty gross so maybe my subconscious is in control on this issue).

But lipstick is just one of many questions to ponder when you think about the time investment needed to create "the look". What about...

  • Hair dye? It takes an hour or more every 4 weeks to keep the color bright (and control the creeping grey!) Good use of time, or not?

  • Nails? It takes 30 minutes every Sunday night to clean and polish my nails after an enthusiastic weekend in my garden. And the dog doesn't like the smell so I'm doing it alone on the sofa.

  • Hair? Blowing out my hair at home takes 30 minutes - and it's every day because I swim almost every day. Leaving it "au natural" means unruly curls, not a sleek look. The really good look, for the very important meeting, takes 45 minutes at the salon. One of my friends who is a famous Silicon Valley female exec told me she never gives a talk without having her hair and makeup done for her. Never. That means 1.5 hours every time!

  • Makeup? Another 10 minutes, so that's not too bad, but it seems like a waste of time and effort to me. But I wear it for work, of course, though rarely outside of work.

  • Heels? A clear sign of how hard a woman is trying. They are never comfortable but they do look good. But if you are presenting to your customer, or your investors, flats just never cut it, but stay away from FM shoes!

In the end I think the issue comes down to whether you are customer facing or not.

If you're just in the office with your teammates then who cares! The studied nerd look of jeans and a t-shirt work well, although personal hygiene is still an absolute must. But if you're on the outside representing your company then you need to look the part. At least professionally groomed and definitely clean.

Male or female, your brain and your skills dominate your ability to do the job. But meeting the threshold of expectation of your social group helps. It ensures you don't get negatively, and unnecessarily, judged for how you look. If you're in R&D or on the phone then jeans are accepted; if in person with a customer then professional is expected, and only when you know the customer well can you risk business-casual.

But for a woman that does not have to mean looking like the perfect clones. It means finding the professional look that works for you, your body type and your personality. Hillary Clinton proved that the pant suit can work at the highest levels of power. Meg Whitman has the dark suit and pearls down as CEO of HP.

The single most important thing is that you exude confidence in who you are - that's what your team, management and customers need to see.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why women need sponsors more than mentors

I was on a panel at GHC 2012 last week "Sponsors or Mentors - which will get you there?" Standing room only in a large room, it was clearly a topic of great interest to the female tech students and geeks at the conference. And the questions were priceless...

The panel, lead by Anne Losby of Thomson Reuters,  was prompted by a report Catalyst put out last year on Sponsoring Women to Success. In it the research clearly shows sponsorship is a powerful differentiator at the top and key to overcoming the barriers for women. And while we are making good progress as a gender, and women make up more than 50% of the workforce, they still only make up 3.8% of the CEOs of the Fortune 500. So plenty of room to improve the ratio.

First - do you know the difference? Mentoring has been talked about for years but talking about sponsorship is a fairly new fashion. Mentoring is about advice and coaching, helping the younger employee figure out the system and skills. My advice to people seeking mentors is seek someone willing to tell you the truth about yourself. Seek someone who will hold the mirror up to you (and your behavior), even is the image is ugly. And a great mentor will put the time in to teach you.

A sponsor, however, is not a mentor. A sponsor has power and the ability to help you get ahead. They know you -- strengths and weaknesses, talents and warts -- and are ambitious for you. They help you prepare for opportunity by steering you into the right experiences and the right training. They will advocate for you and make the case when you are not in the room for why you should get the next promotion, the next cool project. They win when you win be because the company, and possibly their reputational capital in the company, are stronger when you do.

I experienced this myself in my first 12 years in Silicon Valley. I worked for 2 companies - one for 4 years, one for 8, but was never in the same job more than 21 months. I had two sponsors (although I could not have labeled them as such at the time) who were watching me, grooming me and putting me into opportunities to learn and stretch. Both were men, because back then there were no women in the organization above me. I would not have become a tech CEO at 36 without their sponsorship.

So why is this so important for women?

The tough reality is that women face a double bind. Catalyst research has shown that women who advocate for themselves can be penalized in the workplace. Women get labeled as "aggressive" when the same behavior in a man would be labeled as "assertive". I'm not complaining, it's just reality and so sponsors can help women get ahead by advocating for them and helping them avoid the double bind.

Sponsors are also important for women because men tend to know what they want and ask for it, women tend to wait to be asked. There is unconscious sterotyping going on with the men judging the women who do ask, but there is also stereotyping going on by the women who restrict their own behavior. Afraid to appear "pushy" or "too aggressive" they moderate their own behavior to meet the expectation of humility from women.

And this is where the questions lead on the panel. All the discussion, in the end, led to the double bind. How to get ahead and ask for the project, the job, the doctoral research without offending the men around you and being judged? Lots of advice ensued, but in the end I told the group to "Just go for it and course correct when you are in the job. Don’t tap down your natural energy and your drive, we need that in our companies!" Strong women (and men) - apply here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Women Computer Scientists - Yes They Exist!

Published earlier today in the Huffington Post

Women are doing some amazing work in Computer Science and Engineering, how come we don't know about them? We all know about the stereotypical hot start-up out of Silicon Valley led by some twenty-something white guy but we don't hear much about women entrepreneurs, computer scientists, researchers and business leaders in tech. How come?

Is it like the research study recently reported in the New York Times where a scientifically oriented resume with a women's name at the top was consistently rated lower by professors than the exact same resume with a man's name? Do women have to be substantially better than men to get recognized?

Maybe today, but the 7th Annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), going on this week, is all about changing that.

Downtown Baltimore is teeming with technical women today. Three thousand, six hundred of them! More than 1,500 are students, passionate about developing new technology, and not afraid to say so just because they are girls.

And here at the conference they are surrounded by other technical women who don't fit the tech frat boy stereotype that Silicon Valley is so known for, but who instead just set about changing the world of technology from a diverse point of view.

Consider Lilli Cheng who is GM of the Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs in Microsoft Research. She leads a team who invent, develop and deliver new social, real-time, and media-rich experiences for home and work, and she speaking on Creativity, Learning and Social Software.

Or Lori Beer who is the EVP for Enterprise Business Services at WellPoint and manages over 30,000 people developing new health care products for you and me, and is speaking today on Transforming Health care Through Data.

Or Ann Mei Chang who is a Senior Advisor on technology at the State Department and has the Silicon Valley engineering who's who on her resume, including being a Senior Engineering Director at Google. She's speaking on Leveraging Mobile and Internet Technology to Improve Women's Lives in the Developing World.

Or Nora Denzel, who was both funny and wise in her keynote today, and has led large, cutting edge software and business teams at IBM, HP and Intuit, and can go nose to nose with anyone on technology.

Imagine 3,600 confident girly geeks together, mingling with each other as students and mentors, inventors and developers, investors and founders. Women working together to change the ratio of women in technology by recruiting new young women into the field and helping them stay in the field, despite the odds. Less than 25 percent of the STEM workforce in the U.S. are women, more than 50 percent of women who start in engineering drop out of technology in the first 10 years of their careers, the numbers of women graduating in computer science has been dropping over the last 10 years, and yet by 2020 the U.S. will graduate less than 30 percent of the engineers we need to be competitive.

It just makes sense to get more girls into technology. It's an incredibly exciting field and women make great computer scientists. Thousands of them are at GHC in Baltimore today. Join us and change the world!

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is a program of the Anita Board Institute, which is funded by the world's best technology companies to help industry, academia, and government recruit, retain, and develop women leaders in high-tech fields, resulting in higher levels of technological innovation. You can learn more at

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