I think everyone agrees there are not enough women in technical careers. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I started having meetings with other start-ups in the San Francisco Bay area. In the past year I’ve met perhaps a hundred male entrepreneurs with impressive technical experience who are launching their own companies. In that same year I have met zero women with technical backgrounds doing the same.
Pause for a moment to let that sink in. I didn’t say I have met few women in those types of jobs, or not as many as I would have expected. I am saying I have literally met zero. None.
[Note to Jezebel, Salon, Gawker, Huffington Post and other bottom-feeding outragists in the media. I made this post extra-easy to take out of context. Have fun with it.]
I have made no special effort to include or exclude women in my many meetings with start-up founders. Most of the people I met are the result of introductions from other men, and I assume that is a big part of the problem. Sometimes I get the sense that the men I have met in the start-up world do not even know any women in similar careers. I assume they do, and I assume some of those women are doing impressive things. But for whatever reason, those successful women almost never come up in conversations I have with other men. And obviously I’m not helping that situation because I don’t know any women of that sort that I could talk about.
Locally, one hears stories all the time about some guy who did something special with a start-up, or he’s a superstar coder, or a product genius, or whatever. How many times have I heard similar stories about superstar female entrepreneurs with technology skills? Maybe…never? At least none in the past year. And again I assume that has something to do with the fact I’m generally talking to other men in that industry.
I want to be perfectly clear that I am speaking about my personal, flawed, biased, observation, which I hope is not representative. But seriously, how could I spend a year in an industry without meeting one female technical genius/entrepreneur while meeting about a hundred men I would label that way? I know plenty of brilliant women, but they don’t work in that field.
I think there are lots of factors in play. The obvious ones:
1. Women are not encouraged to enter technical fields.
2. In the start-up space, your network of contacts is essential to success. As my story illustrates, women appear to be cut off from networking with the men who are the prime movers in the industry.
3. Sexism, discrimination, and old-boy networks make technology an unfriendly place for women. My observations support that.
Okay, you didn’t come here to read safe opinions. Let’s get to the good stuff.
My question of the day is this: What percentage of women should we expect to find at the very highest levels of technology and entrepreneurship if one removed all discrimination and other artificial barriers?
Here’s the part that ends my career: On average, men and women are equally capable for academic and technical pursuits. But men tend to have the most freaks on the high end and low end of the IQ spectrum. One study says there are about twice as many men as women in the top 2%.
[I pause here to agree with you that IQ is a sketchy measure for lots of reasons. But I think you would agree that in the tech area, IQ is highly correlated with income and success. Emotional intelligence is nice to have, but probably less important in an industry where people are talking to their computers.]
Most of the men I have met in the start-up world are clearly in the top 2% range for IQ. And yes, many are “on the spectrum” as they like to say in the Valley. If the data on IQ variance by gender is correct, there are only half as many women in the top 2% as men. So one might say the rational target for female tech entrepreneurs should be about 33% of the total. Otherwise you start watering down the IQ in the start-up world. That feels like a bad idea, but I don’t have data to support it..
I get extra worried when I see that 98% of my Twitter followers are male.This blog is about the same ratio. Apparently the average woman is not interested in my style of thinking and writing. I can imagine woman having a similar distaste for spending lots of time around dudes like me in the tech industry. Doesn’t sound fun. So as long as the tech industry attracts lots of unpleasant men such as me, women can be expected to be rational and find more agreeable places to make money.
In my experience, every project works better when women are involved. A mix of men and women improves the energy of the group and doubles its collective visibility on the world. But I don’t see any way to fix the gender imbalance in the tech world. Do you?
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My book on success: “I always get a sense of cognitive dissonance when I read Scott Adams’ books when contrasted with his Dilbert cartoons. As opposed to the cynical and often helpless and victimized denizens of Dilbert Land, his ideas on what it takes to succeed in business and in life are affirming and self-empowering.” – Joe Tye