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The plain numbers about women in tech – The Startups

I don’t often think of myself as a woman. As I approach public restrooms, I have to remind myself: “Whitney, you are a woman, use the women’s room.”

Being a woman doesn’t actively, consciously factor into my every day life, especially not professionally. While my gender must have a partial effect on everything I do — the way I interview users, draw wireframes, bill my clients — I am far from overtly feminine, nor do I consider myself to be traditionally female.

I have always wanted to be judged against all other people — male and female — and as a result, try not to play the woman card. I’ve also avoided most discussions about women in tech, women in business, women speakers, women organizations, women investors, women anything. A couple years ago I even insisted that I’m not a woman blogger.

It hasn’t ever really bothered me that there are so few women in my professional universe. I’ve always had more guy friends, went to a predominantly male university, and have worked mostly with men. But two things happened recently that rubbed me the wrong way:

Firstly, at the NY Tech Meetup a couple months ago, there were two products demoed by women. When a question from the audience was directed at one of the women-run companies, the other (male) presenters on stage started passing the mic to the wrong set of women. I’m not sure if anyone else noticed it, but it made me extremely uncomfortable. These guys couldn’t even remember which woman had demoed that product — just that it was a woman. The important detail of who didn’t seem to register.

Secondly, I was at the Boxee Box launch at Irving Plaza last month and, before the presentation started, Boxee’s team photos were projected onto the screen in a loop. I was proud to see how much the company has grown since I had worked with them in early 2009 — at the time, I had been the only woman among 10 men. But seeing the photos, I noticed that out of their 20 or so employees, practically all of the women working for them are in marketing.

It finally hit me: not only are women in tech mostly invisible, the vast majority of those who on display are selling, not making.

This is a problem. This is a big problem. At least according to ComScore [whitepaper], women are significantly more active social media and e-commerce users than men. So if the primary target audiences of most high traffic sites are women, why are only men designing and developing these systems?

I decided to take an empirical look at the gender ratio of some popular startups, just by looking at their team pages. I defined startups as < 50 employees and < 6 years old. This is by no means a comprehensive study, but I'm amazed by what I found.

Take a look for yourself...and let me know what you see.

High Profile Startups

Foursquare

Team Page: http://foursquare.com/about#
Women Employed: 6/40
Women’s Positions: Community Manager; Lead Designer; Marketing Manager; Head of Recruiting; Community Support Coordinator
Location: New York City

Kickstarter

Team Page: http://www.kickstarter.com/team
Women Employed: 4/14
Women’s Positions: Customer Service; Marketing; Community
Location: New York City

Squarespace

Team Page: http://www.squarespace.com/about/
Women Employed: 6/32
Women’s Positions: Support Team; Senior Designer; Marketing Director; Chief Marketing Officer
Location: New York City

Dropbox

Team Page: https://www.dropbox.com/about
Women Employed: 3/35
Women’s Positions: CFO; Support Lead; Office Manager
Location: San Francisco

Aviary

Team Page: http://www.aviary.com/about
Women Employed: ~5/30
Location: New York City

Square

Team Page: https://squareup.com/about
Women Employed: 10/54
Women’s Positions: Customer Support; Server Engineer; Recruiter; Financial Manager
Location: San Francisco

Tumblr

Team Page: http://www.tumblr.com/about
Women Employed: 1/16
Women’s Positions: Director of Outreach
Location: New York City

Vimeo

Team Page: http://www.vimeo.com/about
Women Employed: 4/31
Women’s Positions: Analytics and Marketing; Marketing Communications Director; General Manager; Community Manager
Location: New York City

Path

Team Page: https://www.path.com/about
Women Employed: 2/14
Women’s Positions: Executive Assistant; Recruiter
Location: San Francisco

Blip.tv

Team Page: http://blip.tv/about/people/
Women Employed: 7/31
Women’s Positions: Co-founder; Ad Operations; Office Manager
Location: New York City

Disqus

Team Page: http://disqus.com/about/
Women Employed: 1/13
Women’s Positions: Office Manager
Location: San Francisco

Hashable

Team Page: http://hashable.com/aboutus
Women Employed: 2/8
Women’s Positions: Chief Marketing Officer; Director of Business Development
Location: New York City

Venmo

Team Page: https://venmo.com/info/about-venmo
Women Employed: 0/7
Women’s Positions: None
Location: New York City and Philadelphia

BankSimple

Team Page: https://banksimple.com/#team
Women Employed: 0/9
Women’s Positions: None
Location: New York City and Portland

Targeted to Women

The only startups that seem to have a higher percentage of women are products or services that are oriented towards women:

Learnvest

Team Page: http://about.learnvest.com/company/team/
Women Employed: 7/11
Women’s Positions: Founder and CEO; CMO; Director of Product; Creative Director; Chief Content Officer; Editor; Financial Planner
Location: New York City

PlumWillow

Team Page: http://www.plumwillow.com/plum/team
Women Employed: 11/21
Women’s Positions: Director of Marketing; Community Leaders
Location: New York City

food52

Team Page: http://www.food52.com/blog/about_food52
Women Employed: 6/8
Women’s Positions: Co-founders; Editors; Recipe Testers
Location: New York City

Birchbox

Team Page: http://www.birchbox.com/about-birchbox/what-is-birchbox/
Women Employed: 4/4
Women’s Positions: Co-founders; Director of Interactive; Director of Content
Location: New York City

Rent the Runway

Team Page: http://www.renttherunway.com/team
Women Employed: 30/38
Women’s Positions: Co-founder and CEO; Co-founder and President; PR; Operations; Marketing; Merchandising; Creative Director; Customer Insights; Director of Finance; Director of Business Development; Visual Designer; Developer; Stylists
Location: New York City

Bucking the trend

Startups that aren’t specifically targeting female customers, but that appear to have higher percentages of female employees:

NabeWise

Team Page: http://nabewise.com/pages/team
Women Employed: 3/5
Women’s Positions: Founder and CEO; Creative Director; Director of Business Development
Location: New York City

Yipit

Team Page: http://yipit.com/about/
Women Employed: 3/8
Women’s Positions: Product and Operations Manager; Developer; Content Manager
Location: New York City

AdaptiveBlue

Team Page: http://getglue.com/about
Women Employed: 6/17
Women’s Positions: VP of Engineering; Developer; Editor; Community/Marketing Analyst
Location: New York City

Perhaps not incidentally, I am currently working with a startup that employs more women than men, and its product isn’t explicitly for women:

Loosecubes

Team Page: None yet
Women Employed: 7/9
Women’s Positions: Founder and CEO; Product Lead; Community Manager; Designer; Content Strategist; Street Team
Location: New York City

Am I missing something?

So what do these numbers tell you? Have I forgotten about several startups with predominantly female staff? Am I unaware of some startups with more women in the “making” positions than in the “selling” ones?

Please set the record straight! Or share your thoughts on why we’re seeing this unsettling trend.

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  • http://rachelhpeters.com Rachel

    For what it’s worth, the UX team for the Home Depot website is 7 women and 1 man.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      Yes, I’ve definitely seen more women in “maker” positions at large corporations than I have at startups.

  • Erin Kissane

    This matches what I’ve seen in startups.

    To Rachel’s point, I suspect that the majority of women in non-communicator positions in our industry work on internal teams at larger orgs, rather than at high-risk startups. Might be worth crunching some data from A List Apart’s surveys to look at that kind of distribution.

  • http://nwc.co Tony Bacigalupo

    Your analysis further exposes the reality that was shared by so many on Twitter a few days ago: the exciting startups we all hold in sich high regard are dominated by men.

    The question it raises is one which has been the subject of much debate: is it a supply issue, or a demand issue?

    Some say it’s discrimination. Others say there are just not enough women from technical backgrounds to go around.

    Sara has said many times that, as a developer, she has never encountered discrimination– much the opposite. She has found companies to be aching to find talented women to balance out their ranks.

    There aren’t enough women to go around, and it’s becoming an increasingly bad thing. Rushkoff’s hypothesis in “Program or Be Programmed” is that code is a new form of comminication that is rising to a level of importance on par with the written word and speech.

    If that’s even partially true, then the people who do not know how to speak this language are going to be at a huge disadvantage. If you believe Rushkoff, it would be like being illiterate.

    Which is why I think initiatives like Girl Develop It and even things like the campaign for a Computer Engineer Barbie are so important. The world needs more women writing code.

  • http://nabewise.com Ann Baldinucci

    Whitney, thanks for including us!

    Plus, good news: It’s 4 out of 6 now at NabeWise! We just hired a 4th and we hired another woman. Not deliberately, it’s just what happened.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      Thanks for the update! Do you have a sense of why you have more female employees than other startups? Is it because you, the founder, are female?

  • http://banksimple.com Josh Reich

    Thanks for highlighting this. As a company, this is something we would like to rectify. Over the summer, 1/3rd of our team was female. But then again, our team was much smaller and since then our interns have returned to college.

    Building our culture is equally important as building our product. I’d posit that without the right culture, we’ll never be able to deliver on our vision. And it’s damn hard to do that without half of the world’s population represented on our team.

    I just scanned through all the applicants we have received for advertised ‘making’ positions. To date, we have yet to receive a single female applicant.

    We currently have an open position in customer relations. Nearly two-thirds of the applicants to this position are female.

    That said, we know there are talented female makers out there. Alex, our CTO, has a brand spanking new tattoo of Ada Lovelace on his shoulder. It’s pretty sweet.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      Josh, I really appreciate your comment, and thank you for taking the time to look through your applicant pool. You bring to light a deeper issue about women not applying for the “maker” positions. But I have to wonder if your About page might be intimidating, and make prospective employees feel like it isn’t a female-friendly environment.

  • http://resistmedia.net Beth

    This is certainly disheartening and sadly unsurprising.

  • http://www.henkenbean.com Henken Bean

    Thank you for posting this! This has been on my mind lately as I begin to further analyze my goals and career, and look back on the last 2 years of my work. I think it is a combination of a supply and demand as well as a larger communication issue. I have noticed myself, similar to your experience, that I find myself in groups with predominantly men as well: in college studying interactive media, in my first job on a team of 10 UX designers I was the only women, in a local philly-based artist group I was also the only active women for about 1 year. I don’t mind this at all really, in fact sometimes I prefer it. But, I have heard more than two manager-level UX professionals say they prefer to hire women because they are more “thorough.” What exactly does this mean? I am not 100% sure. But what I do have a guess about is that a big component of success in UX is actually the ability to speak up, ask questions, and have confidence in a meeting. Without these, you can be the most thorough person in the world, but you may not get noticed. John Maeda, president of RISD, recently tweeted ‘”Leading by example” is well suited for the quiet do-er versus the louder talkers. Doing can speak more than talking’. This may be true, but it often is the talkers that get recognized first and the dopers appreciated only later. I think in the fast-paced tech industry it can be more about the louder talkers than the quiet do-ers at least right now. Maybe empowering women to learn how to speak in public could be the missing link. I was fortunate enough to have experience in highschool on the debate team where the challenge of competing made forcing myself to speak in public fun, and in college I had professors who were glad to give encouragement for asking questions such that I always felt like speaking up was the right thing to do. When I entered the working world, it was a smooth transition to ask questions and vocalize my opinion, since this is exactly what I had been doing for my whole educational experience.

    On a related note about communication: Has anyone else notice the strange societal ritual with the “handshake,” that is that if you are in a line of men passing handshakes upon exiting a meeting, often there is either hesitation or complete refusal of the offer when initiating a handshake with you. I think it is a subtle thing, but good for both mean and women to be aware of next time you see it. What I do now is offer out my hand first so there’s no confusion. Once I even got a “I’ll give you an equal opportunity handshake” which although was meant as a joke, hit home more than they knew.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      Yes, I too have been refused a firm handshake in favor of a kiss on the cheek or nothing at all. But I always extend my hand first. If I don’t know you, don’t assume a kiss on the cheek is appropriate :)

  • http://www.paperlesspost.com lucy

    Another import pattern in your sample is that startups with female leadership tend to hire more women (note the startups targeting women, 4 of 5 have female founders). Perhaps women are better at identifying and hiring women than men are.

    • http://srcasm.com Jesse Middleton

      Lucy,
      It could also be that women tech people are more comfortable with applying to those companies where women in technical positions are more prevalent.

      As Josh from BankSimple points out they’ve had no women applicants in their technical role. Strange phenomenon but it happens in others areas of business as well — not just tech companies.

      • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

        Yes, I too believe that companies with women in leadership positions are more likely to attract female applicants. When you see only men on an About page, it can lead people to believe that it’s a sexist, non-friendly environment — even if that’s furthest from the truth.

        • Oren

          Guys (and girls) research has shown (repeatedly) that people have a tendency to hire similar people (that is, someone who reminds them of themselves).
          Since startups are usually small companies where the founders also do the hiring (and the dishes) it would only be reasonable to assume that male-founded start-ups will have a male-dominated staff and vise versa.
          Sometime a cigar is just a cigar ;)

  • http://superkb.com KB

    Great post! For most start-ups, their largest department is engineering and unfortunately, there seems to be too few female engineers seeking work. I know several companies who would love to hire female engineers, they’re just hard to find.

    Some additional considerations: What about Etsy? Perhaps they are too large of a company now for this review.

    Fashism has predominately female staff.

    The Product Manager at Foursquare is female.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      I didn’t include Etsy here because they have grown to larger than 50 employees, but yes, they employ a lot of women. Who is the Product Manager at Foursquare that you’re referring to? Alex Rainert is their head of product.

  • http://girldeveloper.com Sara Chipps

    Great article. I really would like to figure out a way to find out WHY this is. It would give me a place to start to go about fixing it. Right now we only can base it on best guess and our particular experiences.

  • http://www.ifwerantheworld.com Cindy Gallop

    Whitney – great post.

    When I set out to build and launch my startup IfWeRanTheWorld (now 11 months old in beta) I anticipated at least a 50/50 male/female user base, probably biased female (which has turned out to be the case). It was critically important to me that the development team include female perspectives and sensibilities in order to ensure a fantastic gender-equal user experience (I am continually astonished by how many startups actively targeting a universal audience or with an equal to predominant female user base, have founding and tech teams composed solely of men).

    IfWeRanTheWorld is one of the startups you’re looking for – where my team is predominantly female (female founder, UX lead, designer, developers). I didn’t actually set out to make it that way per se – I looked for the very best people – but I’m extremely glad that’s how it turned out:

    http://ifwerantheworld.com/about

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      Cindy, thank you so much for linking to your About page, and giving us another example of a startup bucking the trend. I’ve known about IfWeRanTheWorld for some time, so I should have thought of it myself.

      Question: Where do you find female developers? Or do they find you?

  • http://alexkrupp.typepad.com Alex Krupp

    Thanks for this analysis. I’ve had a lot of problems finding women to present at Swagapalooza in the past. So I don’t think this is limited to tech, but rather it seems to be pervasive in consumer product startups as well.

    • http://www.tereza.com Tereza

      Hey Alex! One thing you may want to consider is an alternative format that more akin to how females interact. Very large rooms with lots of people and big stages….that’s not really our style.

      I find you get most bang for you buck and time by creating ‘salons’ of maybe 8-12 women, carefully curated to meet each other, and give them time to get to know a smaller amount of people more deeply. Then they’ll go off and tell 20 friends about this and that.

      I know that’s different from Swagapalooza, but if you’re willing to experiment I think you’ll find the right format. As a hybrid, you may have a pre-Swagapalooza cocktail for a select bunch, so they can warm up.

      Women respond to invitations; as in dating, they need to feel special. While men hate invitations. Go figure.

      • http://www.thinkexperience.com Kelley Boyd

        Ahhhh, but that is just some women. I love big stages and lots of people that want to listen to me. ;>)

        • http://www.tereza.com Tereza

          Ha! I actually thought of you when I was writing that. You and I are both stage-y types. But many women are not.

          Blog commenting is similar. We like to keep our conversations a little more private. It always surprises me how often, when I comment in DISQUS forums, women email me directly to add to the conversation or say “I totally agreed!”. And I think — I really wish you’d just post that, so I’m not hanging out here alone.

          Women just, on the whole, prefer conversations with smaller groups.

          If enlisting women is important to Alex (may or may not be — I’m not judging) then it’s worth trying.

  • http://mohrslaws.blogspot.com Alex Mohr

    As an additional data point, Polyvore (though it is a female-targeted product) looks to be over half female – http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/about.team

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      Great example, thanks for sharing!

  • http://[email protected] Amy Cham

    I have to confess, I am a woman who defected from the technology side to the marketing side. I was a web developer for several years, mostly front-end but also some Java, PHP, and more recently Drupal. And if I may say so, I was pretty darn good at it.

    Why did I switch? Firstly, it had NOTHING to do with the men I’ve worked with, or the fact that most of the devs I’ve worked with were, in fact, men.

    Very simply, I went to business school thinking I would start my own web development company and discovered that I loved analyzing data, getting inside the heads of my audience, and writing content.

    When I came out of b-school I was about half dev, half marketing. One day I decided I couldn’t take one more bout of IE bug fixing and left development altogether.

    It was very difficult to leave development, but by keeping one foot in dev and one in marketing, I knew I would never really excel at either.

    While there may be discrimination at play in the startup world, it is not reflected in my personal experience. Even now, when people find out I know some Drupal, THAT is what they most want to talk about and often ask if I’m looking for work.

    Discrimination definitely happens, but I think at the macro level it’s more of a supply issue. Too many people, male and female, have been excited to learn that I could write code…I don’t think that the primary problem is women being unwanted on these teams.

  • http://talesfromthe.net/jon jon

    Great post!

    John, the Geek Feminism Wiki has some good suggestions for companies that are looking to diversify their hiring. How many of these have you been doing?

    Sara, it’s a complex problem with a lot of different causes. It’s mostly guys who fund startups and manage big companies, and their networks are mostly other guys, and most startups don’t have any experience with diverity-based hiring, so it’s easy to default to an almost-all-male team. Structural discrimination and sexism drive a lot of women out of the hiring pool. On top of that, there are role models like John Doerr who talks about preferring to fund white guys, and Paul Graham who’s based Y Combinator on the insight that startups are allowed to discriminate against women. And of course education is a huge factor as well; Sherry Turkle has a great short discussion in the new intro to The Second Self that looks at how things changed in the late 1980s….

  • Giff

    Well my technical co-founder at Aprizi, Liz Crawford, is a woman, and I can also point to Hilary Mason at bit.ly and Becky Carella at Super+Fun, and then on the product-but-not-Dev side is Cindy Alvarez at kiss metrics and Susan Wu, who founded Ohai, and my friend Sonya Wong who is ex-eBay and working on a new startup… And dont forget Emily Hickey at Hashable and Beth Ferreira is another notable to watch. All of whom are incredible people.

    There are more women in sales and marketing than prod management or development, but that is changing I think, for the better.

  • http://regularjoeconsulting.com Joe Sokohl

    Great detail in this article. Appreciate you looking into it rigorously.

    I would hope, however, that we don’t rush into a post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. That is, just because there are few women in these firms doesn’t mean they’ve been kept out. It might be as simple as lack of interest. It also might be unintentional discrimination in the hiring process. We don’t know that, and we should be cautious about what we infer.

    Again, I’m not saying there isn’t a problem…it’s perhaps the cause f the problem I’m a bit skeptical about.

    Thanks for writing this, Whitney!

  • allison

    This was an interesting post and certainly brings light to issues of the gender balance in startups, but I’m not sure you’re not missing a major point: there are way fewer women graduating with CS degrees than there are men (according to this source – only 10% of CS degrees are granted to women http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/16/business/16digi.html?_r=1) – given that fact, it doesn’t seem surprising that there is still a notable difference in the gender ratio in techie . In that vein, it’s certainly worth considering why there are fewer women who want to go into tech-y professions, but I’m not sure that’s what this discussion was supposed to be about.

    All that being said, I was somewhat offset by the description of your experience at the NY Tech Meetup – if one of the male presenters had passed the mic to the wrong man, I don’t think anyone would have noticed – it would have just revealed that the guy wasn’t really paying attention. I’m not sure ascribing anything other than “dude wasn’t paying attention” and/or “dude didn’t really listen to the other presentations” to his actions is necessarily fair.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      Allison, I’ve attended upwards of 30 NYTMs and I’ve never seen this before. It was blatant. When they realized the mistake, they eyed each other and laughed. They had mixed up to the two “women” companies — one was a female-focused product and one wasn’t at all.

  • Gary Blomquist

    Could part of the “why” be that women are more social by nature than men and tech jobs are perceived to involve little social interaction ? Isn’t the stereotypical engineer a socially inept nerd like Lewis from Revenge of the Nerds ?

  • http://www.sarahleeashraf.com Sarah

    As a female dev this debate is very interesting to me. Honestly, I agree with Allison that there just aren’t enough female CS grads to go around. If that statistic is true (only 10% of CS degrees are granted to women), then that needs to be addressed before we say that there is discrimination (which I’m not saying there is or not).

    It’s tough though because how can we get more women interested in math and science if they don’t have role models?

    A few notes on my experiences. I noticed that women who are in web development tend to be front end developers/designers. The tech startups where I have applied want more end to end developers. Even if the job description is for a front-end dev and other languages or mobile development are in the “nice to have” section. You could be the best slicer dicer in the world, but if you can’t write ruby, they’re going to chose the person who can write ruby. So yeah, those women could be in larger companies where the tasks are more specialized.

    Also, I’ve never had any problems with fellow tech people when it came to being a woman. Where I have had problems is with older men business type people who will just automatically defer to the male members of my team.

    Anyway, yeah. Lets get more girls interested in Math and Science.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      Sarah, I’m sad to say I’ve experienced the same. I haven’t felt discriminated by other “maker” types at all. I have, however, felt it from “older men business type people” as you put it. I’ve always chalked it up to them being intimidated by a young, powerful woman, but I probably shouldn’t be so flippant about it.

      • http://www.tereza.com Tereza

        I’ve felt the opposite — more love from the older businesspeople types than the young coders. But, it may have nothing to do with gender. I attribute it more to — I’m the business/marketing person not coding, to I speak their language. They’re particularly helpful if they’re old enough to have wives + daughters.

      • http://www.tereza.com Tereza

        I’ve felt the opposite — more love from the older businesspeople types than the young coders. But, it may have nothing to do with gender. I attribute it more to — I’m the business/marketing person not coding, to I speak their language.

        I said in an earlier comment they’re particularly helpful if they’re old enough to have wives + daughters.

        So there’s gender at play but it’s function and ‘language’ too. Sometimes the older guys literally don’t understand what you’re saying.

  • http://tedfrazier.com Ted Frazier

    I think Men are often more risk-averse and therefore more willing to work in these high-risk start-ups. Also, there is simply more men in the overall workforce than women. This is not a bad thing. Women often choose of their own free will to take different jobs or to devote themselves full-time to the home.

    • http://www.ifwerantheworld.com Cindy Gallop

      Ted – I think you mean ‘less’ risk-averse? Actually, I’m one of the least risk-averse entrepreneurs I know, along with a number of the other women who have commented or are cited here. Earlier this year, for the first time, the number of women in the US workforce passed the number of men – albeit women continue to be paid less and occupy less senior positions than men. The current discussion around women in tech is driven by the fact that what Whitney lays out is not the result of female choice, but of what can unfortunately happen with what Jon Pincus calls a closed loop of ‘guys talking to guys about other guys’.

      • http://tedfrazier.com Ted Frazier

        I did mean less risk-averse.
        According to the USDL there are less women in the workforce than men and the ratio is even lower in the tech field. In my experience I have seen companies showing a greater demand for females in types of positions I have sought. Overall, I have seen more discrimination against males than against females.
        And most females I know that have lower level positions are there because they have chosen to take time away from their career to raise children.

  • http://birch.co Mark Birch

    Two quick thoughts as I think your post and the comments are great.

    The way to change the status quo is both at the grassroots and at the leadership level. This was the concern I raised about the NY Tech Meetup community board elections. There needs to be more visible and prominent representation of women in leading roles with tech companies and in the tech community. These are the role models that children will see and aspire to. In turn, there needs to be concerted effort in the earliest grades to get girls interested in technology related fields. There has been success in fields such as biology and medicine, yet engineering, CS and physics lag far behind.

    The last point is that while there is much more progress to be made, I am encouraged by what I have been seeing. You may want to check out this website http://squ.co/eHo6ZS that provides a decent list of NYC-based female founders and influencers. I have a hunch that female tech representation is getting better slowly.

  • http://www.tereza.com Tereza

    Nice job breaking it down, Whitney.

    During school and the first 10 years of my career, I didn’t care at all about women’s issues in the workforce. I thought they were irrelevant and my job was simply to transcend it, not resort to gender. It just didn’t matter and reference to it, to me, was wimpy.

    Interestingly, during that whole period I was also always perceived as an ingenue, a whippersnapper.

    Then I got pregnant. I planned that nothing would change. Partly because I was ambitious, but also because I needed to work. It was never a choice for me.

    I dealt with some life issues that coincided with the birth of my two children, and did project work to keep engaged and relevant. But I found as I sought to ramp up further, that I’d become, overnight, “old”. I think for women this perception is distorted. While young you’re too young and when mature you’re too old, and the precious middle is very short and pretty much when you’re dealing with the greatest stresses of parenting young children.

    Once they see the crow’s feet in this industry, no matter how relevant you are, it becomes very very difficult to convince them of your relevance. Not to mention the value of what you know.

    That’s when I started to care, deeply, about women in tech.

    And beyond the talent that’s not seen for what it is, I see market opportunities left unaddressed. Because no one ‘in the game’ knows enough about them to solve them.

    So as much as I want to see more women in STEM and as programmers — that is so important — I equally want to see *even more* women in marketing/biz devt/product roles. Because we already are damn good. Startups everywhere are performing below where they should or could, because we’re not there.

  • Friend

    Ahem, Meebo? (2/3 of the founders are women)

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      I didn’t include Meebo on this list because they have grown to well over 50 employees. But it does seem as though they employ a significant number of women: http://www.meebo.com/team/

  • http://twitter.com/Igy_TRACC Igy

    I work for a global company with the core division of the business, the division that really paves the way forward being run by an amazing and insightful woman. She has so much drive and vision; the company was started by a few men and the out of the directors, she is the only female but she is the one that I would say makes the company what it is because of business ‘know-how’. The company now (i would say) has a ratio of 60% women and 40% men, and if I am wrong then women would still be greater percentage. I believe that women have a huge drive, sheesh one of the hardest jobs is being a mom and my mom raised 3 boys without job and a husband that passed away early; she basically had to be the best developer to try and develop every day into a great experience for her 3 sons.
    I think that there are so many male devs and the amount of female devs are less – but I also think that female devs are ‘on the rise’. Now-a-days you see so much more female devs and women in high ranking positions in the work place because of their drive and determination, not to be recognised but to be great, if not the best, at what they do.

  • http://webkrebse.com Dorothea Schäfer

    Thanks for working this out! It makes me sad.

    I do’t believe, that there are not enought women with tech background around. It is mainly the lack of confidence to deal with a tech position.

    Let us be examples and encourade women the make the web more female

  • Stomme poes

    Hm. I’m female. I never liked playing with dolls, gossiping with the girls, the color pink, and today I do front-end development but can’t design my way out of a paper bag (graphically). I’m excited to be learning Perl and Javascript. And when I look around me, I do not see discrimination. I see men walking around wringing their hands going “OH NOES this is a problem we need to fix it.” I don’t see women worrying about it. Are the women being pushed into marketing and human resources?? Or are they going there because that’s what they want to do?

    I don’t know females who have interest in tech. I don’t know any (personally) who WANT to program. I don’t know any who care about computers except to use them to chat with friends. My neighbors LIKE having kids and staying at home. This must be what the women want. Not me, but then, nobody told me I had to. There is no discrimination here, not where I am (well, I see racial discrimination sometimes, and ageism, but not gender-based). Females just aren’t interested. If we have this strange need to get them all into tech, then we’ll have to change their brains and change what they want to do. I can’t change that, you can’t change that, and I don’t see this as the 1940’s where girls are actively being told that they MUST like those things. Instead, they are free to go that way and they do. The few who would have been weirdo outcasts back in that time are, today, doing awesome cool stuff like development, and nobody says “you can’t do that! You have a vag!”

    This must sound harsh, but it’s the truth as I see it. Worrying about how many females want to be techy is like worrying about leaves falling off deciduous trees. Focus on where there really IS discrimination, as we still have it with race and the insane celebration of youth that others have pointed out.

    I don’t want anyone dragging in women kicking and screaming (or bored to tears) into my world.

    • http://www.vanessahurst.com Vanessa

      Stomme poes – I’m a woman who loves technology and programming and I’m also learning JavaScript. I loved playing with dolls, but I usually taught them to do my work for me (much like I currently teach computers to do my work for me…). I think there are plenty of women interested in tech who don’t have the freedom/rebelliousness to say it’s a valid option, for girly girls and tomboys and everyone in between. Would love to talk about it sometime. I’m DBNess on twitter :).

  • http://www.firstrain.com Penny Herscher

    FirstRain – CEO (me) is a technical woman – my COO YY Lee is also a technical woman. We are both mathematicians.
    I have lived with the dire shortage of technical women for 25 years now and while it is getting better the progress is very slow. There are just not enough girls going into tech in college and staying in – that’s where we need to focus to get to a long term solution.
    And of course we have to make money for our investors so they will fund more women!

  • http://layar.com Claire Boonstra

    It looks like my company Layar, the Augmented Reality platform and browser which started 18 months ago and received USD 14 million in funding this year, is an exception.

    We have many ladies on the ‘create/ make’ side. The amount of women (also in recent hires) made me even shout out (joking) ‘not another woman?’ when another key position was filled in by a lady recently.

    Amsterdam + US office (Currently 37 people in total incl recent hires who will start in Jan/ Feb) female positions:

    1. Co-founder, VP Platform & Community
    2. Lead Developer/ Scrum Master
    3. Lead Android Developer
    4. Product Manager Mobile Clients
    5. Requirements Analyst
    6. Lead Analyst
    7. Lead Technical Developer Support
    8. Interaction Designer 1
    9. Interaction Designer 2
    10. User Researcher
    11. Content Consultant
    12. Web Channel Manager (= Product Manager Web)
    13. Trainee Analytics
    14. Office Manager (our other Office manager is a man)

    However, our Ukraine office, where all mobile client development takes place (19 people in total) unfortunately consists of only men. Somehow it is extremely difficult to find women in this business in Ukraine.

    We also believe that Bruce Sterling is absolutely right in saying that the new mass medium of Augmented Reality will be filled by “Hot Augmentation Chicks”: http://site.layar.com/company/blog/video-bruce-sterlings-keynote-at-the-dawn-of-the-augmented-reality-industry/

    We don’t aim for hiring more women. It is just happening. Welcome to the future!

    Claire Boonstra
    Layar Co-founder

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      Claire, this is really exciting. Thank you for sharing what’s going on at Layar. http://site.layar.com/company/overview/founders/

      • http://layar.com Claire Boonstra

        I somehow missed one position in this list: our new PR lady. She’s based in the US (Silicon Valley) too. That brings the count to 15 women at Layar.

  • http://caterpillarcowboy.com David Lifson

    At one point, Postling had 5 women and 5 men: Community Manager, Community Architect, VP of Customers, Community Intern, Operations Consultant. We no longer have dedicated community staff, so we’re currently at 2/7.

    But that’s not my point.

    This article by the Head of Social Psychology at Florida State University: http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm . It’s long, but completely worthwhile.

    The thesis is that women are less likely than men to choose high risk / long hours / high stress careers like founding a tech startup. The women who do choose those careers are able to be successful, but many prefer careers with a little more job security, a little more time away from the office, and a little better lifestyle. His theory is that men are genetically predisposed to extremes, as we are the offspring of men who went to those extremes, took those risks, and survived long enough to pass on their genes. Women, evolutionarily speaking, were not rewarded for high-risk warlord behavior, as their (crucial!) role was to create community, tend and grow the family, and reduce risk for the children.

    Long story short, he believes that men are more inclined to choose high-risk / high-reward options while women are more inclined to choose lower-risk / more-predictable-reward options.

    In startups, the co-founders take all the risk. No funding, no proof the idea is viable, long hours, no money to eat anything but ramen. If the professor’s theory is correct, it makes sense that more men than women would choose to be co-founders.

    Once the company has gotten funding, payroll and benefits are in place, there is some clear direction for the company… then it’s time to hire employee #1, 2, & 3. And it’s here where women are often hired. (Employee #1 at Postling is a woman.) A bit less risk, more consistent pay, possibly more normal hours, but much of the excitement of startup culture.

    So to wrap up, if the professor’s theory is correct, it makes sense that fewer women are founders, but more women are early startup employees.

  • http://www.tereza.com Tereza

    Hey Whitney, is there a reason you don’t use DISQUS for comments on your blog? It brings me pleasure. :-)

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      I used DISQUS on this blog for about two years, but it was often not loading, difficult for my readers to use, and they had awful customer service. So I switched back to the built-in WordPress commenting system.

  • http://www.nelking.com Nancy King

    As someone who recruits for several start ups, I can tell you that each one of my clients would be thrilled if we could hire more women developers. They use the same standards and hiring process.

    From what I can tell it’s a pipeline problem.

    I’m guessing, judging from the young women my own sons are friends with, there’s not a great deal of technology knowledge being taught in public high school to either gender. My generation of parents isn’t talking to their daughters about it.

    I do talk to them. Every year, I speak to all the eighth graders at our middle school for career day. I’m hoping it pays off in about 5 years. Last year, I told them all to learn HTML/CSS.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      This is what we should all be doing — going into middle schools and high schools and talking about our careers in technology.

      I often think the discussion is too centered around programming though. I don’t program for a living, yet I still have a successful career in tech. We should be encouraging makers of all kinds — UX, designers, developers, QA, etc etc.

      • http://www.thinkexperience.com Kelley Boyd

        Then please get involved with Women 2.0. We are launching a NYC organization and part of our goal is actually impact the “long tail” of improving the number of women in leadership positions in technology companies.

        You can learn a bit more about what the Meet Women of 2.0 meeting will be about here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4b5evfcWZw.

        Whomever is interested in attending our launch, please reach out to me at [email protected] for an invitation.

      • http://www.nelking.com Nancy King

        It’s great fun too Whitney. The stuff we take for granted about managing a career and doing what interests them is all new. Here’s one of the points I make:

        “At the age of 13, you have more networking power than a 30 year old. If you’re interested in a company, or a specific career, you can reach out to a CEO or someone who just doing something cool that you like, and your more likely than someone my age to get a call back.

        Now, you can ask them how they got to where they are. That’s what you really need to know to find the right path. Oh and adults love to talk about what they do”

      • http://www.annelikesred.com Anne Kerns

        “This is what we should all be doing — going into middle schools and high schools and talking about our careers in technology.”

        Yes! And elementary schools, even. I’m glad this suggestion came up, as that’s what I was thinking when reading through the comments that ask the question, “why?” I think one of the biggest ways to make an impact is to visit schools and talk about what you do as a career, especially women in tech, science, business, etc. This is what opens up girls’ minds to the possibilities: exposure. Early and often.

        My dad is a neuroanatomist, and he is involved in a program that has scientists go to 5th grade classes (Global Village Young Scientist Program). I was talking to him about the issue of women in tech and women in business leadership, and the low percentages of CS degrees to women; as I’ve recently started reading and following all the links surrounding this discussion. One “theory” that commenters like to throw around is that women are just not as interested in tech as men. But, my dad says (based on his observation and experience in the classroom) in 5th grade the girls are just as interested, inquisitive, and skilled at the activities as the boys are. At that age they haven’t been gender-stereotyped out of an interest in science.

        However, he went on to say that there are gender differences in the adult brain. Richard Haier has published studies on it. This is a gross simplification and generalization, but basically his research shows women’s and men’s brains follow different pathways. In the frontal lobe/language area, women are more verbal; in the back part of the brain (Wernicke’s area), men are more mathematical. But in the end, although different brain pathways are followed, I.Q. is equal in men and women.

        Interestingly, the proportion of men and women in medical school is the same. But sub-specialties do have disparities. For example, urology/gynecology have more women practitioners and orthopedics & neuro surgeons have more men. (Ortho and neuro generally have higher paying rewards than the women-dominated specialities.) And the more “idealistic” and lifestyle-friendly areas of family practice and pediatrics have more women. Granted, these are generalizations, but my dad teaches at a med school and these are his impressions although he thought the university may have actual numbers.

        Anyway, I think it’s a combination of many factors of both nature and nurture. “It” being the issue of low ratios of women in tech and at the top of business, and other male-dominated fields. I am not a “woman in tech.” I am a graphic designer. But I think this is an interesting subject and would like to see more gender equity in my lifetime.

        If you haven’t seen it, this TED talk is great:
        http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html#
        We need to sit at the table, keep our hands up, and be present; and teach our daughters to do the same.

      • Sandra L.

        Thanks for saying that, Whitney. I was recently asked to write an article for the all-girls prep school I attended, and realized that this is a real problem. Schools (especially girls’ schools!) need to require programming and computer classes early on to give girls the leg up they need to start exploring computers and discovering great things. I was appalled to find out that Barnard College does not have a CS major available at all. I’m sure they’re not unique.

        Of course, it’s hard to blame colleges when there is such little done in K-12 to encourage girls to discover tech. I believe that young girls just need a little extra nudge in order to get started with tech because of all the stereotypes and expectations in society – but once they get started, they’ll take off.

        When I was in high school, I was very interested in computers, but there was no class to take and I had no idea where to start. My parents had no idea either. So when I got to college and met all these CS majors who had been hacking since they were 10 or 11 years old, I felt really intimidated and decided that there was no way in hell I could learn this and compete with them. (Of course, here I am now, 10 years later, learning it and having a blast!)

        By no stretch of the imagination do I put all the blame for this problem on the schools (there are lots of different reasons why women are missing from tech), but I hope that schools can change so as to optimize the experience for future generations of women.

  • http://www.thisisgoingtobebig.com Charlie

    Is “making stuff” something anyone should aspire to?

    Everyday, more and more “making stuff” jobs get outsourced or the things that need to be made get pushed lower and lower in the stack, open sourced, etc. You need less and less technical talent to get more done each day, and the key aspects of business become selling, marketing, etc. If I were in sales and marketing, I think I’d be pretty offended that I’m not worth a damn unless I write code. Sales, believe it or not, is actually a real craft–and it’s actually what pays all of us. Without sales, we’re all just living off VC dollars.

    Don’t get me wrong, I encourage a lot of women to learn tech–but I those that I encourage are probably ones that would otherwise get sucked into mindless finance jobs at big banks. If a female student of mine had aspirations of becoming the VP of Marketing at Gilt, I’d never tell her “No, you have to do tech b/c that’s more ‘real’.”

    PS.. isn’t it kind of hypocritical to go pointing the finger at other people’s skewed ratios when you were the only female running for the New York Tech Meetup board and then you dropped out? You specifically had an opportunity to effect one of the very orgs you mention, but decided not to take it. What can the NYTM and other orgs do if, like Nancy wrote, we simply can’t get enough women in the pipeline.

    Because I certainly don’t think it’s an issue that qualified women are being turned away for the positions. I sent a female front end developer looking for a job to the First Round portfolio and she got scooped up right away. My first two hires at Path were women techies as well. It wasn’t b/c we aimed to hire them–they were simply the best people for the job.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

      Charlie, I don’t believe I ever said, or that anyone else is suggesting, that marketing and sales jobs are lesser or in any way not needed. My argument is that companies who are making products for both male and female audiences should have both male and female makers on the team. I didn’t say that those people have to be programmers — I’m not. But I am a product person, and I would like to see more female product people at high profile startups instead of just within large companies.

      I’m not placing blame anywhere. I’m trying to figure out why we’re seeing this trend.

      As for the NYTM, I chose not to run because I am already overcommitted and realized that I can accomplish just as much if not more without being associated with the NYTM board. I intend to be much more visible to the NY tech community without serving on the board. And I was not in fact the only woman nominated — Sara Chipps was as well, and we chose not run for similar reasons.

      • http://twitter.com/annalindow Anna Lindow

        Whitney,

        Thanks for this post and for getting such a lively discussion going. A couple of things:

        1. I totally agree that we have an issue on our hands. I would absolutely love to see more female “makers” and I commend any efforts people in the NY tech community and elsewhere put forth towards this goal. But there is one thing I would also like to bring up as a marketing/strategy person. When working with early stage companies, in my experience, input from people filling the type of role I fill often can have an effect on the “make” of the product. Or at least that’s the kind of role I enjoy being in the most. Charlie is absolutely right–sales is a craft to be perfected–but it’s also a specific one. And it differs greatly from a more strategically focused marketing role. So, while I agree with your thesis that we would all benefit from more female “makers,” I also feel that it’s worth considering that looking only at the titles of women on certain teams may not show the full picture. The titles I’ve held may not suggest it, but in many of my roles I have interacted closely with the product team, and recently I’ve been very involved with a redesign process, because a marketing/strategic perspective is important to the project’s success. My point is just to clarify for some people out there that the line between “makers” and “non-makers” can be blurry–and that’s not a bad thing! We learn a lot from each other and it’s part of what I love about my work.

        2. I don’t think you were demeaning the importance of marketing and sales. But I do think that the SAI item on your post (though, as you referenced on Twitter, they did not cite you) passes this judgment call. Here’s the quote, which I find unsettling:

        “Of course the “makers” are the most important people at startups, those who make most of the difference and end up CEO if they aren’t already.”

        The author of the post also describes marketing as a “support” role, which I don’t really understand. Perhaps this is a semantic debate, but I think it’s worth noting. As far as I’m concerned, on a four or five person team at an early stage company, everyone is important, and the distinction of “most” important seems empirically difficult to assess or prove.

        So while I agree with the main tenets of your post, and as a marketing/strategy person did not take offense, I did find that moment in the SAI item rather nearsighted and dismissive of the work that I, and many other people in the NYC tech community, are taking on. So, those coming into this discussion via other people’s rephrasing of your argument may get this sense as well, which is unfortunate. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

      • http://twitter.com/annalindow Anna

        Whitney,

        Thanks for this post and for getting such a lively discussion going. A couple of things:

        1. I totally agree that we have an issue on our hands. I would absolutely love to see more female “makers” and I commend any efforts people in the NY tech community and elsewhere put forth towards this goal. But there is one thing I would also like to bring up as a marketing/strategy person. When working with early stage companies, in my experience, input from people filling the type of role I fill often can have an effect on the “make” of the product. Or at least that’s the kind of role I enjoy being in the most. Charlie is absolutely right–sales is a craft to be perfected–but it’s also a specific one. And it differs greatly from a more strategically focused marketing role. So, while I agree with your thesis that we would all benefit from more female “makers,” I also feel that it’s worth considering that looking only at the titles of women on certain teams may not show the full picture. The titles I’ve held may not suggest it, but in many of my roles I have interacted closely with the product team, and recently I’ve been very involved with a redesign process, because a marketing/strategic perspective is important to the project’s success. My point is just to clarify for some people out there that the line between “makers” and “non-makers” can be blurry–and that’s not a bad thing! We learn a lot from each other and it’s part of what I love about my work.

        2. I don’t think you were demeaning the importance of marketing and sales. But I do think that the SAI item on your post (though, as you referenced on Twitter, they did not cite you) passes this judgment call. Here’s the quote, which I find unsettling:

        “Of course the “makers” are the most important people at startups, those who make most of the difference and end up CEO if they aren’t already.”

        The author of the post also describes marketing as a “support” role, which I don’t really understand. Perhaps this is a semantic debate, but I think it’s worth noting. As far as I’m concerned, on a four or five person team at an early stage company, everyone is important, and the distinction of “most” important seems empirically difficult to assess or prove.

        So while I agree with the main tenets of your post, and as a marketing/strategy person did not take offense, I did find that moment in the SAI item rather nearsighted and dismissive of the work that I, and many other people in the NYC tech community, are taking on. So, those coming into this discussion via other people’s rephrasing of your argument may get this sense as well, which is unfortunate. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

        -Anna

        • http://www.ifwerantheworld.com Cindy Gallop

          Anna – very good point.

          My background is 25 years in marketing, advertising and brandbuilding, 16 of which I spent at global ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty. I’m in New York because I moved here in 1998 to start up the US office of BBH from scratch – it began as literally me in a room with a phone, starting up an ad agency in the world’s toughest advertising marketplace. Yes, marketers can be ‘makers’ and CEOs too.

          I sit, and have sat, as a non-exec board advisor to a number of tech-driven startups – predominantly startups who have what I believe to be a strong tech-driven proposition, but where the founders, because they come from a tech background, have no idea how to position, brand,market and merchandize their product, in a way that will engage their target audiences emotionally, in a way that will make that product highly compelling and desirable, in a way that will make them bucketloads of money.

          That’s the thinking I bring to the table on their board. It’s what you and everyone else working in marketing in tech does, that is massively undervalued across the board.

          (It’s also why I would make a very good addition to the board of any one of those zero-women boards that Kara Swisher cited, but why I, with a non-tech background, would never even be considered because what I do in this context is not valued as it should be, even though the startup founders I mentor and advise and the few people who have hired me as a consultant in this area and seen what I can do for them in terms of highly innovative, groundbreaking and transformative marketing thinking and execution, would absolutely testify to my value.)

          I operate at the interface of marketing creativity and technology. That interface has barely begun to be leveraged in the way that it could be.

          This is a whole different discussion, but more tech startups need to understand it’s not just what you do, it’s the way that you do it – and how you brand, market and present it to ALL your different audiences (marketing is as much about how you blow the socks off every VC/investor you present to) – that can get you to where you want to be.

  • http://blog.vanessahurst.com Vanessa

    Thanks for compiling this, Whitney! I’d like to add (with the benefit of insider knowledge)

    PAPERLESS POST
    Women Employed: 13/27
    Women’s Positions: Co-Founder & CEO; Business Strategy; Marketing; Database & Analytics; User Experience; Product Manager; QAs (who deploy code)
    Location: New York City

    I’m a database engineer and back-end developer and it certainly affected my decision that Paperless Post has a brilliant team of men and women, and specifically brilliant women leaders. I’ve worked in plenty of overwhelmingly male environments and the majority of my friends and colleagues are male, but I believe (based on research and experience) that diversity begets innovation, so I look for it in teams I join. It’s unlikely I would have joined an all-female company for the same reasons.

    As for startups, It’s always going to be hard for a starting team, with 4 people for example, to get the broad range of skill sets they need and think of all the other important elements of diversity as well. The only way to improve the dynamic over time is for them to cast a wider net in finding people and for the women and minorities that do come through the pipeline to be as visible as they are comfortable with.

  • http://www.techgirlz.org Tracey Welson-Rossman

    Hi, Whitney,

    Thank you for the analysis. As I have been working in the IT industry for the last 10 years as one of the marketing and sales lead, I am living your statistics on a daily basis.

    A group of us did some analysis as to why there are so few women on the development side. We discovered girls were self-selecting out of IT possibilities as early as 9th grade.

    We decide to try and help change the situation by starting an organization which will enable girls starting in 7th grade to embrace the power of technology.

    TechGirlz.Org is currently offering programming aimed at middle schoolers so they can understand the different facets of tech and how they can use it.

    Email me if you would like to learn more about our approach.

  • http://abangupjob.tumblr.com Chrysanthe Tenentes

    Foursquare has had 8 women for some time now, including our Technical Product Manager, a former Google Engineer herself!

    As someone who has worked in the NYC startup community for several years now, I’ve always thought that women were much better represented at startups and tech companies here than in SF. I’d love to see more female execs in Silicon Alley, though!

    Oh, and we’re actively recruiting: http://foursquare.com/jobs.

    Chrysanthe
    Community Manager, foursquare.com

  • http://homingcloud.com Tina Fine

    I attended graduate school in Economics, surrounded by mostly men. I started up homingCloud.com, a site not focused on women, although most people think it is about decorating when I introduce myself as founder and CEO. Having more women enter men dominated fields starts at home, with mom and dad encouraging their daughters from a young age. My daughter is at engineering at Columbia. She was good at math and science, and I made sure she stuck with it. But when consider the fact that I made it to DEMO, that is a good sign that ideas will rule no matter what gender or age thinks them up. You forgot to add me to your list of female founders, but I guess a company of 1 is not a start-up?

  • http://www.energyhub.com Michele Tepper

    I’m not at an Internet startup, I’m the creative director at a green-tech startup in Brooklyn called EnergyHub. I am not comfortable getting too into listing out employees and roles (we only have senior mgmt on the website), but for what it’s worth, all of our biz-dev and marketing team (sellers) are currently male, while my design team is 2/3 female, and we have women in programming and a female QA lead.

  • Martha Orloci

    Excellent post Whitney.

  • http://www.brittanylaughlin.com Brittany Laughlin

    Great post Whitney!

    I think companies, especially startups, need to hire the best person they can find for the position. I think male or female should not make a difference. I think what will make a difference is having more women educated in Computer Science and Technical roles. I love what Girl Develop IT is doing to break down barriers for women who want to learn to code.

    I do think more needs to be done at younger level to really change the tech industry down the road. Computer Science Barbie is a start. I also love what the Wii, iPhone/iPod/iPad and NintendoDS have done. By putting more gender neutral technology in front of girls they’re getting more comfortable with technology from the start. (I know it’s a stereotype but I think most young girls would rather play a multi-player adventure game than a single player kills all game).

    As a woman already started in my career, and the female co-founding half of gtrot, I like seeing other women in the field. There are so many women in tech that have made my experience easier and I’m pretty confident all of this discussion of ‘women in tech’ will make more women step out, more women get interested in the field and more fathers & mothers telling their daughters to at least consider technology as a career.

    On another note, I think Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Google are great women to look up to. What’s even better, Vogue’s piece this spring on Sandberg is putting female leadership on the pedestal to a huge audience. Make leading tech women mainstream and more will want to get in.

    Thank you! Just by posting this I’ve learned about more startups, more women founders and more people I want to connect with.

    • http://www.thinkexperience.com Kelley Boyd

      Hey Brittany,

      Of course the best person for the job is the one you should hire. The #fail is way before that when women who could be great at a profession/job do not put themselves out there to be considered. That is what Clay Shirky was talking about when he noticed (and wrote about) the difference in the way women and men present themselves in recommendation letters. So if you extrapolate that to presenting for consideration for a job it is not a stretch that women will likely not “show up” as well as men when competing for a job. I think that is why there are jobs that are traditionally held by women. They are jobs the men (for the most part) don’t want. In technology they are marketing jobs and HR. If men wanted those jobs, I am pretty sure more would have them. And I am not even saying that is a bad thing, just sayin’.

      So IMO, it is not even addressable in our education system (STEM; though it isn’t going to hurt to impress upon ALL students how awesome it is to make stuff) it is a socialization issue. If that is the case, the solution is societal.

      Is it possible to groom women to feel comfortable raising their hands, having more confidence in all their answers (not just math) and speaking up even when they are wrong? The reality is that behavior makes a person vulnerable. Vulnerable because then people know what you think, and then more people may not like what you think, and then some may not like you. That is more of a struggle for (some) women than for (some) men.

      I think that is leadership. Being able to withstand the judgement of others who think you should just be quiet because nobody wants to hear what you think. Many times an idea that doesn’t stick, leads to one that does. You can’t take the fact that your idea is not the best idea right out of the gate personally.

      I think leadership can be learned with information, practice, support and guidance. That is mentorship. There should be somewhere for entrepreneurs to get those things.

  • http://cestlaz.blogspot.com Michael Zamansky

    I’m a little late to the party, but here goes.

    As a long time high school educator, I’m looking at the problem from a
    different side.

    I think the most important thing that can be done to address the gender balance problem is to give young ladies an early and meaningful introduction to technical studies.

    These days, youngsters are being pushed down particular education paths earlier and earlier. Part of this is due to the current popular paradigms such as the small school and the “early college” model. I’m not sold on either of these.

    Regardless of how a school is structured, our youngsters go through high school being encouraged to study history by their history teachers, biology by there bio teachers, etc.. Computer science is generally unrepresented and when it is present, it’s frequently either an elective which will only reach those already interested in the subject or it’s taught as a straight programming course rather than what I view as an appropriate first year high school CS course. By the time young ladies get to college, technology just isn’t on their radar.

    I’ve spent the better part of my 20+ years in education working on developing high school CS education. When I started teaching at Stuyvesant High School in the early nineties, there was a Tremendous gender gap in our CS courses (there were also very few courses). Since then I’ve grown the program and even managed to put in place a required half year 10th grade course.

    This course has made a huge difference. Since it’s creation, while we haven’t reached a true gender balance in our advanced courses, the number of young ladies who have enrolled in A.P. computer science and beyond has gone up significantly.

    Every year, I have a number of young ladies tell me that they are planning on studying CS in college and the reason was our intro course. Prior to that course they had no knowledge of and no interest in the field.

    We’ve still a long way to go, but having a well designed, well taught course as part of our school’s graduation requirements has done more
    than drop in program, guest lectures, or anything else I’ve seen done.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think I can make any more progress at Stuyvesant for a number of reasons and I don’t have the administrative support to bring the program to other schools.

    Hopefully my current venture will change this. Currently I’m working on convincing the city to allow me to create a new school that will integrate CS and Info technology into the curriculum. Part of it’s mission will be to bring it’s programs to other schools in the city. It’s a long term project, and selling the city on something that makes so much sense is always a long shot, but if it goes through, it could make a major difference in terms of women going into technical
    fields as well as in getting more of our best overall talent, male and female, pursuing technology.

  • Martha Orloci

    I must agree with Michael about there being a need to make changes in high school curriculum to entice more girls into CS and related technical studies. It needs to become more relevant to girls and their way of thinking.
    I was in the first CS class in my high school and at that time (yikes 1982) there were only 2 girls in the class all of us using Apple 2E s. Neither of us went on to technical studies in CS although both of us continued in science. As I recall we both found CS uninteresting for whatever reason that was.
    I now look at my two teen aged daughters, one of whom is in the gifted program, the other who is very intelligent in her own right, and I note that while both love and excel in maths and sciences, neither is drawn to CS courses. Both use the technology, neither is interested in designing it.
    When I ask them why they have no specific answer other than it simply holds no interest for them. I cannot attribute their lack of interest to anything other than preference. They have positive role models at home, my husband being a tech geek, I a writer and former community manager. How can we change fundamental interests of people?
    It has been a question long struggled with – why are there more men in pure maths and physics?
    Thanks for bringing this up Whitney. It is certainly worth considering and frankly, worth asking women why they aren’t in the field.

  • http://hashable.com Emily Hickey

    Hi Whitney – always a great topic to consider and bring to the surface, although not one I typically weigh in on – but someone has asked me to weigh in here, and since I’ve been indirectly cited in the piece, also personally feel the need to correct a perception related to myself. In general, I don’t understand why it isn’t a broader perception that women make great product managers. My title at Hashable is CMO for various reasons but the reality is I’m a co-founder and my primary role there is product and will likely continue to be for the near-future. I was VP of Products at HotJobs where I built and ran the product team, which include a couple of very talented women – from that point forward I’ve always thought women made great product people. The head of Product at Google is a woman. I just referred a great woman to be the first product hire at a very legit stealth start-up here in NYC. Summer Bedard is head of product at Stickbits. A lot of women have their hands on product on the west coast, who I knew at Stanford. You also are an example of this. At any rate, my 2 cents that I think women are v strong in product roles – and this should be a perception that is noted and promoted.

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  • http://www.gmdesign.es Gema

    I’m surprised to see that happen outside my country as well as inside. When I started my work how web designer there were many fewer women are now working on my profile or similar profiles such as the programmation. Many of these companions told me that once they entered the university for study programmation, the proportion of girls was much lower than that of students, classes of 100 people where only 4 or 5 were women. If this happened 5 or 6 years ago is normal to leave the labor market was much lower proportion. With this open another debate that is not why there are fewer women employed in technology companies but why we women are more interested in careers in media such as advertising or journalism, where in the last three years the 90% of students are female.

  • http://rachelnabors.com Rachel Nabors

    Most of the women I know are either designers or marketers. There are a few freelance jack-of-all-trades. In my area, I only know two hard-core female developers who never touch design or marketing.

    The ratio then is something like 1 professional female developer for every 20 in this line of work.

    I don’t know if it’s because women are discouraged from disinterested in pursuing this career path or if it’s because there’s some underlying stigma to being a female developer.

    One other disturbing trend I’ve noticed: There are no black web designers/developers in my area, yet there’s an even mix of races present. I wonder if these are linked? It seems the industry at present is dominated by young white males.

    Now I’ve gone and depressed myself.

    • http://www.ifwerantheworld.com Cindy Gallop

      Rachel – don’t be depressed.

      You’re quite right in your observations. I spoke (with some vehemence) on a GirlsinTech panel last year about the experience of being a female tech startup founder; a young African-American guy came up to me afterwards to say that he completely empathized, and that everything I’d said about being a woman applied to his own experience of being black in the tech world.

      But we are working on changing all of this. And we will overcome. :)

  • http://experiencerethink.com Brian Regienczuk

    Great article! I would love to see more women involved in start-ups.

    -Brian

    • http://www.ifwerantheworld.com Cindy Gallop

      Brian, I like you already :)

  • http://dagnyprieto.com Dagny Prieto

    I think the reality that everyone is glossing over here is that people who work in VC and startups in NYC and SF are a very small privileged minority.

    They’re primarily white, upper middle class, between 22 and 35, educated at a top school, and male. They are, in general, people who can afford to take risks because life will continue to be good even if they fail. They are people who don’t need to have “respectable” jobs because their gender and social class confer respectability on them.

    Obviously, this isn’t true for most people. It’s not true for most minorities, and it’s less true for women than it is for men.

    This plus institutional sexism plus the lack of structured health benefits at startups equals fewer women at startups. (Want paid maternity leave? Subsidized child care? You probably won’t get it at a startup.)

    It’s not an easy problem to solve.

    PS The thing about “not enough women with CS degrees” is sort of BS. That only explains why there aren’t more women on the dev team. I know very few product people, male or female, who have CS degrees.

  • http://www.nuritperes.com Nurit

    As usual a great post, but this time so very important as well!
    I still remember how disappointed I was when I read your ‘I’m not a woman blogger’ post a couple of years ago. I think over the years there is no way to avoid these issues.
    I would like to add the issue of women dropping out of tech positions… this may be less evident in startups though. I had a few tech woman friends when I started my career, most of them found other career paths, as it is not an easy choice for women. I think it is changing, at least around here, but very slow, so we definitely need more talented writers.
    -Nurit

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