Women and Tech – a match not made in heaven?

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Disclaimer – I have a few friends in good positions in large scale tech organisations.

I read some interesting stats at dreamhost.com

Step inside any office, and it’s easy to see that most aren’t staffed to be gender equal. Want some more dismal data on the disparity?

  • Only 25 percent of computing jobs are held by women. This is a number that has been on a steady decline for years.
  • The turnover rate is more than twice as high for women than it is for men in tech industry jobs — 41 percent versus 17 percent. Fifty-six percent of women in tech are leaving their employers mid-career. Of the women who leave, 24 percent off-ramp and take a non-technical job in a different company; 22 percent become self-employed in a tech field, 20 percent take time out of the workforce, and 10 percent go to work with a startup company.
  •  From 1980 to 2010, 88 percent of all information technology patents were by male-only invention teams, while 2 percent were by female-only invention teams. So essentially, the technology being created for a widely varying and diverse population is formed by a generally homogeneous group. Not ideal.
  • 12 percent of engineers at Silicon Valley startups are women. Only 11 percent of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies are held by women.

Women are being passed over at the top too. Only 5 percent of leadership positions in the tech sector are held by women; they make up only 7 percent of partners at top 100 venture capital firms. And their growth is delayed: More than 30 percent of women over the age of 35 are still in junior positions. In fact, women are far more likely to be in junior positions than men — regardless of age.

When I came back from USA and started my own business back in 2011, in a Tier 2 city, I got myself attached to a women entrepreneurs group. I wanted to be in the company of like minded women. I started attending the women entrepreneurship forums, where they discussed business with tea coffee and snacks.

As far I can remember, there were women who were in herbal life business, herbal products business, Amway business, bakery business, schooling business, clothing business, shares business and even though I had a tech background, I had decided to venture into the handbags business.

Over period of time I developed good friendship with 3-4 of them. Those days, Alibaba.com was getting introduced in the Indian market. I threw in the idea of 4 of us investing in alibaba.com and start exporting Indian made goods. Three of them invested 30 k each and I invested 15k + my infrastructure (office, phone lines, internet etc).

One of them was supposed to do the sourcing (finding vendors who had export quality products), another was supposed to look into the finances, one was supposed to be the negotiator between the vendor and the buyer and I was supposed to find leads on alibaba.com and complete the sales process if it happened (unfortunately none happened).

Now that I look back, none of the other three partners understood the business model I proposed back then, even though I had given an overview. From their perspective I was supposed to do all three tasks myself, bring the lead, find the Indian vendors for the product and complete the sale process after negotiating with both. (Relationships can be tricky.)

Well, to proceed the story further, I started to get many good leads from Alibaba.com but I could not multitask and form relationships with Indian vendors and therefore wasn’t able to complete the sales cycle. So I started calling these other women entrepreneurs to come up for meetings and discuss future course of action.

When one of them showed up, ( 40+ year entrepreneur with huge experience of working with variety of people and selling Amway products), I asked her to look into the leads online by logging onto the alibaba account and try sourcing those products within India.

One could say that the whole business model was flawed but I want to bring your attention to women and tech. When I asked my fellow partner to login to alibaba.com, she started crying. I had looked upto her as a very successful entrepreneur and negotiator (she could no complex calculations in her head without a calculator) but when she started crying, I was taken aback. Not that I judged her for not being computer savvy but I realised how THREATENED a computer made her feel. She was able to use the smart phone very easily but when it came to logging on to a website for conducting business, it scared her.

She said to me that she had an intention of learning but fear gripped her every time she got to it. We all have our vulnerabilities and when we are exposed to a slightest signal of going in that direction, we break down.

For me, starting the new eLearning business has been the same. It froze me sometime, so much so that even doing my normal chores was impossible at times. When we get into entrepreneurship, it is a RISK that very few take and we expose ourselves to our own demons that we promised to keep buried forever.

When we are employed, these demons don’t show up, infact, we find more and more reasons to feel good about ourselves.

But, NO PAIN NO GAIN. To grow in life we cannot avoid taking RISKS and on the other side of RISKS is a DREAM LIFE that only a handful will live.

My desire to live that dream life far exceed my fears that paralyse me at times.

Not just women, I have also seen men get paralysed with he thought of technology. Many business owners outsource their technical portions to other companies and pay huge amount for it and still stay DEPENDENT on them.

But TECH is a friend just like Facebook is. It has been reaching out to you forever. Its now time for you to reach out to it, make friendship with it and embrace it.

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