The Fuss over Women
It’s amazing that in 2012 we’re still asking, “Where are the women?” Whether we’re referring to founders of venture backed startups (8% in 2010) or Board directors for Fortune 500 companies (16% in 2011), there just aren’t that many. Thirty years ago, the few women in my business school class would have predicted a much different outcome by now, especially if they’d known just how many women would be educated to join the ranks of the professional business class over the intervening years.
Explaining why was easier when we all just assumed that women weren’t equally represented because they were discriminated against. But that wasn’t my experience nor does it seem to have been the experience of my B-school classmates.
The tougher reality, and one that can’t be changed by legislation, is that the already demanding roles that women serve become much more complex once children and family are added to their lives. We all know lots of women who have given up careers to be the primary care giver for their families. And we know some who have been able to “do it all” – pursue a successful career and have a family – because they have the support of someone else at home. Talk to any of these women and they’ll tell you how hard it is to make these choices and manage the consequences. But we make them every day.
One reason professional women love to get together is to share these stories. There’s no “poor me” in it, just women being women. We tend to talk openly with other women about all aspects of our lives. It’s liberating to have conversations that can switch back and forth from business to personal with no self-conscious correction of “that’s enough.” Like any group, when we can share stories from a deep mutual starting place that doesn’t have to be explained or monitored it enhances learning — inspired learning.
Market demand proves it. The response to both Startup Weekend for Women (which sold out in a blink) and the WTIA’s quarterly Executive Women in Tech series (which brings together70 women at the VP level and up in technology companies) demonstrates that sometimes women want to short-circuit the mixed networking process and trade insights from a common perspective. This is human nature at work.
I relish these gatherings because the energy is tremendous. And judging by the enthusiasm for the Startup Weekend for Women event, I’m not the only one. If you’ve been to a Startup Weekend you know how exciting they are. I can only imagine what the atmosphere will be like with a majority of women — it will be an event like no other.
The fuss over women is still an active conversation because although the world has changed dramatically in the last three decades, the challenges of human nature have not. But while things evolve at their own rate, we can always help them along. When women gather to share their experiences doing everything from building start-ups to running huge public companies, it creates value for everyone. Let’s encourage it.