A Breakfast with Smart Women Leaders

Last week I attended SAP’s premier customer event in Orlando – Sapphire Now. It is a feast of presentations, discussions, forums and workshops. There are keynote sessions, luncheons, chance meetings and conference floor demonstrations – and around 50,000 people in three locations – Orlando, Frankfurt and online via the SapphireNow virtual conference platform. As with most conferences, it is not always about the mainstage. For example, SAP ran a Women’s Executive Leadership Breakfast event where attendees were treated to a conversation with Jeanne Ross, the director of MIT Sloan School’s Center for Information Systems Research. Tara Degler writes that rather than leading in with a raft of presentation slides, Jeanne shared her story – leaving the audience with three important actionable insights: Work smarter – It is one thing to be busy – but quite another to be “productive.” When you multiply this across your organization, the effect can be profound. Empower your people – Make sure that each and every role in your business is professionalized. Provide the structure to help make your teams successful and give them the power to achieve. Create the space for unlearning – Old habits die hard, so when you want to transform your business and they way that people work, remember that it takes time to unlearn. But how do you apply this thinking to your own situation? Are you working smarter? Are you empowering yourself? Are you able to unlearn? Take a look at this brief interview with Shari Temple from Aidmatrix where she talks about the challenges of finding a mentor. While things have changed over the last 20 years,...

Wanted: More Women in Business and Technology

I have written many times in the past on the subject of wanting more women in technology roles – or in the wider field of business. This is not just a favorite topic of mine – it has dramatic ramifications for every business, large and small. As Claire Cain Miller reports in the New York Times, there are clear correlations between having women on the board of a corporation and out-performing your competition: In a study analyzing the relationship between the composition of corporate boards and financial performance, Catalyst, a research organization on women and business, found a greater return on investment, equity and sales in IT companies that have directors who are women. But this issue is not so simply solved. It is not a question of talent – for there are certainly many gifted and driven women entrepreneurs. The problem is supply. From my own experience, for every job that I advertise, the number of women applying seems to fall. So while the skill base of women continues to grow – capturing around 60% of associate, bachelor and masters degrees, these numbers don’t translate to a ready pool of women business leaders. Certainly not in contrast to the numbers of men. It can’t be just me noticing this. I have a feeling that the problem is not one of capability – but one of visibility. We need to trumpet our successes. We need to showcase our expertise. And perhaps, most importantly, we need to encourage others to do the same. Nina Nets It Out: When it comes to women leaders, we need to feed both ends of...

Honoring Massy Mehdipour this Ava Lovelace Day

Ada Byron, also known as Ada Lovelace was born in 1815. The daughter of the famous poet, Lord Byron, applied her naturally creative mind to the study of mathematics – attempting to put the science of mathematics and technology into an “appropriate human context” (you can read more about Ada here). Today is Ada Lovelace Day – and in celebration of this remarkable woman, my colleague Marilyn Pratt is encouraging people to share their stories of other remarkable women. As part of the Ada Lovelace Day Blog Heroine series, I would like to honor Massy Mehdipour. Founder and CEO of Skire, a construction and software business, Massy has shown the tenacity, imagination and passion to make her business successful. Along the way she has helped build and nurture the careers of dozens of her employees and become an integral part of the way that many Fortune 1000 companies manage their large scale construction projects. Like Ada, Massy’s mathematical skills opened the door way to opportunity. She moved to Canada from Iran at age 18 to study at McGill University. From there she went to UC Berkeley to attend graduate school. But it’s not just her background or her experience that makes Massy inspirational. It’s her passion. I have been fortunate to have met with Massy on a number of occasions and met her for lunch recently. When she speaks of her life and her experience – of the way that she focuses on people, their expertise and their abilities – it is clear that she not only inspires trust but also confidence. She drives business from what could be...

Getting Active for International Women’s Day

On this day, ninety-nine years ago, the first International Women’s Day was declared. And yet, almost a century on, women and girls continue to struggle on many fronts. There is inequality, discrimination, violence, poverty and exploitation – that particularly affects women and girls across the world – and even here at home. We don’t have to travel far from our homes to see it in action. But if we have learned anything from the last century, it is this – that change is possible. As Ann Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director points out: Education is one key to better lives for girls, their families and their communities. Expert studies estimate that every extra year a girl spends in secondary education lifts her income by more than 15 per cent. Better educated girls have better employment and health prospects and, as they grow to womanhood, they pass these benefits to their children. I have been a strong believer in the power of education for years. As a member of the board of Reading Partners, I see the benefits first hand. I see the benefits in my community, and as a business woman, in the intelligent, educated young women who are starting their careers. But most of all, I see the benefits that education brings these young girls and their families. At Reading Partners, we see (on average) students jump an entire grade level in reading skills after only 30 hours of tutoring. The impact of this is immediate and lasting. It changes the students perspectives of themselves, and it changes that way that they relate to the world, their families and...
Women to Drive High Tech Growth

Women to Drive High Tech Growth

It seems that the global financial crisis is prompting a wide-ranging re-think on the role of women in leadership. The Shriver Report indicated that, in total, the US working populations are balancing out – with women now comprising 50% of the total for the first time ever. Yet, as Vivek Wadhwa points out, “There are too few women running high-tech companies; that’s too bad, considering evidence shows female-led businesses outperform those run by men.” But rather than waiting for the structural impact of women’s workforce participation to take effect at senior levels, women are, instead, taking matters into their own hands. Support networks and groups are being formed such as Women 2.0, Young Women Social Entrepreneurs and the Blogher network – complete with mentoring opportunities, professional networking events and conferences – and all this effort is now beginning to bear fruit. Research by Cindy Padnos, managing director of Illuminate Ventures, indicates that the performance of women in the enterprise – especially in startup businesses – has significant benefits. Not only are the high-tech companies that  women build more capital-efficient than the norm (with higher revenues and less committed capital), there are fewer failures: As the global economy regenerates, new business models are needed to stimulate economic and job growth. Investors seeking to reinvigorate bottom-line performance and to favorably impact the entrepreneurial strength of our economy would be wise to support strategies that enable high-tech start-ups that are inclusive of women entrepreneurs. But what it the opportunity for leaders? First, we need to acknowledge that we are not facing a recession – but a reset (as John Hope Bryant suggests)....

Understanding the Two Percenters

Last year’s Shriver Report (which I discussed here), noted the transformations that have taken place regarding women’s participation in the workforce. This is reinforced in a recent article in The Economist, which suggests that the “rich world’s quiet revolution” is written in the words, voices and actions of economically empowered women. Just a generation ago, women were largely confined to repetitive, menial jobs. They were routinely subjected to casual sexism and were expected to abandon their careers when they married and had children. Today they are running some of the organisations that once treated them as second-class citizens. However, the number of women who are actually running or leading these organizations are few and far between. Despite a resounding correlation between business performance and the number of women holding management and leadership positions, women remain substantially under-represented in such roles – with only 2% of the top jobs in the US and 5% in the UK being filled by women. Orit Gadiesh and Julie Coffman wonder if there is something more systemic to this situation and are running a survey to investigate. You can participate in this survey here – with the results being presented at this year’s World Economic Forum at the end of January 2010. Nina Nets It Out: In a time where expertise and experience is prized – where talent is scarce and will continue to be so, organizations with a pool of talented women will likely outperform their competitors. It’s time that we understand and begin to grow this vital two...