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...

Are We a Woman’s Nation?

When we look at the facts and figures it seems clear that women are not just transforming the workplace, they are transforming the entire country. The recent Shriver Report indicates that for the first time, half of US workers are female – and in 40% of American families those women are the primary breadwinners. With more and more men forced to stay home, more and more women are bringing home the bacon. Women are more likely than ever to head their own families. They’re doing it all—and many of them have to do it all. When they work, it’s no longer just for “the little extras.” Their income puts food on the table and a roof over their heads, just like men’s income always did. Even a quick glance at the Shriver Report signals the widespread changes that have occurred in just a generation. Between 1975 and 2008, the “traditional” family structure (a working husband only) has more than halved, from 52% to 21%. This has impacted families and women in particular in a myriad of ways – generating political, policy and organizational challenges around flexible working hours, child care, opportunity, equal pay and family care. At the same time, it is clear that women are reaping the benefits of education – women now receive 62% of college associate’s degrees, 57% of bachelor’s degrees, 60% of all masters degrees, half of all professional degrees and just under 50% of all PhDs – a stunning turnaround since 1970, especially at the upper end where women received fewer than 10% of professional and doctoral degrees. Yet despite these indicators, and despite...

Which Women Make Your Top 50 Thinkers List?

Last year I was predictably disappointed by the small number of women representatives on the Thinkers 50 list. I felt that we really needed to add more women to the Top 50 thinkers list. This year, Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove have included FIVE women – up from four – with Renee Mauborgne, co-author of the best-selling management book Blue Ocean Strategy, ranking with W Chan Kim at number 5. Both Lynda Gratton of London Business School and Rosabeth Moss Kanter edge up a place in the rankings, and Tammy Erickson and Barbara Kellerman enter the list for the first time. But surely there are more women out there that you admire. I know there are some impressive women on my personal admiration list. What’s yours? Who would you add – and why? Nina Nets It Out: Last year I hoped to see more women on the Top 50 Thinkers list. I got my wish – but only just. Who else would you add? Let me know – and remember you can also VOTE for your favorite Top 50 Thinker (or add a new name to the list for next...