There is a great disparity in the number of women in technology and C-level positions; and the numbers don’t lie. From the board room to the cap tables, men are dominating in certain roles, while equally qualified women are given a back seat. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, “most Americans say women are about equal to men when it comes to key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, yet women still make up a small share of top leadership jobs.”
Today is International Women’s Day, and a perfect time to take stock of the problem, and do something to evoke change. Instead of just talking about fixing the problem, organizations like Alpha Edison (http://www.alphaedison.com/) are taking specific action. By creating the #StartWithEight initiative which begins today, they have challenged people to go outside their pre-existing networks and meet with 8 women in the month of March. In doing so, participants are broadening their horizons, and looking at ways women can bring fresh ideas, and fresh minds, to the table.
Start With Eight works like any other initiative. There is an “ask” and a “reply”. In this case, the program “asks” people in senior roles to speak with their mentors and their networks to identify and recommend eight women to meet with in the month of March. Once these meetings are completed, the initiative requests that the meetings are shared on social media with the hashtag #StartWithEight. Postings should recommend people for roles and positions, understanding that the ultimate long-term goal is to the decrease the amount of inequality found in the workplace.
Because we know that diversity in technology and other related verticals isn’t a talent or pipeline issue, it is sometimes much harder to understand. It has been studied time and time again, and according to the Center For American Progress, “women make up a majority of the U.S. population, and yet, although they hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, American women lag behind men when it comes to their representation in leadership positions.” In other words, the greatest inequality is found in the C-Suite and the Partnership Track.
While the past few decades have brought progress for women in top roles, and the gender gap has narrowed a bit, the divide is still too great. According to the Center For American Progress, progress has been uneven and is actually slowing, as women filling senior roles continues to fall short of matching the success of their male counterparts.
Start With Eight aims to counterbalance these challenges, by encouraging women to come forward and proffer their enthusiasm, ingenuity, and professional expertise to organizations which, in attempting to look for their best candidate, may not have contacted them in the past. With only 2 percent of venture capital funding going to female founders, Start With Eight is just the beginning. And it doesn’t have to end here…it’s a program designed to help reduce the disparity over time. While it isn’t about specific positions themselves, it is about recognizing the gap and helping to find ways to fill it. This really can all be summed up according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. In the study it is noted that, “most Americans say women are about equal to men when it comes to key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, yet women still make up a small share of top leadership jobs.”