Monday, August 16, 2010

Those Rose Coloured Glasses Aren't What You Think They Are

One of the best things I've done in my tech career is to respect the importance of 'The Old Girl's Club'. Honestly, it's nice to have a circle of trusted female friends in the tech business who gets the world you live in, and with whom you can share a glass of wine and a laugh on the road as easily as debate an acquisition or analyst report.

Over the last couple of months I've been lucky to connect with a few ex-colleagues, thankful that between family and work and travel pressures we can find an evening to unwind and catch up.

So why have these last few encounters left me feeling so agitated and frustrated over the prospects of these dear friends? It's because some companies are toxic to female ambition. Anecdotes take on the power of reality when pooled. When story after story of stalled promotions and broken career promises all sound exactly the same, there is more than coincidence at play.

From what I hear anecdotally, can it really be true that an enterprise software company has less than 2% female representation at the VP or above layer? I'm curious to find more industry stats on this... so please pass them along. I think we are ripe for a little transparency in this area.

Some info that was shared with me this afternoon:

In Silicon Valley companies, men and women in technical careers are equally likely to hold mid-level jobs, but men are 2.7 times more likely than women to be promoted to a high-ranking tech jobs such as vice president of engineering, or senior engineering manager - from 2009 survey

According to the U.S.-based National Center for Women in Technology, 41 per cent of women leave technology companies after 10 years of experience, compared to only 17 per cent of men; 56 per cent of women leave at the mid-level point. If current trends continue, NCWIT says, by 2016 the information technology industry will be able to fill only half of its available jobs. ITWorldCanada article 2010

Why do I care? Because companies that lip-synch commitment to diversity and innovation need to own up to their lack of execution. Because the women who feel stuck and trapped need to figure out a way out or up and remember that there's a whole other world out there. Because in this world of tech that values communication, new modes of collaboration and an embrace of trusted personal communication via social media, new skills need to rise to the top of the food chain.

After the latest such dinner I tweeted my frustration.... That glass ceiling is pink for a reason. It's stained with the bloody cracked skulls of all the women who have been bashed against it. And then just gave up and left.