Sunday, 8 March 2015

Happy IWD 2015 - ditch the booth babes and let in the geek girls

Happy International Women's Day! Or maybe not.

Consumer Electronics Show, 2012

A recent report by US law firm, Fenwick & West, shows that just 11 per cent of executive positions in Silicon Valley are held by women – and just 9 per cent of executive officers are female.

The report compares Silicon Valley companies with the S&P 100 where women comprise 16 per cent executive roles.

Female board members comprise 15.7 per cent of the total in tech firms compared to 20.9 per cent of S&P 100 companies.

While it has been acknowledged for at least a decade that in the west generally there is a dearth of women in technology, it was only last year when Google's head of human resources, Laszlo Bock, publicised the search giant's diversity figures in a blog that the true picture emerged. Only 30 per cent of Googlers are women and just 17 per cent of those in tech roles.

Google isn't alone. Last summer Apple released diversity figures for its employees worldwide and again just 30 per cent were women and only 20 per cent of its technical workforce.

Facebook, you might think, with its COO Sheryl Sandberg such an outspoken champion of the cause, must put on a better showing. You'd be wrong. Just 31 per cent of its employees are women, according to the latest statistics released last June. Men occupy 85 per cent of its technical roles.

Each of these companies expresses deep corporate disappointment and each of them has programmes targeted at improving the situation. This January the chief executive of chip maker Intel, Brian Krzanich, announced the company would be investing $300m to increase workplace diversity.

Bernadette Andrietti, Intel's VP for sales and marketing, EMEA, says, "If we look at who is using tablets, iPhones and other devices, women comprise an increasing proportion of that user base. We need women to be involved as developers of both chips and software if we are going to target this growing female market successfully."

It's not just a valley problem. Research by Gartner shows that the percentage of female CIOs across all industries and globally has remained static for a decade at about 14 per cent. The numbers are particularly poor in the EU where Gartner's figures show that only 11.2 per cent of tech leadership roles is occupied by women.

Tina Nunno, fellow at Gartner, attributes the poor European showing to "a traditional hierarchy with more institutionalised behaviour". Some unconscious "lean" towards men is a bigger cause of the problem than any overt sexism.

Andrietti says that at Intel the company is trying to change this by ensuring that hiring teams and shortlists include at least one woman "to help prevent a cycle of men hiring men in their own image".

Much is made of the low numbers of girls taking STEM and tech subjects at university, and there is little doubt that numbers are poor. New graduate intake at Intel, however, is now a balanced 50:50 across the genders.

"I am an example of a woman in leadership," says Andrietti, "with a microelectronics degree [from France's elite ESIEE]. "When I was studying just 5 per cent of those on the course were women; now it is 20 per cent."

Andrietti designed chips for seven years and continues to be responsible for the technical team as well as sales and marketing. However some may see her promotion from design to marketing all too typical of women's careers in technology companies, even when those women have an engineering background.

Visibility is a problem. While there are supernova achievers such as Meg Whitman, Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer in leading roles, there isn't visible female strength in depth.
Rather the public face of women in technology is represented by the ubiquitous 'booth babes' who grace - or should that be besmirch - the industry's top trade shows. Here's a slide show from this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Female talent on show, sure, but it's not their brains that strain for attention.

Tech firms might do better to spend less on endless face-saving diversity programmes and more on replacing booth babes with geek girls.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Are you a Glass Ceiling Woman or Harrassed Hipster?

It is election season in the UK and media channels have been buzzing with the new tribal classifications used by campaign bosses to help delineate the British electorate.

The regular reader of this blog is perhaps the Glass Ceiling Woman (in her 30s or 40s; stuck in the 'marzipan' layer under the male-dominated icing; struggling with childcare). Not you? Then perhaps you are a Harrassed Hipster (urban; time-poor, well-paid professional with or without kids) or a Squeezed Semi (married suburbanite on low to middle income) or Aldi Woman (formerly Worcester Woman, that middle-class, middle-England stalwart, morphed by austerity into a fan of the German costcutter). Alternatively you may be a Neo-Green – a digital native renter, short on tribal loyalty to established political parties and typically a first-time voter. If you're lucky you're a Settled Silver basking in your mortgage-free home, living off generous pension income and enjoying free public transport and the winter fuel allowance.

More seriously, recent polls suggest up to a third of women – whether they be Aldi, Glass Ceiling, Squeezed, Silver or Green – do not intend to vote. Voting numbers have been dropping. In 1992, 78 per cent of eligible women voted and by the last election just 64 per cent of us exercised our democratic right.

In the last week we have seen the results of a poll by TNS-BMRB for BBC Woman's Hour that suggests women are much less likely than men to vote, particularly if they are under 35.

Who are these women? The Disenchanted Distaff perhaps?

As we approach the centenary of women's partial suffrage (we had to wait until 1928 before women were given equal voting rights with men), I find it both disheartening and disquieting that our political leadership has so failed to engage the interests of the female electorate.

If as much effort went in to making politics more relevant to women and the young and less into ascribing stereotypes, we might stimulate a national debate that is both more meaningful and more inclusive, if only to honour the memories of Millicent Fawcett and Emmeline Pankhurst.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Davos and that 17 per cent

There has been quite enough hand-wringing about the low numbers of women delegates at the WEF's annual gathering on the magic mountain at Davos. This year – a year of record delegate numbers at well over 2,500 – the percentage of women is about 17 per cent, two per cent up on 2014, but underwhelming for all that.

Here's the thing: if you take heads of state, heads of Fortune 500 companies, heads of professional services, investment and financial firms, deans of universities and policy-makers from the public and not-for-profit sectors, what percentage is female? The 17 per cent is a reflection – or symptom – of the gender of power, not some arbitrary sign of Swiss sexism.

As one who neither moves nor shakes, I am not part of that 17 per cent. Had I been, I'd have signed up to hear Indra Nooyi, chief executive of PepsiCo on her session on Leadership & Teamwork: On and Off the Field.

A few years ago when the Financial Times published a ranking of the Top 50 Global Women in Business, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nooyi. Born in Chennai, she took an MBA at the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata, did a couple of years with Johnson & Johnson in Mumbai and crossed the Atlantic to the land of opportunity with just $500 in her pocket.

"I had the immigrant feeling, arriving in the US in 1978," she said at the time. "I had to do an extra-good job –if it didn't work out, where was I going to go?" Every day, Nooyi said, she asks herself, "Did I earn the right to be CEO of this company today?"

How many male chief executives of Fortune 500 companies, investment bankers, consultants and politicians ask themselves that question, I wonder.

As reported in The Telegraph today, Nooyi made a bold statement at what is still the greatest gabfest in the world. "Businesses are really the only functioning entities around the world," she said, and better than governments at healing broken economies. "If you don't put your trust in business, who will you?" she asks.

For all the grouptalk, the jargon and posturing, the world needs Davos. It needs a place where people who do have the power to change the world can rub shoulders in the fondue queue, hear from those outside their silo and build trusted networks.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Art and money

After Lunch, Berthe Morisot, 1881
Christie's and Sotheby's figures for 2013 are predictably buoyant. Christie's auction sales for the year were up 12 per cent at $5.9bn and Sotheby's was up 19 per cent at $5.1bn.

Quantitative easing and low interest rates may partially explain the froth in the art market as money always needs a home, but economics doesn't explain the ever upward rise of prices paid for contemporary art.

Over one third of Christie's sales in 2013 derived from their contemporary and modern art sales ($2bn).

In one week in November, both auction houses achieved their highest ever single auction sales - Christie's with a world record $691.5m followed the next day by Sotheby's ($380.6bn).

These two sales broke a number of records for single works. Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Lucian Freud, sold by Christie's for $142.4m became the most expensive artwork ever sold, followed by Andy Warhol's Silver Car Crash, sold by Sotheby's for $105m.Works by Cy Twombly and Brice Marden also set new records.

And, more quietly, the year saw Louise Bourgeois' record for the highest price paid for a work by a female artist broken by the Impressionist painting, After Lunch, by Berthe Morisot. The work, painted in 1881, was sold by Christie's in February for $10.9m, making it the most expensive artwork by a woman.

Getty and Sheryl Sandberg collaborate

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and author of the multimillion bestseller, Lean-In, is working with Getty Images to provide a less sexist bank of stock photography for media use.

It's a good idea. Search for "business woman" or "female professional" and you are rewarded with, for example, an image of a woman, legs crossed in seamed stockings sitting on a desk, the shirt open to reveal she is not wearing a bra. Inexplicably many of the search results show women on all fours (rear view); sucking lolipops or in boxing gloves. 

A gender-neutral search – business meeting – will return plenty of pictures of mixed groups in business suits, but the vast majority show a man at the head of the boardroom table. Fair enough - that just reflects reality.

The Lean-In gallery is designed to show a better balance of gender roles, so not only will there be more images of older professional women (with bras, we must hope) but also more images of men changing nappies, feeding kids and undertaking the routines of normal domestic life.

Getty has a bank of some 150 million images serving 2.4 million customers worldwide. Lazy or pushed picture editors routinely use stock images and we would be foolish to think the content of these images has no effect.

Davos in the Twittersphere

Last year's party of the powerful on Davos' magic mountain was marked by 'Reverse Reality' - the Warhol-spoof portrait by Fernando Morales-de-la-Cruz and Cornelia Vinzens.

This year, as last, KPMG monitored Twitter for Davos-related messaging both from delegates and the rest of the world.

According to the infographic 'women' as a theme outperformed 'outlook', 'Europe', 'work', 'jobs', 'economy', 'tech', 'session' and 'growth' to make the Number One spot in 2014. (We can only presume that 'cocktail' or 'bar' were not on KPMG's watch-list.)

The ten "most influential" tweeters, as measured by the number of times tweets were shared - or retweeted - were:

1. Ian Bremmer
2. Gita Wirjawan
3. Enrique Peña Nieto
4. Bill Gates
5. Nouriel Roubini
6. Neelie Kroes
7. Carl Bildt
8. Juan Manuel Santos
9. UK Prime Minister (sic)
10. Paul Allen

It makes an interesting list. We have five serving politicians, including three political premiers; the two co-founders of Microsoft; a global economist; the CEO of a political risk consultancy and one woman who is a tech and enterprise-focused Eurocrat. All go by their real names except for the shy UK Prime Minister, who hides behind his office, or perhaps in his office.

Something odd is happening. 'Women' has become a headline subject in almost any field you care to choose. Women artists, women authors, women book reviewers, women entrepreneurs, women scientists, women politicians, women expert commentators in the media, women academics - on the list goes. But the topic 'women' seems to have less and less to do with actual women - as in those of us of the female gender. It is almost as if by saying 'women' often enough, we no longer need to focus on change or increasing diversity.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Current elected women heads of state

About a year ago, headhoncha listed the all the world's female state leaders.

We excluded those, such as Queen Elizabeth II, who are heads of state by accident of birth or who have no real constitutional power.

Here is the same list, updated as of today. A year ago there were 17 elected country leaders: today there are 16. If you include countries whose sovereignty is sometimes disputed (Taiwan, South and North Korea, for example) there are 206 individual countries in the world. Women lead 7.7 per cent of them.

Joyce Banda (Malawi)

Alenka Bratusek (Slovenia)

Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica)

Park Geun-hye (South Korea)

Dalia Grybauskaité (Lithuania)

Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh)

Atifete Jahjaga (Kosovo)

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia)
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentina) 

Angela Merkel (Germany)

Anna Maria Muccioli (San Marino)

Iveta Radicova (Slovakia)

Dilma Rousseff (Brazil)

Yingluck Shinawatra (Thailand) 

Portia Simpson-Miller (Jamaica)

Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Denmark)

With the election of Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1960, Sri Lanka became the first country in modern times to elect a female head of government. Over 50 years on, progress towards more equality in political leadership continues to be slow.