Leaning in from the other side
I was recently struck by a post in my Facebook feed from Sandra Lopez, who runs global marketing at Intel and has been a leader in Intel's push into fashion and wearables. Here's the post:
Sitting with 2,500 predominate female group trying to change females in corp America. Male friends - male dads with daughters and soon to be male dads of daughters - I CHALLENGE ALL OF YOU TO STEP UP AND DRIVE THE CONVERSATION!!!!!! I want a male to be the person driving the conversation. #men4womanequality
Sandra's plea really resonated with me and had me asking myself what had I really done to support women in corporate America. If my daughter asks me that years from now, will I be able to look her in the eye?
Sitting here in Silicon Valley, I can say with complete candor and honesty that we don't favor one sex over the other when we evaluate candidates. Outside of the partners who happen to be three white dudes, we have women in some of the top director-level positions at the agency. Our producer team is 75% female.
Yet, I have to admit, it's sad that only 15% of our developers are women. Even worse, I've actually thought that we were doing pretty well by having women on that team at all—not because I think men are better than women in terms of aptitude, but because we simply don't get many women developers applying for jobs here.
So, if we don't discriminate and we're at 15% female to male ratio in our developer team, clearly something is not right and the change needs to happen downstream so that we actually have more women applying for these critical technology positions.
Which brings me to another message that struck me recently. It was an email sent by the mother of my seven-year old son's friend—who happens to be a girl. Our families were discussing sending their daughter and my son to an advanced Minecraft camp at UC Berkeley. This bright little girl was going to be one of the only female kids in the class.
(you may ask what Minecraft has to do with programming, but this is how kids are getting exposure to computer hacking today—it's the equivalent of me learning how to program a video game on my PET computer back when I was ten and now I'm running an agency developing technology and marketing for the titans of Silicon Valley).
In the email this mom sent to my wife, she wrote:
I've been thinking a lot about the camp... it's actually put me in a whole spiral about how crazy it is that these things are already so divided by gender. It's maddening to think our girls are kind of alienated from these things (and possible future achievement and earnings)... I'm going to dark places.
Based on the situation I described above at Traction, this sentiment is not far off base at all.
It's become quite trendy, at least in San Francisco, to let your kids find their own way. Let your boy play with a Barbie or paint his toenails if he wants to. Buy GoldieBlox and a football for your girl. We check the box to show how open-minded we are and then we're done.
That's not enough. We need to lean in on behalf of our girls. Not just when they're in preschool, but as they mature into adults. If we want to see real, sustained change, we need to create it.
My wife and I signed my 10-year old daughter up for Minecraft camp too. How are you going to help your girls lean in?
Sandra sent me a note in response to this post to clarify that she doesn't run all of global consumer marketing for Intel. I'll clarify her clarification with "yet."