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A lawyer's pledge to change the ratio

Stashed in: Women, Awesome, XX, Change the Ratio

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It's kind of strange to think that it's "bold' to ask for women to be included, but i'm glad he's doing it!

Bold, but also could be seen as creepy if taken the wrong way.

Rachel, I'm happy he's doing it, too.

Greg, you're right that there's a right way and a wrong way to request that events be inclusive.

It sounds like Ed Zimmerman is making his requests the right way:

He (very publicly) announced that he would not participate in a four-person panel at a conference unless at least one of the speakers was female. He then took it a step farther; you won’t see Zimmerman at a dinner party of 10 people or more unless women are included.


Zimmerman is not a fan of quotas, per se; he just knows that zero women at any professional table is wrong. “Zero out of two I can understand. Zero out of six or 10 I’m not sure I understand why. Zero out of 20 just seems silly,” he says. He purposely avoided strict guidelines for his pledge, opting instead for what he calls “measurable guidance.”

More and more tech conferences for engineers are adopting these types of guidelines -- and the response has overwhelmingly been positive about getting a wider variety of viewpoints -- so it's interesting to see the trickle-up effect with what I imagine is an older and more "establishment" demographic. Sometimes we all need a little nudge to remind us to check whether we're giving fresh new voices a chance to strut their stuff!

What spoke most to me from this article was the systemic but sneaky form of discrimination in which people are dropped from invite lists because they seek to change the ratio:

Since announcing the pledge, he’s discussed it with event organizers who invite him to speak. Zimmerman even offers to help recruit qualified women to the panel. He says no organizer has openly said they oppose women speakers. But several events that he’s spoken at in the past have quietly dropped his invite, and one that his law firm previously sponsored told him that he need not send in a check this year.

“They never said, ‘We don’t want women,’ or anything like that. No one ever says it,” Zimmerman explains. “But it was definitely a situation where they have the same core people coming to this thing for years, and they’re all guys and they don’t want to worry about it,” he says. “No one is coming out and saying it, but they’re definitely acting on it.”

It speaks to the systemic, sneaky nature of the discrimination in the tech world. Plenty of tech industry thought leaders are happy to speak out about their industry’s gender imbalance. But few are actually taking action. Those who do are met with quiet pushback behind closed doors.

This translates to the tech industry’s current sad state: Only 5.6% of decision makers at venture capital firms are women. Only 14% of venture-backed companies have a female founder. Only 19% of the companies in Y-Combinator are run by women, which reflects the small number of women who apply. The leadership at all of the top tech companies is overwhelmingly male. And as many as 50% of female tech workers will leave the industrybecause of the hostile work environment.

Really good point. He says "they're all guys and they don't want to worry about it" You're right to say that it's 'systemic and sneaky'

Truly commendable.  Let's see how it plays out.

If it works I'd like to start the same thing with Angels and VCs regarding startups and the ageism bias of silicon valley... "I refuse to invest in a startup that doesn't have somebody over 35 on the founding or executive team..."

I need all the support in job security I can get.

Aileen Lee mentioned that the average age of a unicorn founder at founding was 34:

HBR did a study of startup founders and found that the average CEO or President age of a billion dollar startup is 42:

Also, the average age of an incoming CEO to an S&P 500 company was 52.9 in 2010.

That's cool.  Though I'm past the average age of incoming Mandarin class CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, I can still dance like a startup founder.  I'm more happy being a co-founder and token old-guy anyway... 

With age comes wisdom, right Rob? I'd like to think so.

Survivor bias notwithstanding, with age comes lots of things – and I got plenty enough of wisdom at this point as it is – so I'd prefer more paydays.  

Maybe that's the wisdom talking...

Actually, I think that IS the wisdom talking. :)

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