Tech Crunch founder Michael Arrington argued in “Too Few Women in Tech? Stop Blaming Men” that he and other men already do plenty for women: he has a female CEO, two out of four of his senior editors are women, and he begs and pleads for women to speak at his conferences.
Arrington’s counter-point, an article in the Wall Street Journal, is equally insidious. The Journal reports that Mediaite founder Rachel Sklar “co-founded a group called ‘Change the Ratio’ to shine a light on women in entrepreneurial roles, and to address the dearth of women at start-ups” and goes on to report that technology investor Fred Wilson said “the industry needs catalysts to spark a virtuous circle of more successful women-led tech start-ups leading to more women in tech start-ups.”
Wilson pledges to “write about successful women entrepreneurs and prod conference hosts to include women on panels. ‘Little things like that will make a big difference,’” he says.
Arrington, Skylar, Wilson, and the many, many other opinions in an uproar about this are really arguing the same thing: we need more exposure and awareness around women and tech. Their points of differentiation center on how much exposure will actually move the needle and create an acceptable number of women in tech. But how much or how little is irrelevant.
Women don’t need exposure. We need strategy. We need equality.
Interviewing women and inviting women to conferences and reporting on women-founded start-ups and creating women-focused events and so on and so forth might make everyone feel a bit better and be politically correct, but does little to actually support women. These obvious proof points make it easy for Arrington and Wilson and Sklar to say, “Look! I’m doing my part!”
But women are less likely to advance in their careers despite all this “support.” And that’s because they’re not actively sponsored the way men are, the Harvard Business Review reports. “Many women explain how mentoring relationships have helped them understand themselves, their preferred styles of operating, and ways they might need to change as they move up the leadership pipeline.”
Arrington’s ideas are a good example of such encouragement; he argues that women may be too nurturing and risk averse for tech and alludes that changing that behavior is the key to more start-up companies founded by women.
“By contrast, men tell stories about how their bosses and informal mentors have helped them plan their moves and take charge in new roles, in addition to endorsing their authority publicly,” the study says. Men develop a special kind of relationship with other men that goes “beyond giving feedback and advice” and instead has men using their influence to advocate and ensure the success of male friends.
The rules of the old boys club have already been passed down to the young boys and without the key, women have somehow garnered special attention and kid glove treatment. But we need more than well-meaning supporters and intentions.
Just let us play the game on the same field.
To Michael Arrington’s credit, his walk seems to outpace the talk of Fred Wilson and Rachel Sklar. But watching the pendulum swing between who to blame neglects the obvious: equality isn’t about keeping score. That’s what business is for.
See you in the club.