From Boys Club to Female-Led Panels: Diversity and Inclusion are Shifting in Silicon Valley
Technology has always been at the crux of culture and identity. From clunky DVDs to streaming services, yellow cabs to ride shares and from pagers to smart phones, technology has served as the next iteration of our needs. Leaving the Blockbuster days behind, streaming platforms like Netflix have responded to our growing appetite for digital video, delivering human stories in real time. Transportation apps like Uber have responded to our go, go, go lifestyle and offered a more convenient way of getting where we need to go. Meanwhile, sophisticated smartphones have made us more connected than ever, responding to the most globally connected period in human history. Technology is meant to respond to us. So, why isn’t it speaking directly to all of us?
The Boys Club of Modern Tech
This is the kind of question that may easily come to mind as you look around the room at any tech conference, startup event or VC panel today. Dominated by a male population, the tech scene looks all too familiar and the numbers speak volumes. According to a 2018 diversity and inclusion survey, males hold a whopping 76% of all technical jobs.
In its analysis of 177 of the largest tech firms in the San Francisco Bay Area, The Center for Investigative Reporting revealed some more disparities in the industry. Among its findings was that in 2016, 10 major Silicon Valley companies did not include a single black woman on their team. While Silicon Valley is where “the next big thing” is said to emerge, in reality, we couldn’t be thinking smaller.
Technology has one of the most innate impacts on our culture. It informs how we think, how we act, how we connect with one another, how we travel and how we recreate the world around us. A lack of diversity limits that world and can even widen the gap between classes and genders. So, why do we keep missing the mark? According to tech giants like Google, it isn’t a matter of misogyny or perpetuated stereotypes. It’s a complicated issue, and many times it’s a lack of participation on the other side. But while fewer women and minorities are pursuing opportunities in tech, the real question we have to ask ourselves is, why?
Maybe there is a sense of discouragement that deters women and minorities from taking on the tech world. Or maybe, there simply aren’t enough leaders paving the way. Fortunately, this is all beginning to shift in a big way. At a recent startup event called Startup World Cup, all but one of the VCs on the investment panels were women and even all of the judges were women.
The Leading Ladies of Silicon Valley
This included Joanne Chen, a partner at Foundation Capital, co-founder of a mobile gaming company and a former engineer for Cisco Systems. It also included M12 partner, Rashmi Gopinath who currently leads enterprise software investments and previously served as an Investment Director at Intel Capital. IBM Ventures partner and director of strategy in IBM software group, Deborah Magid brought her own strategic eye to the panel alongside other tech leaders such as Edith Yeung and Vanessa Larco. Yeung is the chief editor at Silicon.News and a partner at 500 Startups. Larco has an impressive resume as well, leading Enterprise SaaS and Consumer Services investing at NEA. These are the leading ladies of Silicon Valley and the powerful judges of the 2019 Startup World Cup.
Startup World Cup is a series of conferences and competitions that bring together the world’s leading startups, VCs, tech CEOs, journalists and entrepreneurs. Across the world, startups have the opportunity to compete for the chance to advance to the final event and win a $1 million investment prize. But this year, it wasn’t just about the money. As the voices and the decision makers behind this year’s competition, the women of tech have joined the conversation and they are here to stay.