Kara Swisher comments on Marjorie Scardino joining Twitter’s board, but notes that there’s still a huge underrepresentation of women in tech at all levels, and especially in leadership roles.
The tech industry — and, more specifically, Silicon Valley — continues to stumble forward in earnest about how few women are represented in its top ranks of management and on its boards. This, despite the enthusiastic embrace of tech products by many women.
This is not a new problem, of course, but one that rears its head periodically as it becomes clear that the ground gained by women in this perhaps most important sector of the economy — a sector more amenable than most to more tolerance and diversity, too — is being lost rather than gained.
Any gander at the variety of studies, and even a not-very-scientific look at the subject, will show that fewer women are starting companies, are being promoted at companies, are funded, are funders, are on boards, are being rewarded in the same way. At a high-profile party I attended last night, for example, the small handful of women in attendance all seemed to notice and comment on the massive sea of men, though the men appeared blissfully unaware of the imbalance.
“They have no idea at all,” one prominent woman said to me, recounting a story about her visit to an advisory meeting of a tech bank board, where she was the single woman in a room full of men. When she brought it up there — not an easy thing for her, since she was the only woman — she was met with a lot of genuine concern when the penny dropped, but few ideas for action.
• Moreover, given her [Sheryl Sandberg’s] positions first at Google and now at Facebook, it is hard not to notice that her narrative is what corporate America wants to hear. - Anne-Marie Slaughter •
The individualistic, libertarian-leaning Silicon Valley types have absorbed the credo that tech is a pure meritocracy, and if there is an imbalance in the number of women in the industry it is a flaw in society as a whole, education, or women’s ambitions. To some extent that is the message of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which characterizes the barriers to women’s advancement to senior roles as their unwillingness to ‘lean in’ — to be more ambitious, aggressive, and to take on more difficult work.
As Anne-Marie Slaughter put it in a review of Lean In,
Sandberg’s approach, as important as it is, is at best half a loaf. Moreover, given her positions first at Google and now at Facebook, it is hard not to notice that her narrative is what corporate America wants to hear. For both the women who have made it and the men who work with them, it is cheaper and more comfortable to believe that what they need to do is simply urge younger women to be more like them, to think differently and negotiate more effectively, rather than make major changes in the way their companies work.
So is the dearth of women in top jobs due to a lack of ambition or a lack of support? Both, as Sandberg herself grants, proposing that women should “wage battles on both fronts.” Yet she chooses to concentrate only on the “internal obstacles,” the ways in which women hold themselves back. This is unfortunate. As a feminist and a corporate leader, Sandberg seems ideally placed to ask the question that all too often gets lost amid the welter of talk about what women should do, what they should want and how they should behave. When it comes to ensuring that caregivers still have paths to the corner office, how can business lean in?
After a long and interesting rant about Michael Arrington’s transcendent ethics (21st century, or zero ethics, depending on your view), Kara Swisher sums it up this way:
it’s pointless to give a turtle a hard time for not being a fish.
The skinny is that Arrington recently decided to up his level of personal investing in companies he reviews, and Swisher thinks that’s ‘icky’ even though he discloses it. And since Huffington recently sacked an editor for a breach of ethics, what the hell is going on? AOL has announced that no one but Arrington can do this, but he is grandfathered.
It’s a mess, and I am another who wonders how long Arrington will be an AOL employee.
Kara Swisher reports that gee-whiz iPad app Pulse has been yanked after very public praise yesterday at the Apple developer conference might be a tempest in a teacup. Perhaps — as many suggest — senior NY Times execs don’t know that Pulse is ‘just’ an RSS reader. Or is this step one in a way against RSS?
Mike Masnick probes at the edges of this:
I’m guessing their concern is with the fact that the RSS reader is a paid app. This likely this goes back to an issue I raised more than five years ago, about companies who were putting “non-commercial” licenses on their RSS feed. How do you determine what’s “non-commercial” in RSS? If I use that RSS feed as a part of my job, is that commercial? If I use it in a fee-based app, is that commercial? Either way, it’s hard to see how this is really commercial use in any way. Yes, the RSS app is a fee-based app, but it’s not “selling” the NY Times’ content. It’s just letting anyone access the free content that the NY Times put out for just this purpose. It’s selling the software. In the same way Dell or HP or whoever sells a computer and lets people “access” the NY Times website.
I don’t think this is about RSS, per se. It’s about the general trend into the web of flow away from the web of pages. And the Times and other media giants will resist this.
The web of flow that is emerging — based on RSS originally, but now the social web — turns pages into URL handles: not for navigation but for fetching. Instead of playing nice, and clicking on links to visit the hosting site, the flow will suck up the content at the end of a URL and pull it into a the stream. So instead of seeing a NY Times story on their site, the Twitter client or Pulse reader will display the piece in context.
The media want people to travel to their old web of pages — that they spend some much time editing, organizing, and curating — so that they can make money on ads (oh, and maybe people will look at other pages too).
The answer to this won’t be to block the inexorable web of flow from happening. The answer is to put flow ads into the posts being served up in the flow apps. Instead of fighting with Pulse the NY Times ought to be figuring out a way to build micro ads into the RSS that Pulse is using, or the shortened URLs that everyone uses in the microstream.
As just one approach, a shortened URL could be associated with not only a piece of content — the news story on /Message or the NY Times — but also with a micro ad, which could be rendered by readers or flow apps, like Tweetie running on my desktop or my iPhone, or in Pulse on the iPad. The responsiblity of Pulse and Tweetie would be to display the micro ad if and when the story is expanded in place. If the user just clicks through, no problems.