Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Plug For Women: And the Businesses They Run And Why They Work

Last month MediaPost blogger and self proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” Kaila Colbin raised the question in her March 23 post, “Do we need more women in technology?” stemming from a panel discussion on Women in Leadership, she had recently attended. Her answer was not necessarily – even if volumes of data continue to show a tech-sector gender gap and that in the second decade of the 21st century it remains the politically correct rallying cry. What’s needed instead, she says, is greater diversity, “diversity of gender, of viewpoint, of life experience, of worldview.”

Colbin goes on to say:The answer is for us to realize that we are each limited to the maximum perspective our meager experience affords us, that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our individual philosophies, and that by inviting in those who see the world from a different angle, we can broaden our own vision.”

Forgive me for saying so, but doesn’t that sound a little lacking and unfocused?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to come off insensitive. Diversity is important – even nonspecific calls to that end aren’t totally useless as they remind us that the bringing together of wide ranging backgrounds can sometimes illuminate solutions to problems that weren’t first apparent and illustrate that in the end we’re all just people working to reach a goal. But I kind of feel like Sesame Street’s “We All Sing with the Same Voice” 1982 song hits the same notes. (Pun intended)

Instead, since this is my blog, let’s break a little ground here and go against the grain a bit to give a plug to women – not just in the tech sector – but elsewhere too. We do need more women in the workforce. Why? Because data shows that for a combination of social, societal and psychological reasons, women-run businesses are more successful.

A recent Illuminate Ventures Whitepaper found that high tech women-run businesses: “are more capital efficient” – or in non-technobabble speak, they spend money wiser and use one-third less capital to achieve the same revenue results.

Another translation: women-run businesses get more sh*% done with less. The report also found that companies with women in top management positions achieve 35% higher return on equity and a 34% better return to shareholders.

CEO and writer Margaret Heffernan, on her 20-first website, has researched the topic further, collecting not only data about successful women-run businesses, but attempts to answer why the statistics are what they are. Whether it’s the biological child-rearing instinct toward nurturing, or societally-imposed assumptions, women, according to Heffernan, have turned these stereotypes on their head and are using them as skills of empowerment – a defense mechanism common to many marginalized groups. She goes on to say that women have been found to be more flexible in term of working hours, they want to make “difference” as well as make money, (which can inspire staff), are more likely to be involved with community activities and they tend to offer good health care plans and retirement packages.

Increasingly women have become our society’s juggernaut, tasked with not only raising a family, but earning an income vital to the family’s survival. While traditional male-female roles have blurred, it’s women by and large, which have had to shoulder a greater burden. But time and time again as our plate of responsibilities have grown, we’ve met and exceeded the challenge.

The US may still struggle with a tech-sector gender gap, but with women holding some 58% of all professional jobs in the country and making up 57% of undergraduate degrees, I’m confident the information technology industry is bound to get the digital memo sooner than later. But hey, it’s men we’re talking about. Perhaps they’ll have to ask for advice from Siri first.

We all know what gender she really is.

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