There’s a Simple Way to Improve Tech’s Gender Imbalance

There’s a Simple Way to Improve Tech’s Gender Imbalance

It starts with networking.

Technology companies know the value of early adopters who are eager to try a hot new product and tell all their friends about it. But early adopters no longer look like the stereotypical hoodie-wearing gadget nerd obsessing over the specs of the latest iPhone—in part because they’re no longer men. Today young women are beating men to technology trends.

Women are more likely than men to build a personal blog, follow a brand or celebrity, or have a social networking profile, according to Nielsen. Women check their phones more often than men and play mobile games more often than men, according to Experian. More teenage girls use Snapchat than male peers of the same age. When today’s young women become adults, they will influence more spending decisions than anyone else in their household.

Yet nearly all the tech products women adopt are created, financed, designed, and built primarily by men.

There was a time when tech’s titans could easily shrug off their industry’s big, awkward gender problem. Why are tech companies led and staffed primarily by men? “It’s a pipeline problem!” Why did 93% of venture deals over the past six years go to startups led by men? “There just aren’t very many women in tech.” Why do women account for less than 6% of decision-making partners at venture firms? “Um, we can’t find any qualified candidates?”

Women in tech are tired of these excuses, and it’s beginning to show. The backlash was swift last December when Sequoia Capital chairman Michael Moritz told a reporter that the firm would not “lower our standards” to hire female partners. Moritz tempered his comments amid a storm of frustration on social media—because after all, women are more likely to use social media than men.

It isn’t difficult to solve this problem. Consider BBG Ventures. The AOL-backed firm invests exclusively in startups with at least one female founder. President Susan Lyne has had no problem filling its pipeline since founding the firm in 2014: In 20 months BBG met with more than 1,000 startups and invested in 34. Among them: Ringly, which crafts Bluetooth-connected jewelry; goTenna, which makes antennas for areas without cellular service; and Thesis, a startup using rocket science to design comfortable high heels.

The problem is not a lack of qualified female founders, Lyne says—it’s the network-driven nature of the tech industry. Venture capitalists citing pipeline problems aren’t connected to many female founders, so they assume there aren’t any worthwhile ones out there.

The solution is simple, techies: Apply your urge to tackle world-changing challenges to expanding your own social networks. That’s hardly a pipe dream.

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