Saturday, April 28, 2007

My question for today: Are women not supposed to want to make money?

I've been wondering lately why everyone I talk to in investment-obsessed Silicon Valley makes note that they see very few women entrepreneurs. This anecdotal observation doesn't jive with the stat that over half of the businesses started in the US are woman-owned.

Now, I've seen some folks theorize that women are more risk-averse, and therefore they avoid going for large outside investment, preferring to use funding that they are more in control of and answer mostly to themselves about. I definitely see validity to this theory, particularly if you consider that the majority of funders are men, and there might be a lot of women starting their own businesses precisely to get away from being answerable to a male-dominated hierarchy of some sort.

But I've also had another thought lately: do women face more disdain than men when they are ambitious, particularly ambitious to build a profitable business?

My personal experience is that if you're talking career ambition, yes, folks seem to think women should stay satisfied longer with any gains they've already made and spend more time proving themselves to get to the next step. I had a CEO say to me something along the lines of "You've come pretty far, aren't you satisfied with that?" and I had real trouble imagining him saying that to some of my male colleagues...even the younger, less qualified ones. (There's a whole story there about the CEO's hiring and promoting practices, but I'll just ask you to trust me on that one!) The overt response to my request to discuss my career path was that I should know my place. That I should continue to do the work of leading the team, but let someone be a figurehead above me...and be satisfied with that because, after all, I was pretty prominent and fairly well-compensated already...what more could I possibly want?

When it comes to money it is quite popular these days to say that women don't make more because they don't ask. But recent studies show that about a quarter of the male-female pay gap cannot be attributed to negotiation, taking time off for child-rearing or any other aspect within the woman's control. [More discussion and links can be found on this BlogHer post.]

So, my theory on why Silicon Valley investors see few women entrepreneurs is this: maybe women are sick of being judged differently for their desire to make, earn, raise money. Maybe that is why they take small business loans, or turn to their friends and family, or draw on their home equity, or do a bunch of other things that will keep them out of the public eye and out of people wondering aloud how they can deign to be part of a commercial though it was somehow less feminine of them to create a for-profit company!.

All you have to do is look at the different reactions to Mike Arrington making a ton of $$ from TechCrunch (essentially: what a blogging stud!) vs. the reactions to popular women bloggers such as, let's say, a MommyBlogger or two, doing the same (essentially: what sell-outs, what evil exploiters of their readers!)

I'm not saying that only men do this to women, by the way.

Am I naive that I believe that a desire to make money is rarely about wanting to roll around in bed with it a la Demi Moore, but rather is usually made up of some parts of the following: to build a business they believe in, to hire smart, capable people, to be able to compensate those employees to the level they deserve and the level that will keep them a happy employee, to support their families, to provide for retirement, to be able to care for their parents when they are unable to do so and so on. Money does equal security on many levels for most of us. And opportunity. And freedom.

So, my purely speculative musings beg the question: anyone else out there notice the double standard? Or am I smoking crack on this?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Not often not one, but two, former companies are blogged

Before getting sucked into the Internet vortex, I was in the cable industry. Yeah, we only made the equipment that enables you to be on the Internet (or watch video) in the first place (if you're a cable customer, that is.)

Let's just say that this industry is not at the forefront of blogging and social media. These companies aren't blogging, and there aren't a ton of folks blogging about them. GigaOM is the most prominent blogger covering the broadband market, but even he/they don't talk about the equipment makers all that often. GigaOM has mentioned Terayon (former company #1) only 4 times in the last three years, and Harmonic (former company #2) only 3 times. And 2 of those references overlap. And one of those is the mention today, a post entitled "Motorola may buy Terayon."
"The sweet irony - cable modem shipments are hitting a new record - and one of the early cable modem pioneers is being sold like a purple velvet jacket from the 1960s only Austin Powers would love. [Ed: the purple velvet jacket would be Terayon.] [snip] Good reminder for all those who are entrepreneurs amongst us - no matter how hot a start-up you might be today, it takes less than a decade to go from headline to being a mere footnote in technology history!" [Ed: Emphasis his.]

Harmonic is mentioned as a potential suitor getting beaten out by Motorola.

I'd just like to say that on face value Om's comment seems to be a comment on the vagaries of the market, or the fickleness of technology consumers whether B2C or B2B, or the fast pace of technology development that can leave pioneers in the dust.

That may be true too, but make no mistake: all the technology entrepreneurs Om is warning should take a different lesson. Namely: don't let success or attention or praise for your innovations go to your head and make you feel invincible. You can still make really bad decisions when you're flying high. You can make bad hiring decisions, bad spending decisions, bad roadmap decisions, bad sales pipeline decisions.

Sometimes it's those decisions themselves that will bring you down from so high to so's those decisions that can precipitate such a nasty fall...not the mere erosion of advantage that all companies risk suffering at the hands of passing time.

And sometimes it's those decisions that will weaken you in ways that aren't obvious until some inevitable economic or market downturn requires everyone to tighten their belts and try to survive the cold, long winter.

I'm just sayin'...

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lisa in ComputerWorld

As a nice follow up on my clarification following the NY Times article, here is an interview with Lisa Stone in Computerworld that does the same thing. Actually if you checkout Tim's latest post on the subject, it's clear that he is open to hear the criticism he's been getting out in the Internet and try to alter his proposal accordingly. I'm still not thinking such a proposal is the way to go, but I'll give credit where it's due.

Monday, April 09, 2007

I guess I should clarify...

I'm reading the blogger reaction to the NY Times article, and I think it would be appropriate for me to clarify something. It's not that reporter Brad Stone (no relation to Lisa) misquoted her or got things really wrong, exactly, but I do think it's quite easy to be confused about BlogHer, its role in this code of conduct idea and our thoughts on same.

-We are not working with Tim, Jimmy or anyone on any sweeping code of conduct for the blogosphere or Internet. While we're flattered that some people have considered the BlogHer Community Guidelines a good model for such a code, it was never devised or intended to be a set of guidelines that were universally applied. They apply to BlogHer, that's it. Will we occasionally review them and see if they still apply and still cover what we need them to? Absolutely. They are not rigid and eternal. They were created based on community input and feedback, and may eventually change based on the same.

-We actually do not advocate for a sweeping code of conduct that applies across the blogosphere or Internet. We do think that every blogger/site owner has the right to set their own policies...and we recommend that they make those policies public. Because then they are accountable, and readers can make an informed decision about which sites they frequent.

-We see a difference between setting transparent guidelines for community participation within our own community vs. trying to come up with a code for the entire blogosphere to theoretically follow or not. That distinction was not drawn very clearly in the article, but you can see more of our thoughts on that distinction here at Worker Bees, and from Lisa on a BlogHer post (in the comments.)

-If you read our guidelines you'll see that there are plenty of places where the proposed Code diverges from our guidelines, most prominently with the concept of badges and I think also significantly in that while one must be a member to comment or start forum topics on BlogHer, one can become a member with any username and a working perhaps that pseudonymity, not anonymity, but we see a tremendous value for people to be able to participate without giving up their offline identities. (I actually allow anonymous comments on my personal blogs, but I don't get nearly the traffic or attention that a community of over 10K women gets!)

OK, I think that covers it. It was really quite a brief mention of BlogHer in the piece, but I can see from lots of blog posts that it was not quite clear where we and some of the other folks in the article diverge.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

NY Times article is online

Here it is.

And while one can always nit-pick about this description or that comparison, I have to say that the brief BlogHer mention (on page 2 of the article) is OK.

Side note: Does it make me a bad marketing person that I'm actually hoping that the mention is small enough that they won't publish our picture? I think it really does. Or at least a selfish marketing person. Anyway, I guess we won't know that until we pick up a hard copy.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Theoretically going to be in Monday's NY Times

I say "theoretically" because I have no idea how much or how little of an interview Lisa Stone and I did with technology writer Brad Stone (no relation) will be incorporated into whatever article it is he is writing. And I have no idea how what we said will be positioned. You don't get to see or fact-check such things beforehand. So, much like the KGO-TV appearance I did 10 days ago, it's a nerve-wracking feeling. I will say this for being on the BBC last week: it was live, and only I own my own level of articulateness. They couldn't pick and choose what to air. They couldn't take things out of context. I like that.

The focus of the Times article, as I understand it, is on how the Kathy Sierra blogosphere crisis will affect blogs and bloggers moving forward, particularly as it relates to codes of conduct and community guidelines. Because BlogHer's community guidelines have been mentioned recently by such Internet luminaries as Tim O'Reilly, David Weinberger and Shelly Powers, Stone (the reporter) came to us to ask us more.

We actually tried to draw a very specific distinction between a code of conduct (which implies trying to enforce a code across the blogosphere) and our own community guidelines (which specifically address what is acceptable content and behavior on BlogHer.)

As I said earlier on this blog: "I don't believe we can institute an enforceable blogger code of conduct that is applied to all bloggers across all subject matters. I don't believe we should even try.

I do believe that each blogger and site owner should set policies and practices in place that refuse to accommodate or tolerate cyberabuse. I believe each blog or site owner is entitled to draw their own lines and enforce them. It's your web site, you can delete crap if you want to.

My most fervent hope is that the reporter does indeed draw this distinction. He did ask how long our guidelines have been in place (answer: since we launched on 01/30/06) so I hope it's clear that establishing guidelines wasn't a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis. When I say that every site owner or blogger should draw their own lines, I mean quite sincerely that they should think about it long and hard and draw lines they can live with. But also be open to considering that they may have to re-draw those lines at some point...openly and transparently please! Weinberger has already taken the BlogHer community guidelines that he had inserted above his comment form and significantly altered them to reflect his voice and his sensibilities.

I think it's pretty safe to say that such policies and guidelines will not eliminate the existence of the ills that exist in both offline and online society. (Misogyny, racism, hate, violence.) But I also think that the blogosphere is the perfect vehicle for individuals and groups to take stands and defend them. Each blog's or site's individual guidelines can represent such a stand.

So, theoretically, front page of the business section in Monday's Times. With even, theoretically a photograph (which I find even more painful to anticipate than wondering how our words will be used!)

I'll publish the link if/when I get it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

This month's Silicon Veggie

More on the mindful eating craze.

My question: Do companies, like Wolfgang Puck and Burger King, that announce policy changes, shifting towards more humane sources for their inhumane products (meat etc.) get more credit and positive marketing spin than they deserve?

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