This week in our Women in Comms roundup: Bloomberg debates the merits of women's conferences; Europe's 1,000 woman boardlist goes live; Glassdoor outlines some unique job perks; and more.
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Based on the number of women's conferences that are popping up across industries, you might conclude that feminism is alive and well -- or at least it's being branded and sold more than ever before. Bloomberg takes an interesting look at the rise of pricey conferences dedicated to female empowerment and headlined by high-profile female leaders in a feature story this week. It calls the events stirring and inspirational (and highly profitable), but questions what they accomplish outside of providing a good environment for networking. Bloomberg quotes Harvard economist Claudia Goldin as calling on these events to spark change through collective action by, in part, tackling "complicated structural questions that would make a difference to large numbers of women, such as figuring out how to pressure American employers to reduce the need for face time." (Women in Comms, by the way, invites you to join us in accepting this challenge at its upcoming breakfast on March 10.)
Answering the cry that it's just too hard to find female candidates to serve on the board of startups, the European edition of The Boardlist, a database of 1,000 qualified women, launched from Beta this week. The list, the brainchild of Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, a tech exec with a storied career in the Valley, includes more than 1,000 qualified women who are endorsed by tech investors and executives to serve on startup boards. So far, the Boardlist boasts one official placement -- former Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) executive Karla Martin at startup Challenge -- and says a number of more informal connections have been made. There are currently 40 active searches going on. (See Ericsson HR Dumps Good, Bad Hiring Buckets .)
A higher salary isn't the only benefit employers can offer, and Glassdoor points out this week that several high-profile companies are offering some pretty unique perks. To name a few: AirBnB gives its employees $2,000 to travel and stay in AirBnB listings across the globe; Twilio Inc. (NYSE: TWLO) encourages reading with a free kindle and $30 per month to buy content; Salesforce.com Inc. offers six paid days off for volunteering and a $1,000 donation to the charity of your choice if all six are used; and Accenture covers gender reassignment surgery. A lot of the perks tend to relate to parental leave, but it's important to note they are the exception not the norm. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 21% of companies even offer any paid maternity leave. (See Netflix Ups the Ante on Parental Leave and Vodafone: What's Good for Moms Is Good for Business.)
Speaking of unique job perks, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is piloting a controversial program to help the Pentagon retain more troops -- by letting them freeze their sperm or eggs. Doing so, he believes, will encourage women to stay in the military longer and give men and women peace of mind that if they are injured in battle, they can still have kids. It's a program that some companies in the Valley also offer, albeit for different reasons. For example, both Spotify and Facebook will cover the cost of egg freezing and fertility assistance.
US President Barack Obama sees computer science as a basic skill, right up there with reading and writing, so he has introduced the Computer Science for All initiative, seeking to earmark $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million for school districts in the upcoming budget to bring more computer science classes to students across the country. Currently in the US, Obama says, only a quarter of K-12 schools offer it. (See No Frat Party Here: 12,000 Computer Scientists Convene in Houston.)
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading