This week in our Women in Comms roundup: We learn the tech girl boss formula; returnships pave the way for women re-entering the workforce; Australian Army troops told to 'get out' if they are sexist; and more.
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Re-entering the workforce after a personal leave of absence can be challenging in any industry, but a few tech companies are trying to make the transition go a bit more smoothly. "Returnships," essentially internships for mid-career professionals, are gaining populairty in the tech industry with the goal of encouraging women to return to the office after years of caring for children or elderly parents, for example. While these roles are technically open to men as well, it's expected that women will fill most of the positions.
Non-profit Path Forward has just announced it is partnering with six San Francisco tech companies that will host 20 returnships of 18 weeks each, The Washington Post reports. These paid jobs will hopefully pave the way for women who have taken time off to tend to loved ones -- as women so often do -- to get back in the executive suite. (See Vodafone: What's Good for Moms Is Good for Business and WiCipedia: 'Meternity,' Lemonade & Chores.)
Speaking of the executive suite, the term "girl boss" is one that's been thrown around a lot lately in the business world. While fashion business mogul Sophia Amoruso may have brought the term into our everyday lexicon with her much-publicized book and website, the tech world is latching on to the trendy title as well. If you've been eyeing the C-suite,
AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) has some tips. Susan Lyne, the incredibly impressive uber-girl boss behind Gilt Group, Martha Stewart Living and now Built By Girls (BBG) Ventures at AOL, shares her top tips for paving the way to success. In short, she advises that we must learn to code, learn to project manage and learn to market -- essentially stay up to date with your skills and you'll rule the world soon enough. After all, #thefutureisfemale. (See AT&T Exec: It's Time to Stop Fearing Tech.)
Sub-Saharan Africa is not known as being a hotbed for women who want to create lush career lives. Rather, it's often referred to as a bastion of inequality and a place where women are considered second-class citizens. Recently, the UN did the math and found that pervasive gender inequality in this part of the world costs Africa $95 billion per year in lost economic growth, Associated Press reports. Though 61% of African women hold jobs, there are many factors that feed into this number, such as underpaid positions, underage and arranged marriages and more household responsibilities. "For instance, African women still carry out 71% of water collecting translating to 40 billion hours a year, and are less likely to have bank accounts and to access credit," the UN report said. While the number is staggering, we can't help but think of all of the other lost opportunities -- namely independence -- that these women are also missing out on. Not to mention all of the other women around the world who are in the same position. (See SAP Tackles Digital Skills Gap in Africa.)
The tech startup world can be a notoriously difficult place for female founders to gain funding -- only 7% of investor funding currently goes to women-led startups -- but crowdsourcing could change the game. Forbes reports that there's a new way to invest in fledgling companies that doesn't require trading a not-yet-released product for cash, à la Kickstarter and Indiegogo . "Green-lighted by the SEC in May, startups can now raise up to $1 million in a 12 month period from 'unaccredited' investors -- people who, in the past, did not meet the SEC's net worth requirements to invest in private companies and small businesses," Forbes says. STEM startup RaceYa, brainchild of Dr. Abigail Edgecliffe-Johnson, is set to raise $100,000 through this new method. "It democratizes investing," says Edgecliffe-Johnson. "Everyone should be able to have their money work for them." We wholeheartedly agree. (See The Rise of Women Startups.)
What really needs to change in order to bring more women into tech? Not women, says Australia's former Chief of Army (and current Australian of the Year!) David Morrison in a CIO.com article. Morrison states, "This isn't about fixing women. Women don't require fixing," but rather that companies need to adjust their expectations and reactions to women. "You've actually got to have conversations with men, particularly around the way they listen to women speaking. And get them to change their approach to allow for confidence to build," he advised. Morrison, a strong advocate for women in the Australian Army, told troops, "If you're not up for it, find something else to do with your life," in reaction to sexism in the ranks. He sternly urged "troops to 'get out' of the force if they could not accept female colleagues and treat them equally." What do you think of Morrison's in or out approach? (See Should Men Attend Women's Conferences? and How Zayo Group Makes Diversity a Priority.)
Re: Girl bosses or just bosses? I see how the term could be condescending but I don't think it's intended to be, as you said, Sarah. I also don't think it's meant to describe regular "bosses" or managers, rather, it's a much higher level of career success, like Marissa Mayer or Sheryl Sandberg (is anyone else a little tired of those two names always being the example?!). It's meant for a women who truly rules, more like the term "diva," so in that sense, I like it. It's definitely tongue in cheek though, which can mean it's harder to take seriously. But these "girl bosses" are doing pretty well for themselves, and if money is power, I think that speaks louder than the cute phrase of the week. All publicity is good publicity! Maybe...
Re: Girl bosses or just bosses? I'm not a huge fan of the term "girl boss" either. My mom was a flight attendant for over 30 years and gave me a lot of insight into how that industry changed. One example was an industry-wide switch from the term "stewardess" to "flight attendant" and my mom made it pretty clear that she should be called a "flight attendant." The term stewardness carried a lot of baggage - it was a term widely used when airlines enforced a lot of rules on flight attendants' appearance and even had weight requirements. So, if we're looking at "girl boss" through that lense, I think we're going backwards, not forwards. We should just stick with the term "boss" and keep it gender neutral. (See Here's Why Flight Attendants Don't Like Being Called 'Stewardess')
Re: Another great round up $4.3 trillion!! That's huge. It would definitely be interesting to provide some sort of incentive for companies to start making back this money. I don't see how that enormous figure isn't enough of a draw in itself! Also an incredibly complicated calculation... So many factors in there.
Girl bosses or just bosses? I know it's meant to be empowering, but I don't love "girl boss." Female bosses are just bosses. On the one hand calling them out as "girls" (women?) makes it sound like they are anomalies, but -- on the other hand -- they are anomalies still, unfortunately. it's It's like saying "male nurse"or "manny."
What do you all think -- should we highlight the fact that these CEOs and leaders are women or will that hurt the cause to normalize women at the top?
Re: Another great round up Agreed; a great round up! McKinsey had a recent study that looked at this for the US as well. They said:
Achieving gender parity in the US could add $4.3 trillion to the country's economy in 2025, according to new research from McKinsey & Co. The report finds that every US state and city can add at least 5% to their GDP over the next ten years by advancing the economic potential of women. Half of US states could add more than 10%, and the country's 50 largest cities can increase GDP by 6% to 13%. Silicon Valley stands to gain 9%.
Another great round up Thinking more about this: "UN did the math and found that pervasive gender inequality in this part of the world costs Africa $95 billion per year in lost economic growth," I wonder what the numbers would look like in the US for the tech industry and if perhaps looking at it from that angle would give companies and kick in the pants to change? Does anyone know of an organization trying to research the Women in Comms challenge from that angle?