Thursday, May 8, 2014

Women in Silicon Valley: A Prediction from 2000 (Morris Number 08)

The Future for Women in Silicon Valley
in the 21st Century
as Predicted in October 2000

When I was doing some research about female CEOs for the Morris Number Series, I happened upon an article by Particia Sellers in the October 16, 2000 issue of Fortune entitled "The 50 Most Powerful Women In Business: Secrets of the Fastest-Rising Stars.". Sellers wrote:
Cisco CEO John Chambers has an opinion:
"When I first came out to the Valley in 1991," he recalls, "an Asian-American group talked to me about their glass ceiling. My view then was that while nothing is perfect, these people are talented--and they'll move up."
He continues,
"Today more than 29% of Silicon Valley CEOs are Asian-born--from a rounding error a decade ago. It's primarily because the talent is there, waiting to be tapped. You'll see the same thing happen with women."
In 2014, we have yet to see "the same thing happen with women." I do not know what fraction of the Silicon Valley population was "Asian-born" (Chambers' phrase) or ethnically Asian in 2000, but I am fairly sure that the females were and are about 50%. Woman CEOs? Not 50%. Not even 29%. And even including the near-CEOs -- the COOs (Sandberg at Facebook) and Presidents (James at Intel) -- we may just be seeing the Indira Phenomenon rather than that female talent "there, waiting to be tapped" is being tapped instead of left waiting. Which is why we need to publicize - and companies need to start addressing - Morris Numbers and Morris Deciles.
For woman today, the problem is less that the ceiling is glass (whether or not that was the problem for Asian-Americans in 1991) and more that the doors are padlocked and the key is a Y chromosome.

Interestingly, Chambers had not been asked "Will there be more women employees in Silicon Valley in the future?" He was in fact responding to this question:
Do the guys who rule corporate America (yes, it is still guys in 88% of the senior jobs) know how to handle powerful women?
The way to handle powerful women that is most preferred by the powerful guys who rule Silicon Valley is a variation on an old grade school joke: If we don't give them an inch, they'll never be able to think they are rulers.

Read Sellers' whole article. It is very good and, because it was written more than 13 years ago, very sad.

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