Innovating Women by Vivek Wadhwa & Farai Chideya
Crowd-sourced and crowd-promoted – two biggest takeaways from the book, Innovating Women, for me. The passion with which stories were sourced from around the world for this book. And the way it has been promoted so well using the technology and social media – holds a few lessons for new authors like me. ‘Women in technology’ is a topic that is warming up in many discussions, conferences, and seminars. So it also makes a perfect timing for the book. The lack of women in the technology sector is creating a kind of balance that is self-perpetuating. And unless the industry corrects itself, it may keep on increasing – is the premise that this book tends to deal with.
The book contains a series of personal stories of women from around the globe who have a successful career in technology. They talk about their journeys and the prejudices that they had to suffer on the way. The ones they deal with on daily basis. The way they mentally prepared themselves to live in a man’s world. And their passion that kept them at it. All stories are inspiring and tell us how much similar a woman’s professional world is across the world. Irrespective of the fact if it is a developed country or not.
Most common argument of the paucity of women in technology companies is the lack of available women in these fields. And authors of Innovating Women bring out how this feeds the inherent biases in the existing systems and society. And they propose the industry needs to break it. They also bring out how communities like VCs and entrepreneurs tend to hire and fund people like themselves. Psychologically one can understand this. As somewhere these are intuitive decisions which they take in the best interest of the newborn enterprise. Authors suggest that when they reach a certain size, they should make a conscious effort to get a gender balance in the team.
Innovating Women, also brings out that women need to support each other and help each other grow. This can be by way of mentoring, by way of being a support group or just by being a cheerleader. They can help each other deal with the use of offensive language. Or help in breaking the stereotype that exists in the mind of men around them.
Women also need to work together and break these stereotypes, so that it can open doors for many more women. Sometimes it is just about being more vocal about what women are doing. Like Gloria Steinem said ‘Women have always been an equal part of the past, just not an equal part of history”. While researching for my book The Mouse Charmers – Digital Pioneers of India, I found that women entrepreneurs focus more on doing their work. And not interested in talking about it. While men spent as much time talking about their work as they did in doing it.
Most of the data used in the book are from America, but the trends it indicates may be applicable in other places too. Some interesting facts that are shared in the book include:
- Women are actually more capital efficient than men
- Women-led high-tech startups had lower failure rates than those led by men
- Ada Lovelace considered the first woman computer programmer was instrumental in designing machines that can manipulate symbols instead of numbers and think of it how many of us have heard of her.
The book is an excellent repository of women-oriented institutes like Anita Borg Institute for Women & Technology and investment clubs like Springboard, Golden Seeds, Belle Capital, 37 Angels etc that work exclusively or primarily with enterprising women in technology. Then there are websites like Makers.com that document women’s stories. Or Google’s #40forward initiative to increase representation of women in startups. I never knew about the existence of many of these, though I have been a woman in technology myself. And now I end up writing about the space.
Authors have given their insights from their own journeys. And from the journey of writing this book. You should read these if you do not have time to read the whole book. Overall a book with lots of anecdotes and thinking points…