~ November 18, 2013 ~
The recent talk of renewed feminism—of leaning in and having it all—has some folks wondering: Why can’t women behave like Indians?
In 1992, a group of male Silicon Valley executives with roots in the Indus region realized they were being treated like second-class citizens. “We had foreign accents, different educations and values. We dressed differently. People thought, ‘I can’t put this guy in front of a client, I can’t invest in this guy’s company,’” said Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur and academic who teaches at Stanford and Duke, among other institutions. “We couldn’t pretend there wasn’t a problem.”
They created The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), which stokes entrepreneurship for members globally. Members systematically sponsored and invested in each other. Each prosperous Indian found a promising protégé to groom. The mentor did whatever was necessary—from making introductions, to personally funding, to buying new clothes—to help the greenhorn adapt and achieve. The members aimed, as TiE’s website says, to foster a “virtuous cycle of wealth creation and giving back to the community.”
TiE now has about 13,000 members in fifty-seven chapters across fourteen countries and, as a result, Wadhwa, who was the founding president of the Carolinas chapter of TiE, said Southeast Asians have become a disproportionately successful, sought-out bloc in the workforce. “It worked for us because we banded together,” he continued. “We fixed the problem systematically and led by example.”
So why haven’t women appropriated this formula for success? “Women fit into society better because you’re only different in one sense. It’s easier for you to pretend you’re the same as guys, but you need to recognize there’s still a problem.”
Even the white boys agree. Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur who has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford, and Columbia, said that Silicon Valley in the late 1970s was a sea of homogeny. “The notion of Chinese or Indians running a company was laughable. They were good engineers, but couldn’t run a company,” said Blank, who was listed as one of Harvard Business Review’s “Masters of Innovation” in 2012. “Over the last thirty years, almost every ethnicity started a support group. People collect over the notion of tribes, and the women-thing is the next rational barrier to fall. I have two college-age daughters, and it’s time.”
These guys have a point, but they don’t realize it’s already happening—because the really vibrant women’s networks have been completely underground. Without declaring an explicit agenda like TiE’s, women across the nation have been adopting the Indian model for success. They are mobilizing their #StilettoNetworks (i.e., tribes) and, for the first time in history, seeing a monetary return on time invested with girlfriends.
~ August 28, 2013 ~
“Organizations are not networks,” says one exec in Stiletto Network. “Organizations are opportunities to build your networks.”
Karen White (President & COO of Addepar; former Oracle & private equity honcho; Stiletto Network Chapter 6) says that when a woman attends some esteemed institution of higher learning or gets hired by a reputable firm, the onus is on her to be active in her network – both inside and outside of her company.
We must work hard for others if we want others to work hard for us. We should lead by giving.
“People choose all types of criteria to favor – their alma mater, ex-football players, women,” White says. “But you have to be a contributor. Networks give you access, and if you’re in a network – at least in Silicon Valley – it’s assumed you will participate. All you have is your reputation around your capabilities and for keeping your commitments. You can fail at your venture, survive that, and move on to thrive in the next. But without the pillar of your network, your chances of succeeding are de minimus.”
In Silicon Valley, there’s less segregation of friends, family, work, church, temple, mosque. It’s all blended, and men and women see a fuller spectrum of each other’s worlds. This is way the rest of society is heading too.
People are relying more on their networks and less on their organizations.
So, what are you doing to feed your network? Whom have you helped today?
~ August 5, 2013 ~
Stiletto Network has been so inspiring for me personally, and my intention in telling this story has been not only to identify, but also to catalyze this powerful nationwide movement. So I’m thrilled to report that since the book was published in May, I’ve received hundreds of emails from women across the country who either have their own Stiletto Networks or want to start one.
I’ve found these groups among women in all industries and age groups — from CEOs to aspiring Millennials to moms launching businesses in their basements. This proves that you don’t need to be famous or fabulous to create a Stiletto Network, and you need not begin with major connections. Anyone can do this.
Need more evidence? Channel 7 WSPA recently aired a fantastic segment showcasing Stiletto Networks in South Carolina — groups like “Women Mean Business” in Greenville and “Sparkle” in Spartanburg. These are local female entrepreneurs, women merging business and friendship and helping each other grow.
To quote Laura Thomas, WSPA anchor/reporter: “It’s a community of women with high heels, and even higher hopes.”
Women like Laura Skelton, owner of River Falls Spa; Duffy Baehr, owner of Baehr Feet; Anne Anderson, owner of Herb & Renewal; Brooke Shugart of Studio B for Pilates and Barre; Brandy Gutierrez of iRecycle; and Sara Riddle, who is opening a maternity and nursing store called Haute Mama.
“We have many roles,” says Shugart. “We’re mothers and wives and business owners, and I just feel like it’s very important for us to encourage each other.”
~ July 24, 2013 ~
The night Dina Kaplan met two geeks in a bar on the Bowery, she wasn’t looking to switch careers. She was working as a local TV reporter and these guys seemed like ragtag kids. She might never have talked to them, but The Remote Lounge had cameras and telephone handsets at every table to encourage patrons to interact. You could be at Table 4 and think, “I want to see the girls at Table 25.” You could send out feelers without really risking rejection.
So when the geeks dared her to venture upstairs, Kaplan took a chance. Hey, it was the year 2000. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll come up and say hi.”
Mike Hudack had dropped out of high school to work for a start-up and his buddy Charles Hope, sporting a nostril pierce and dreadlocks flopping halfway down his chest, was an odd candidate to write software tracking ingredients for a kosher certification company. But it paid the bills. The group talked late into the evening, and Hudack struck Kaplan as some sort of boy genius.
Fast-forward five years and Kaplan was still in touch. By then Hudack and Hope had partnered with two other techies they met at a group called “New York City Geeks,” and the guys spent nights and weekends hacking away on an information management program they’d developed, thinking it could form the back-end of a larger company – like a platform for TV shows on the Internet. The hackers knew Kaplan was smart and personable, and they wanted her to be the face of their operation. She could talk to people, help raise funds or bring in partners, maybe turn their project into a business.
Kaplan, who had worked for MTV for four years and been a television reporter for five, could see how Web video might be interesting. “I trust my instinct on big things,” Kaplan says. “I remember the date, time, and moment I had my first Starbucks coffee and thinking, ‘This company is going to do really well.’ I remember the first time I had a Snapple, what I was wearing, and I thought, ‘This company is going to do really well.’”
Kaplan felt the same about Hudack. Though her friends started staging interventions – did she really want to work with these guys? – she was ready to gamble. “If I ever know anyone who’s going to be the next Bill Gates, it’s this guy,” she remembers thinking. “If he starts a company, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and go work for him.” (more…)
~ July 11, 2013 ~
Lots of ladies dive for the escape hatch when women’s gatherings get too plaintive.
One executive I spoke with for Stiletto Network recalled an episode at a National Venture Capital Association event about a decade ago; men and women were mingling amiably when an NVCA rep decided to corral some ladies into a separate room to confer on a report by the Athena Forum about the state of women in venture and private equity.
“The report showed that the number of women had dropped three-tenths of a point, and some woman shook her head and said in hushed tones, ‘This is terrible,’” the VC recounted. “We were just twitching in our seats. I stood up and said I appreciate the earnestness, but if there are a bunch of women with MBA’s making half a million a year while women in the garment industry are slaving away, well… I’m not crying in my chardonnay. Only 2.5% of VCs are women, and some of them made so much money in the bubble that they can retire. So I know the women who changed the number that much statistically.”
Her point? Sure, there are issues, but let’s get a little perspective. And, in the wake of the Ellen Pao scandal at Kleiner Perkins, Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic dirge (“Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”), the debate over leaning in, and the carping over Marissa Mayer’s baby, she had some other thoughts:
“I wouldn’t mind rewinding the clock a few months, when we could just do the work and the topic on everyone’s mind wasn’t gender and work. Is that selfish of me? Anti-feminist? Is the dialogue always supposed to be kept alive, like a balloon ball on a concert floor? As if the collective consciousness says, ‘Watch out! It’s going to fall off the radar! Quick, somebody do something to get everyone talking about the inequities of work/life balance and the perils of being a woman at work again!’ I’m exhausted trying not to think about it and just do it.”
So what’s the answer? How to launch a constructive dialogue without being branded whiners, and without suffering gender fatigue? How much is too much?
~ June 29, 2013 ~
After more than two months of practice, members of Congress and members of the media — the “Bad News Babes” — faced off on Wednesday at the fifth annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game. It was my great pleasure to cover the event for both the Washington Post and for MSNBC’s “The Cycle.”
While their male counterparts remain divided along party lines — the annual Congressional Baseball Game, which includes almost all men, pits Republicans against Democrats — the softball team is a bipartisan effort.
This game is notorious for its trash-talking, but it’s fostering a spirit of civility in politics. Players say it has allowed them to develop strong personal ties that are reducing antagonism on Capitol Hill, easing gridlock, and slowly overturning the Old Boys’ Clubs of both politics and press.
Sound familiar? We call it the “Cleats Network” — and it is ridiculously fun.
Even better? These ladies raised $125,000 for the Young Survival Coalition, which tends to the unique needs of young women with breast cancer.