Aug 232014

Vivek Wadhwa crowd-funded the publication of his new book, Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology (cowritten with Farai Chedey). He also “crowd-created” it with the help of more than 500 women who contributed research and writing. In this podcast with knowledge@wharton, Wadhwa explains the genesis of this intriguing approach to authorship and publication. He also assesses the current situation of women in the high-tech industry and how it might be improved. Here he explains how the project started:

I came to Silicon Valley to research its immigrant networks: Why had Silicon Valley been so successful in fostering immigrant entrepreneurship? Why is it one group — in particular, Indians — had been so successful? I was really fascinated with Silicon Valley, and I imagined, I believed and I said it was the world’s greatest meritocracy — until I came over here. I used to do a lot of writing for [tech blog] TechCrunch, and we happened to be at a big TechCrunch event, one of their major conferences, and my wife said, “Vivek, do you notice something strange over here?” I said, “Yeah, we’re sitting next to Mark Zuckerberg.” It was amazing to be in the middle of all of this innovation and the amazing things that happened over here. She said, “Vivek, no, look around. What don’t you see?” That’s when the light went off in my head … there weren’t any women there, and it was a shock to realize that half of the population is being left out of the innovation economy. …

What I learned was that there was really no difference between women and men; they had the same strengths, the same weaknesses, the same motivation. I systemically went in, opened up my research papers in the past. I went through my own data sets, and I realized that I was so ignorant that I had never recorded the gender of the people I was interviewing, so I had to [go back and] look at it again, and I was surprised that there was literally no difference. The question was, if there’s no difference, then why is it that women are left out? Why don’t we see women in tech conferences? Why is it that there are no women on the boards of Silicon Valley companies? Why are the executive teams all male, when there’s really, literally, no difference between women and men?

May 212013

I was delighted today to find that my friend Snipey (aka Alison Gianotto), whom I met last Defcon, was newly conspiring with her friend K2 to create a blog they’ve called Gender Shenanigans, which, as they describe it,

. . . is a library of non-discouraging gender political plays. What does that mean? That means people addressing gender inequality in unique ways, using humor, snark, and other methods to educate people in a way that doesn’t make them feel like crap, but does demonstrate that their words or actions reinforced gender inequality.

We’re highlighting brilliant, positive, unique and fun ways people are pulling this off. We believe these types of actions have lasting effects, and encourage both women and men to look critically at the world around them, and the stereotypes and roles many people have come to accept as accurate – or that they never actually thought about at all.

I was pleased to find an example so soon (and superb) of the coyote communications tactics I wrote about last week. In many ways gender politics and sexism are a stagnant, stuck situation. Perfectly polite-but-assertive professional communications are proving futile, even provoking some pretty insane backlash. I love that Snipey and K2 are stepping outside of the usual prescriptions and instead inventing and honoring creative ways to turn the conflict sideways and upside down. I don’t know K2, but I know Snipey, and she’s always been courageous, outspoken, irreverent, and funny. She’s a born coyote communicator.

You can read about the inception of Gender Shenanigans on Snipey’s blog [warning: expect Snipey’s usual lovable profanity]. Or you can visit Gender Shenanigans directly.