November 4, 2014
Do you remember learning about Newton’s Third Law of Motion in high school? It states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, the action I am referring to is a comment made by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella about women, raises and some form of superpower “karma” – something he uttered, in total karmic irony, at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing forum earlier this month.
Mr. Nadella’s view – that instead of asking for pay raises, women should just be happy with their superpower “karma” and have “faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along" – created such a stir that he backpedalled with an almost-immediate apology.
I am not sure if Mr. Nadella was relying on the “laws of the universe” or his own superpowers to get him out of this public relations nightmare, but his actions certainly brought a longstanding issue to the mainstream: how women are perceived by their male peers.
Unfortunately, Mr. Nadella is not alone.
In 2013, a “boobs” app was featured at a TechCrunch hackathon – developers later apologized – while Microsoft apologized for and removed an insensitive tweet about older women and their understanding of computers.
On the flip side – and in keeping with Newton’s Law of Motion – a more positive standpoint towards women appeared on “CBS Sunday Morning,” just a few days after the Nadella snafu.
The segment highlighted female technology pioneers mathematician Augusta Ada King and computer programmer Grace Hopper. Both women are featured in Walter Isaacson’s latest book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, which includes some largely unknown facts, such as:
• More than a 100 years before the first mainframe computer was built, mathematician Augusta Ada King speculated that the same kinds of punch cards used to program weaving looms could also handle mathematical equations, setting the stage for the field of computer language/computer programming long before it evolved into a science
• Hopper, while a member of the programming team at Harvard University, is credited with bringing the term “de-bugging” into the vernacular by removing a dead moth from a switch inside the sluggish Harvard Mark 1 computer, literally “de-bugging” it on the spot
Surprising factoids? Perhaps, but not so surprising to the throngs of women who now outnumber their male colleagues in college classes, or the number of women who started their own businesses this year: 1,200 every day, according to some estimates.
Look around, and women in leadership roles are on the move in business, marketing, mobile technology, education, healthcare, government, arts, entertainment and media.
Honoring women is an honor
Speaking of women that shape our world, on Nov. 4 I will have the honor of being with women who are making a profound impact on mobile marketing, advertising, media and commerce at Mobile Marketer’s Mobile Women to Watch 2015 Summit at the National Museum of the American Indian across from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan in New York.
Being a Mobile Women to Watch alumni, I am excited to spend the day with women who, like King and Hopper, are innovative, committed, creative and visionary women who literally make the world go round.
These women executives make tangible differences in their communities, at home and in the workplace, whether in the fields of technology, computing, public relations, marketing, transportation, media, education, arts, entertainment, nonprofits or government.
Glass ceiling or not, they trust their creative instincts, make their marks as directors and executives, honor their passions for marketing and business, pursue intriguing opportunities, and choose the unexpected paths that allow them to blaze mobile-industry trails that are enriching, exciting and fulfilling.
“Superpower karma” or not, they do what every good parent – mother or father – should tell every child – female and male – as they find their way in the world: “Discover what you have a passion for, and go do it.”
Role models abound
Whether it was Eleanor Roosevelt during the Great Depression, Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking 1963 book Feminine Mystique, Sally Helgessen’s 1990 look at women’s collaborative work styles in The Female Advantage: Women's Ways of Leadership, or Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s book, ”Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” women of every generation have chosen and identified with varied role models.
Today’s women are leading. They are not waiting for success to find them: they are creating it, instigating it and pursuing it with a passion.
If you do not believe me, let the data tell the story – numbers that go beyond the common statistic that women earn, on average, 77 cents to every $1 earned by their male colleagues:
• About 8 percent of CMO positions are held by women globally, according to Grant Thornton
• WomenWhoTech points out that 28 percent of proprietary software positions and 25 percent of IT jobs are held by women
• According to Catalyst, nearly 15 percent of executive posts and 17 percent of board of director seats are held by women at Fortune 500 companies
• According to Women Moving Millions, women earn 51 percent of the doctoral degrees in the United States, and they made up 51 percent of business school applicants
• Nationwide, nearly six in 10 college undergraduates are women (58 percent)
• According to Forbes, women have started businesses at higher rates than men for the last two decades, and will “create over half of the 9.72 million new jobs expected to be created by 2018”
• Since 2002, the number of businesses owned by African-American women has grown 67 percent, with receipts of nearly $37 billion, while the number of businesses owned by Hispanic women has grown 45.7 percent, with receipts of nearly $56 billion, according to National Women’s Business Council.
THESE WOMEN do not rely on karma, or believe that the universe will reward them if they are patient enough.
Instead, they rely on their creativity, vision, dedication, belief in their abilities, perseverance and, yes, long hours to make things happen and truly effect change. They network, but they do not wait around for the world to happen to them. They are too busy making it happen on their own.
My advice to women?
Do not wait for karma to send you an invitation to connect with other women. Take action today.
Learn from the women around you, including their failures, and invite them to be part of your success.
Vanessa Horwell is chief visibility officer of ThinkInk, Miami Beach, FL. Reach her at email@example.com.