Are you a woman in NYC Tech and interested in participating in this series? Make sure to read the whole article…
Much has been said and written about the lack of women in the tech sector, be it as investors (or associates), founders, or in management positions at major companies. Is the problem the old boys network – or that success in technology is seen as a young man’s game? In this series, we speak with some of the top women in tech in New York as they discuss the challenges they face, the perceptions that need to be changed and the work that’s being done – or not – to help to promote women in tech.
Today we speak with Kate Brodock, CEO at Women 2.0 – the leading brand for women in tech and startups with a focus on diversity. With expertise in business and marketing strategy, Kate is a highly sought out speaker on the topic of inclusion and gender parity with engagements at leading conferences including SXSW, BlogWorld (NWX), and TEDx. Prior to taking over Women 2.0 Kate served as the the CMO of untapt. Kate’s work at Women 2.0 provides forum for impact focused conversations and actionable solutions to address gender gaps. Kate was kind enough to join us to share some keen insights on the state of women in tech today.
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
I’m somewhat new to the NYC tech ecosystem. I know I might spark a competitive nerve locally, but I “grew up” in the Boston tech ecosystem, starting out post-undergrad right in the innovation scene around Kendall Square. I’m sorry, but I’m a Sox fan and a Patriots fan. I hope no one kicks me out.
In 2015, I took a CMO role at a NYC-based tech startup that used AI to make tech hiring a better experience. I took over Women 2.0 in August 2016, and moved the company from the West Coast, where it had originated over a decade ago, to New York. While I live in Upstate, NYC is our Metro-hub.
However, as a woman who’s had her foot in the startup world and the women in tech space for over 10 years, I’ve always had an extensive network in NYC. The transition to the local tech scene was natural and smooth, especially in terms of doing the work I now do at Women 2.0. I know the ecosystem, I know the players. We’ve got a solid base here, and we’re really looking forward to growing that in the future.
This is a question that can elicit different types of responses. For me, I generally tend to focus on some of the unique strengths that women have, and how they make us not only worthy members to the ecosystem – a focus on parity – but as serious benefits to the ecosystem.
For example, women tend to have demonstrable strengths in empathy and teamwork. This leads to a high quality of relationship-building from women that’s more or less unique to them. In a world where relationships can often mean power, this is a strategic advantage.
I also recently heard a great panel of NYC women VCs speak, and they collectively highlighted a few other ways they’ve viewed being a women as a clear advantage.
For example, being the only woman in the room is often looked at as a disadvantage (and in many cases, it really can be). These women each recounted that, in their experience, being different meant being noticed, and being underestimated also meant being noticed. Now, this isn’t the reality across the board, but internalizing this point of view as a woman in tech could create a positive mind shift in some situations.
In all, there’s a lot of work to be done, and there are small and large hurdles that still need to be addressed. Frankly, a lot of stats are still really pathetic. But a lot is improving. After the dramatic 2017 the tech industry had, there is so much opportunity for productive work forward, and that’s our goal at Women 2.0.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
One of our core initiatives both in 2017 and in 2018 is Men as Allies. To me, this is an area that’s the least developed, but holds the most opportunity.
For the last decade, a lot of work around women in tech and women entrepreneurs has focused on community and awareness-building, and the bulk of that was led and implemented by women, for women. This was important and incredibly valuable for the movement as a whole, but at the end of the day, it left a gaping hole – men are 50% of the population, and they’re usually the 50% with the power and resources, and they’re the 50% making decisions and writing checks. It creates, at best, a 50% solution or innovation.
It’s crucial to create a more central, active role for men. It isn’t enough to sponsor an event or an internal ERG. It isn’t enough to give gender diversity efforts a quick clap and then turn and continue business-as-usual. It’s going to take a lot more action and commitment from men. We’re working on ways to move this forward, as are several other organizations.
And then, of course, there are the tactical ways this can be accomplished. Many of these are talked about quite a bit. For instance, showcasing women founders and women in the workplace a lot more (whether it’s on teams, in media, etc.) being intentional when putting together events and panels, and creating consistent channels for sourcing women. Companies also need to commit to assessing their internal workplace from a cultural and policy standpoint to increase their retention rates of women.
Through your work at Women 2.0 what changes have you seen over the last 18 months and what issues still remain?
As I said, 2017 was a serious year for the women in tech movement. I’ve been at it myself for over ten years (I was previously running a global non-profit for women in technology and entrepreneurship), and the past 18 months has been a real, tangible shift. People are angry, and there’s a lot of tension, but it also means there’s room to find productive solutions.
When I took over Women 2.0, it felt like it was time for a fundamental shift in how we dealt with the issues of gender in the tech space. We set our focus 100% on that action piece – the “walking” – and focused work on the internal systems within the industry.
This means shifting the industry D&I focus from external community work to internal workplace development and improving the founder-investor structures that fuel earlier-stage tech companies.
We’re laser focused on where we can create action forward, and, for us, most of that will be figuring out how to scale and create access to solutions. That’s code for backing most of what we’re doing in the D&I space with tech solutions.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
This is a big question, and I can’t possibly address it all with the brevity needed for this interview, but here are a few things we think about a lot.
Importantly, diversity can’t be solved without looking at your culture and focusing on inclusion. It’s a crucial, but still overlooked piece of this equation. Diversity is about your workforce. Inclusion is about your workplace and building one that supports each member of that workforce.
First priority this year is to see that diversity is taken seriously as a core part of a company’s internal makeup – and I think that is starting to be taken seriously. We also want companies take real steps towards creating a structure and a culture that values all employees. You can’t hire more women to your team and expect them to stay if you don’t have the policies and principles that make them feel valued.
Secondly, diversity doesn’t have just one breakdown. We’ve traditionally focused on gender diversity, and we have deep knowledge on that, but we’re expanding quickly into general diversity solutions because we feel a comprehensive approach is needed to truly create better tech companies of the future. Diversity includes gender, race, sexual orientation, age, disability and the list goes on.
When you’re thinking about building a team, “softer” items like where a person came from, where they went to school, how they learned their skill are also important. By including more and different viewpoints, you’re increasing diversity of thought, which is shown to positively affect innovation and revenues.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
This is a no-brainer for me. Firstly, it’s the right thing to do. But secondly, and importantly, it’s good for business. There are so many clear data points that show that having more women at the leadership table actually improves a company’s bottom-line.
There’s also a load of data that shows that having more women throughout the ranks of your company – on teams, creating products, managing people, making decisions – also increases innovation, productivity and revenues.
If someone needed a business case for it, it’s there.
For society, it’s also becoming pretty apparent that diversity is important to how actual products are made, and how problems are being solved. Diversity has affected — and is going to affect — the technology outputs that enter our lives. These technologies engage with us. They determine our behaviors, thought processes, buying patterns, world views… you name it.
The hands and minds that make technology will have a direct impact on us as humans and on the world around us. What’s going to happen if these technologies are built by a homogenous group?
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
Another big question, so I’ll take the opportunity to answer with one specific thing that’s important, instead of an extensive answer.
One of the hurdles I think is going to be the most difficult to change is unconscious bias, or micro-aggressions. They’re so hard to change because they’re just that – unconscious – and hard to recognize or admit to.
If we could move to a place where these micro-aggressions are not only recognized, but consistently turned into an opportunity or a win, we’ll be in a great place.
An example of this could be analyzing the initial reaction of “Lucy is so quiet in team meetings, she must have low confidence.” If you leave it at that, you have a manager or team member who thinks their co-worker Lucy lacks confidence. But if that manager or team member were to stop and reframe their reaction to, for instance, “Lucy is more quiet than the rest of the team in meetings, I wonder what’s causing that?” this opens the door up for a “micro win”. If a manager were to look at that with fewer assumptions, and an eye to really fix it, he might find it’s because her colleagues had talked over her for so long that she just stopped inputting. He might find she hasn’t gotten feedback on her work in several months, and wonders if she’s providing value to the company.
This initially inhibitive reaction actually becomes an opportunity for advancement. It’s takes diligence and discipline to start recognizing these actions, but if you stripped this out of team dynamics, you’d have left a team and company environment that’s not only supportive, but also collaborative. To me, that’s really exciting and leads directly to a huge boost in innovation.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
This is going to be blunt, but women should continue doing what we’ve been doing for years in this movement. It’s never really been our responsibility to change the ecosystem, we’ve just needed to do it.
I hope we’re at a point now where we have men who step up to the plate and work with us in a much more consistent and central way to fix the current situation, as opposed to a sporadic and disengaged way.
There are countless men who are have been doing this already, as exhibited by the fantastic men on our Allies Committee – put together in the summer of 2017 – as well as on our Advisory Board, which has been in existence since August 2016, and scores more who are starting. This needs to continue.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
So many great ones! Of the top of my mind Girl Develop It, Project Include, Women Who Code, Black Girls Code, Lesbians Who Tech have been doing great work in this space for a while, and they know what’s what.
A few companies coming out that are friends and that we respect a great deal are Republic, Blendoor, Alliebot and Werk.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
This list could be an entire book, and I’d defer a lot to our Allies Committee and other great male allies for input here. But I could throw out a few things more generally.
Talk, learn, and understand your own positions. Understand where they can effect change. I think a key part of this is to listen, and to try and avoid getting defensive. You may get some heat and some probably justified anger from some women, but showing up to that discussion matters, and it’s important to moving it forward productively.
If you’re in leadership positions, focus on making sure that it’s felt from the top. Make sure you’re consciously creating not only a culture, but a structure that’s inclusive. This means assessing your policies, creating metrics and having clear steps for implementation.
If you’re in management, make sure you’re creating diverse teams and can retain them and work with leadership to make sure you have the culture and policies in place to do so. It goes beyond hiring. Also, the micro-aggressions. If managers could do one thing immediately to impact their direct reports, it’s to understand this concept more.
If you’re early in your career, think about how you’re reacting to your women counterparts and what your perceptions are of your female peers. Think about yourself as a coworker to women. Are you supporting them? Or are you blocking them out?
These are just a few things – there’s a lot to tackle! – but a great starting place.
The team at AlleyWatch believes it’s important to have an inclusive discussion around the challenges facing women in tech along with highlighting the work of the female entrepreneurs that have made NYC one of the best places for women in tech according to some recent studies. That’s why we are running this series that showcases women in tech in New York.
If you are a female founder in NYC working in tech and interested in participating in the series please visit this link or click on the image above.
Please feel free to pass this on to any women in NYC that you feel should be considered for the series. Thank you.