Monthly Archives: April 2015

Monthly Mentions: April 2015

 

Monthly Mentions recaps my publications, citations, and appearances for the month. My goal is to share broadly my thoughts on women in technology leadership, cloud technology, entrepreneurship, and more.

In the press this month, I published:

What the Kleiner Perkins Trial Really Means for Gender in Silicon Valley on the Huffington Post

On my blog this month, I wrote:

Israel’s Exciting Innovations in Cyber Security

This Month on HuffPo: What the Kleiner Perkins Trial Really Means for Gender in Silicon Valley

The New Workplace: Leading Successfully Across Generations

On the RingCentral blog, I wrote:

Latest 7.1 update of RingCentral Office Delivers Security and Quality in Business Communications

On my LinkedIn page this month, I shared:

Silicon Valley Thinks Women Equal Success

What the Kleiner Perkins Trial Really Means for Gender in Silicon Valley

I’m featured in:

RingCentral’s Kira Makagon | Women of Influence 2015 in the Silicon Valley Business Journal

If you are interested in inviting Kira Makagon to guest-author a piece on your site or to speak to your organization, please contact Evie Goldstein, RingCentral’s public relations manager,  via e-mail, evelin.goldstein at ringcentral.com. Thanks!

What the Kleiner Perkins Trial Really Means for Gender in Silicon Valley

One of my favorite subjects about which I write and speak is the importance of gender diversity in the workplace. I’ve written here before about how to increase the numbers of women tech leaders and how to increase women’s participation in computer science programs in college. Also, I’ve shown how woman are yielding successful results as start-up heads. It probably comes as no surprise, given my passion for women’s issues, that I followed Ellen Pao’s gender discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, Kleiner Perkins, with great interest. Whether proved or not in her specific case, the issues the Pao trial raised are significant factors in many women’s everyday work lives. Especially as a company leader, I give a lot of thought to how to effect positive change with regard to issues of gender disparity. To that end, I’m grateful for the dialogue Pao’s case sparked with regard to issues of gender at work.

To me, Pao’s case really wasn’t about its specific outcome; it was about shining a spotlight on issues of gender discrimination and sexism that we all know exist. In one article that compares the Ellen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins trial to the Clarence Thomas v. Anita Hill one, Joan Williams, distinguished professor of law at the University of California Hastings College of Law, suggested “The Pao case has been a month-long gender bias training to the world, and in a very high profile context.” I agree; therein lies its value to the world. Now, where do we go from here?

It’s my hope that Pao’s trial experience results not in more legal action but, rather, in more open-mindedness to gender issues accompanied by a desire to deal with these issues constructively. Senior management, especially, needs to be on the lookout for how women on their staff are treated and must be proactive in handling issues, no matter how seemingly small. As well, change can start at the beginning, with hiring. Quoted in this arstechnica article, multi-time founder Fran Maier says, “I’m not sure any company is going to think about diversity first, but if they become more enlightened, they’ll think about reaching out to a larger network, maybe understanding that a woman’s point of view could make a difference, or that a more diverse staff makes better decisions.” The real “win” of the Pao case – since there really were no winners in that lawsuit – will be when businesses do exactly as Maier suggests: when they learn and grow from valuing a gender-diverse staff. I have long been a proponent of businesses making gender-neutral policies, and I’ve shared tips for doing that which I’ve implemented in my own companies. Personally, I’m not in favor of quotas as a solution to diversifying a workplace; equality is not a numbers game. Equality is more about treatment and fairness of access than it is about numbers. My hope is that the outcome of Pao’s case for every company is a look inward at its diversity values, measures, and goals.

We must celebrate our successes alongside those lessons, too. I am proud of my company, RingCentral, for appointing a woman, Michelle McKenna Doyle, CIO of the NFL, to our board. There are many ways to take steps like these that trend in a positive direction for company diversity. Legal action alone will never propel women to positions of equality. But in some cases, like Pao’s, a lawsuit might force the fast-tracking of a conversation that has long needed to happen. Fortune magazine summed it up well: “The suit will likely have a lasting impact on society, and a positive one for the cause of equal treatment in the workplace.” I hope that is, indeed, the case.

Have the issues raised around the Ellen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins trial impacted the way you run your business? I’d like to hear from you in the comments below.

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post on April 16, 2015 and on LinkedIn on April 22, 2015.

The New Workplace: Leading Successfully Across Generations

 

Last month, I was honored to speak at the San Francisco Women in Leadership Symposium on the topic of “The New Workplace: Leading Successfully Across Generations.” As someone passionate about diversity in the workplace, this topic and forum provided me with an opportunity to delve into concerns and benefits of an increasingly disparate age range in the workplace. The thoughts below are what I offered on-stage.

A few years ago, Wells Fargo surveyed 1,000 Americans between the ages of 25 and 75 about their retirement plans. Some of the findings were shocking, including that 30% of the people surveyed believed they would be working until 80 in order to have a comfortable retirement. And, generally, those same middle-class Americans believed they would be living near the poverty line in their retirement, collecting about half of their present income per year – about $25,000.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find the data from that survey to be unnerving. I don’t want to work until I’m 80, and I don’t want to be in poverty when I retire. I have to plan accordingly. And, as a leader of a technology company, I don’t have to plan only for myself. I have to plan for a future in which I may be managing eighty year-olds alongside twenty year-olds. What is that going to look like?

The situation right now doesn’t look like this. Right now, if you’re middle-aged or older in America, you have an uphill battle if you have to get a job, especially if you’re a woman.  I have some personal experience with this. A close friend of mine, a woman who attended Berkeley at the same time as I did, recently found herself laid off after many years with the same company, replaced by two younger people under the pretense that her job would be eliminated.  This mid-level manager always reaped top reviews and led teams who loved her, but she lost her job anyway. She is struggling to find new work and is faced with some difficult choices: does she have to take a step back after years in a leadership position? or try a new industry? She’s in her fifties and plans to work for at least another 10-15 years – but, if she’s on the longer-term plan, that could turn into 30 years! That’s decades and decades of value that she might add to a company – and valuable, she is, but when she walks into a room full of twenty-somethings to interview for a new tech job, the deck is stacked against her in so many ways. You may have seen a fairly-recent cover of Newsweek recently, decrying “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women.” Well, I wrote a response to that on the Huffington Post, pointing out that, actually, women-led companies are producing returns on investments 30% higher than male-led companies – so I think that Silicon Valley should think that women are successful and valuable additions to the landscape. But we all know that it doesn’t work that way. We need to look no further than the recent Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins trial to note how gender issues are still pervasive in the workplace, something I wrote about in this month’s Huffington Post. Just as sexism and gender discrimination remain real issues for women at work, so does ageism. For people like my friend, who are both female and middle-aged, finding work right now is too hard; this makes working until 80 seem impossible.

But, it’s reality. So we need to plan for a future in which sixty years may divide our employees. The subject at hand is “leading across generations,” and here’s how I plan to do it.

For starters, I work hard not to be ageist or sexist. In fact, diversity in the workplace is good in every way. It’s something about which I’m passionate, and I put some time into advocating for it. I write a lot about it on this blog, actually. To give a specific example, at my current company, RingCentral, we have a Women’s Leadership Council that meets regularly to discuss issues that women are facing in our workplace. Men are welcome in these meetings too; I believe in a gender-neutral workplace, really. As someone who has made it to the top, I know that part of my role is setting a positive tone for all of my employees. I aim for that tone to be one that offers support, not judgment, for women of all ages who work alongside me. All managers have to embrace the reality that there are women who, like me, work consistently from college graduation through retirement. But there are also women – and, actually, men – who take time off for family matters, whether to raise kids or to care for aging parents. There are also folks who take sabbaticals of sorts, traveling the world for a couple of years, or employees who are on their second or third career when they arrive at our door. Sure, the number of relevant years in the workforce is a consideration when hiring someone, but there is also a place for people anywhere along that continuum as well as people who are smart and curious and changing jobs. I don’t punish people for taking time out of the workforce or for trying something new. Rather, I reward their work. A carrot is always better than a stick when it comes to leadership.

Being realistic in our hiring practices has a lot to do with leading a vast age group. Google hires based on aptitude, not just experience. In other words, what you’ve done matters less than what you can do. Imagine if my fifty-something friend, a highly-skilled manager, were interviewed in that light. She’d be a top-pick! So it’s not just factoring in someone’s depth of experience that should matter; we must also factor in potential. Does a sixty year-old have potential? Ask someone at Hewlett Packard, where the median age is 39. That’s right – 39! IBM and Oracle’s median age is 38. I know some sixty-somethings and seventy-somethings at these companies. They are not only working hard, but they are able to offer a lot of “back in the day” tech-talk that I value. Their contribution to the corporate climate matters as much as the younger set making us all feel good as they have their first babies, or the older folks who are sending their kids off to college and having their first grandkids. We all want to feel good in the workplace. And when we don’t have wide representation across age groups, the climate just isn’t as warm. If you want to know what I mean, walk across the Google campus. Despite their hiring practices, the average age is 30. It feels exciting to be there, but, if you’re much over even 40, you may not feel like you belong. Will an 80 year-old work there someday? It doesn’t seem like it right now. I hope that their hiring practices are examining that disparity.

Let’s also embrace the positive elements of each other’s presence in the work force, too, whether you’re young or not-so-young anymore. Those of us who remember what it was like to work in tech when we had to wear business suits are grateful to today’s millennial staffers for introducing us to much more casual dress in the workplace, although my own mother is a bit horrified at this change. When she saw me on-stage at the Launch.co hackathon recently, she did not approve of my wearing jeans. For me, this is a wonderful option, as it must be for men who no longer need to wear ties everyday, at least not here in Northern California.

The last thing I’d like to say about managing across generations is that management is management. We cannot manage our twentysomething work force any differently than we’d manage a sixtysomething one. Flexible work schedules are something to consider, here, too. I’m not a big believer in facetime or in 9 to 5 clock-punching. This means that, at my company, I pay careful attention to who’s getting his or her work done. I don’t care how or when they do it – just that they do the job for which they’re hired. As more companies adopt this, I think that, naturally, the workforce will have wider age representation. Whether it’s flexibility to work around children’s school schedules or a desire to sleep in a bit later, flexibility is key to managing across generations – not just to hiring a wide and valuable variety of people, but also to keeping them happy. Retention increases as flexibility does, and this, especially is something to consider as we look at managing across generations.

This Month on HuffPo: What the Kleiner Perkins Trial Really Means for Gender in Silicon Valley

 

This month on the Huffington Post, I offer my thoughts on what the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins trial really means for gender in Silicon Valley. Since I often write and speak about the importance of gender diversity in the workplace, I followed this trial with great interest, as the issues it raised are significant factors in many women’s everyday work lives. The dialogue that this case sparked with regard to issues of gender at work is an important one that I hope will continue long after the news interest in this sensational case wanes.

To me, Pao’s case really wasn’t about its specific outcome; it was about shining a spotlight on issues of gender discrimination and sexism that we all know exist. It’s my hope that the attention on these important issues results not in more legal action but, rather, in more open-mindedness to gender issues accompanied by a desire to deal with these issues constructively. In my companies, I strive to implement gender-neutral policies as one effective approach.

For more of my thoughts on the significance of this trial and on how businesses can be more mindful of gender issues, please click here to read my original piece on the Huffington Post.

Silicon Valley Thinks Women Equal Success

Often, when I read articles about sexism in Silicon Valley, I think about Martin Scorsese’s movie The Wolf of Wall Street and its lead character, Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. This bio-pic became Scorsese’s highest-grossing film of all time, and what a film it is, rife with moral depravity. If you read Newsweek‘s January 28, 2015 cover story “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women,” you might wonder if there’s much of a difference between Belfort’s Wall Street portrayed in that movie and our very own Silicon Valley.

I won’t bother dropping into detail about the Newsweek article; its examples of type-A jerks involved in atrocious acts like domestic violence don’t deserve more air-time here. To generalize, the piece makes it seem like things are pretty awful here for most women trying to advance in tech. It also makes the idea of women founding a company seem practically insurmountable because of hurdle after hurdle – with most of those hurdles involving barriers overtly related to sex and sexuality. However, just as a lot of folks have suggested that the truthfulness of Belfort’s memoir is in question, so, too, are some of these depictions of life in Silicon Valley worth further scrutiny. Though these stories are quite horrible, the truth is, I cannot relate to many of them. As a multi-time founder, I’ve pitched to my fair share of VCs, but my nervousness didn’t come from being surrounded by men. Rather, my nervousness was that of a founder seeking financing for a dream. Getting venture-backing is a difficult process, and the gender composition of the room hasn’t had anything to do with my stress.

As well, personally, I have not been on the receiving end of overt sexual innuendos, despite my blonde hair and occasional short skirts. I don’t contend that the claims from women in Newsweek article aren’t valid. In fact, I appreciate them sharing their stories. The more that unacceptable, sexist actions are brought to light, hopefully the less they’ll happen. But theirs has not been my experience, and I don’t agree that theirs is the example of Silicon Valley that should have been presented to the world. Instead, there is a real conversation to be had about how this place has more hope for change than Belfort’s Wall Street does.

There is a general truth to living in a venture-backed tech culture that our world is “don’t ask, don’t get” – and that’s all the harder if you’re a woman. At times, the statistics seem against us, as fewer than 10% of venture-backed companies in the Valley have a woman founder. That said, the tide is turning. The real story in Silicon Valley now is exemplified in a recent Business Insider piece by Julie Bort, in which early-stage tech investor Boris Wertz shares: “Gender diversity, as with diversity of any kind, results in a fuller range of ideas, perspectives, and approaches to problems. And an interesting study found that women-run private tech companies are more capital-efficient and bring in a 35% higher return on investment (and 12% higher when venture backed).” That’s our story, ladies, and investors are taking notice. More of our companies will get funded because we are delivering tangible results. Change is at hand, and this is our opportunity to make our news about successes rather than sexism.

Let me share one place to find such examples. I am honored to sit on an advisory board of a venture fund, Illuminate, founded and run by a woman, Cindy Padnos, whom I’ve known for years. Cindy invested in my previous company, Red Aril, and she also mentored me early in my career, when we both worked at Scopus. If you look through Illuminate’s site, you will see that Cindy has an advisory council composed of the who’s-who of women in Silicon Valley. There are lots of success stories among us – far more success stories, actually, than horror ones like those presented in the Newsweek piece.

It is possible to remain focused on success and on the fact that we’ve made tremendous progress, that it is being recognized, and that we have an increasing number of women in Silicon Valley in leadership roles today. Working to reinforce gender-neutrality in the workplace is among the best ways to combat sexism today. And, in the meanwhile, there may be “wolves” here just like on Wall Street, but let’s not let those jerks stop us. We have come far and have farther to go.This

What does Silicon Valley think of women? From the looks of some data, it thinks we can earn an ROI even better than the guys. The more that we women focus on the reality we’re making — real successes! — and the more we effect positive change and tell our tales of success, the faster we’ll reach a time when magazine cover stories focus on how we’re outperforming men. Now that’s a cover I look forward to seeing one day very soon!

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post on February 18, 2015 and appeared on LinkedIn on April 8, 2015.

Israel’s Exciting Innovations in Cyber Security

image2

For a couple of years now, tech industry press has been alluding to Silicon Wadi in Israel as the next Silicon Valley. Recently, I went on a 3-day cyber security mission to Israel, organized by Dr. Harry Saal, which included attending Israel’s cyber security conference, Cybertech 2015. I was able to experience first-hand the exciting innovation that is happening in Israel in the arena of cyber security. Security is a top concern for companies of all sizes. With the rise of cloud computing, ubiquitous application access, mobile, and BYOD trends, the arena of cyber-security, which covers security vulnerabilities, fraud, and more, is growing significantly. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that Israel, where there are also significant existential threats, is evolving as the world’s cyber security innovation hub. As IT World puts it, there are now as many cyber security start-ups in Beer-Sheva as there are Starbucks in Seattle!

We spent our first day at Ben Gurion University, about which I have written before. I especially enjoyed touring BGU’s cyber security labs. BGU has become the hub of Israeli cyber security research and innovation and has contributed greatly to the establishment of Cyber Spark, the Israeli Cyber Innovation Arena established with the National Cyber Bureau. As part of the mission, I enjoyed meeting a number of local VCs investing heavily into security alongside a number of founders/startups, many of which are emerging out of the BGU labs. In addition, Israeli Defense Forces are helping to turn Beer-Sheva, the city in the Negev desert where BGU campuses are located, into the country’s cyber capital. The IDF’s elite telecommunications and intelligences units are being relocated to Beer-Sheva to leverage the University’s education and research environment while also fostering collaboration with the international corporate giants investing in the space. For example, the research these labs are doing is attracting widespread global interest, including from the US, China, Europe, and Australia. Major corporations such as IBM, Deutsche Telecomm, EMC, and PayPal are all establishing R&D centers at Israel’s cyber park.

Our hosts at BGU included its president, Professor Rivka Carmi, and its cyber security lab director Professor Yuval Elovici. Prof. Carmi is a real force of nature. Her vision for BGU as well as her enthusiasm, passion, and hard work have driven BGU to its position as a world-renowned academic institution and center for cyber security. This trip was not the first time I’ve met Prof. Elovici, whose out-of-the-box thinking is unparalleled. Discussions with him about security risks emerging with the evolution of drones and the Internet of Things were eye-opening. All of us participating in the mission learned so much about different areas of security, innovating ways of attacking problems, and how the lab’s research teams work in collaboration with startups and other enterprises. We covered topics like mobile network security, secure phones, application of big data analytics, detection of unknown malware, data misuse detection via user profiling and sensitive content representation, and protecting critical infrastructures via various methods of detecting anomalies in servers and communication. Fellow conference participant Dudu Mimran blogged about some of these topics, and you can read his thoughts here.

I remain in awe of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Israelis, who are working within geopolitical constraints and using those constraints to their advantage by becoming world leaders in cyber security. On a personal note, for as long as I can remember, Israel has been important to my family. Growing up Jewish in Russia, then immigrating to the US in my teen years, our family always viewed Israel as a democratic, pluralistic safety zone. We’ve remained passionate about working to keep Israel a vibrant intellectual, academic, and entrepreneurial community despite its obvious geopolitical challenges. As I have found success within the constraints of beginning among the only women in Berkeley’s computer science program, I can relate to how Israelis continue to strive hard to attain success amid a challenging climate, especially in an arena as critical as cyber security. I can’t wait to see what comes out of Silicon Wadi next.Dr. Harry Saal's Cyber Security Mission - BGU President, Prof. Rivka Carmi appears with her arm around Kira Makagon The photo above is of those traveling on Dr. Harry Saal’s Cyber Security Mission to Israel, including Kira Makagon in back, with BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi’s arm around her.