There has been a lot of conversation of late of the need to increase the presence of women on corporate boards, in the VC and angel community, and in the ranks of high-tech entrepreneurs. Studies conducted by Catalyst and McKinsey have shown that having women in leadership is correlated with stronger financial returns.
One argument I often hear is that girls are just not going into STEM or they are not “risk takers”, so it is really just a supply/demand mismatch which results in not having more women represented in these ranks. As important as it is to discuss these issues, it is even more important to do something about it. One of my favorite quotes is from Charles Rosner – “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
So I would posit that we need to:
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the (Em)Power Breakfast sponsored by the Young Women’s Leadership Network, an organization founded by Ann Rubenstein Tisch, which supports a network of all-girls public secondary schools as well as a college guidance program. The program has some impressive “bragging rights” – a close to 100% college acceptance rate and a college graduation rate 3 times that of peers. At this event there was an impressive groups of honorees – Tory Burch, Abigail Disney, and Jordan Roth. More impressive to me, however, were the students who introduced the honorees, with the youngest being a 7th grader. These girls were articulate, poised, engaging, and mature far beyond their years. As an angel investor, I am often asked about the qualities I look for in an entrepreneur. Leadership, passion, willingness to take risks… are but a few traits that come to mind and all were clearly in evidence in these girls.
Now if that was not enough to make a believer out of you in the power of girls, the final speaker at the event was Malala Yousafzai, the young girl from Pakistan who was shot last year by the Taliban because she wanted to go to school. Rather than silencing this powerful young voice, this act of violence raised awareness among the international community. Malala continues her brave dedication to the cause of promoting the education of girls and has recently published a book entitled “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban”.
Ironically by asking you to #InvestInGirls I am using the hashtag lingo of Twitter, a company that finds itself, as it prepares to undertake an Initial Public Offering, in the limelight for the paucity of women in its executive ranks and the complete lack of women on its Board of Directors. Perhaps had Twitter CEO @dickc been in the audience yesterday he might have better understood the power that girls and women bring to the table.