November 15, 2010

Opening up tech opportunities for women

JD LasicaFor years I’ve admired the efforts of Rachel Sklar to highlight the underrepresentation of women at the upper echelons of the tech and media worlds.

Rachel, editor at large at Mediaite and someone who carries both intellectual heft and personal likability, started a Tumblr blog a few months ago called Change the Ratio. It’s an effort to change the ratio of visibility, access and opportunity for women in new media and tech. The website was prompted by a cover story in New York magazine in April 2010 on the New York City tech scene with photos of 53 people, six of whom were women.

Watch, download or embed the video on Vimeo

“If you have a crazy idea and think, ‘Oh, no one will ever like it.’ You know what? Do something about it.”

“When you’re talking about the percentage of women being profiled, appearing on panels or pitching VCs, you’re starting basically at 80-20,” Rachel says. “There are still areas that are challenging, like getting to the table, getting to a meeting and once you’re at a meeting, having the people at the table take you seriously.”

For example, check out the makeup of WiredBiz: Disruptive by Design. As Rachel tweeted about a recent Wired magazine cover story: “Easier to get breasts on a Wired cover than on stage at a Wired conference? #sheesh #lame”

Rachel, who was the focal point of a recent TechCrunch Disrupt panel on Women in Tech, is especially interested in helping young women entrepreneurs to overcome the social barriers they’re likely to confront. “If you have a crazy idea and think, ‘Oh, no one will ever like it.’ You know what? Do something about it,” she says. “Make something great, and when people turn you down, figure out how to use that.”

Her advice to women? “Thicken the skin, and take every rejection as a lesson in a way to figure out how to get around that.”

A social microgiving initiative

Rachel has another initiative she’s put her energies behind: Charitini, a social microgiving site. Similar to other models, instead of buying her a birthday gift, you donate a similar small amount for charities of her choice: Habitat for Humanity New Orleans, DonorsChoose, Foundation Rwanda or the Bob Woodruff Family Foundation Fund.

“The untapped potential of using social networks for good and for fundraising is really exciting,” she says.


Watchdog of the Underrated Woman (Gelf magazine)

Can You Judge Wired by its Covers (and Coverage) of Women & Tech? ( Lasica, founder of, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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One thought on “Opening up tech opportunities for women

  1. I admire Sklar's efforts, but I don't think she understands the root causes for why women aren't starting tech companies and why we get rejected by VCs and angels. Not her fault really–I am not sure how many startups she actually interacts with. I know hundreds so I can start to see the patterns.

    Advancements in cloud computing, social media, and other factors are making it prohibitively cheaper to create a startup. There are companies that bootstrap for a long time without taking a penny of money from a VC or an angel. They usually consist of 1.) one technologist who handles the backend code of an application and 2.) one salesy person who manages the product and the frontend of the application that people actually see.

    It's not a formula for success mind you, but it's VERY COMMON to see this in early stage companies. Why? Because you are a lot more likely to get funding for a startup if you have a working prototype that you yourself can change as users' needs change.

    What Leila, Sarah, Cyan and I were trying to say on that TC Disrupt panel was that women are almost non-existent in computer science courses. The issue isn't discrimination at the funding or business level–the issue is that women so rarely pursue a STEM education, particularly in computer science.

    When that issue gets solved, all of the others will fall in place.