I had the true pleasure of speaking at the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival last week in NY. It was a great conference organized by Joanne Wilson aka GothamGal and Nancy Hechinger of NYU’s ITP program. I always find gatherings like this refreshing and energizing. Here are a couple of pictures from Wednesday morning.
The attendees (almost all women) representing all ages and ethnicities, were bright, ambitious and fun to talk to. The vibe was great – lots of exchange of ideas as well as mutual support. A significant observation I made, however, was regarding the speakers. There were 26 speakers – all women. Mostly entrepreneurs but also several venture capitalists. The entrepreneurs were from a range of industries, stages and sizes of company, several of them quite substantial. The investors were primarily early stage but covered a range as well. A large percentage of the women (many of whom have young children) traveled cross country to participate in the conference.
Women 2.0 has published the agenda for their annual conference on 2/14. They have a great lineup of (mostly) women speakers as well.
These conference organizers didn’t seem to have any problem filling their program with quality, qualified women speakers. The women are there. They are willing to speak. They will do a phenomenal job. This idea that there is a choice between quality and diversity is simply another false dichotomy.
My message to those who say they cannot have a gender-balanced conference agenda, you are simply not trying hard enough. Perhaps you are suffering from an unconscious bias. Perhaps you are unlucky to have interacted in your career only with a narrow group that is not diverse. Whatever the reason it doesn’t matter – the good news is this problem is proven to be solvable, no excuses please.
Last week was an interesting one in the “why aren’t there more” and “should there or shouldn’t there be more” women CEO’s. Lots of posts and a lot of anger on all sides and finally some humor. For a sampling see here:
I got super turned off by the anger and then fortunately a few rational posts were written and published so I decided to move on from this flurry. The fact that I had a super busy week was probably part of it. I spoke at a conference in Half Moon Bay and we are knee deep in 2012 planning at SugarSync.
To top off this busy week I had committed to attend an event sponsored by Dell, the “Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN).” They had invited me to a big event they organized in Brazil last spring. Although typically eager for a chance to go back to Brazil I couldn’t make that trip work in my schedule. Last weeks event was logistically easier – a cocktail party in San Francisco, but I must say by Thursday evening, I was pretty tired and the idea of a networking event where I knew nobody seemed a stretch. Fortunately I HATE the idea of cancelling last minute so I didn’t.
Dell’s VP of Corporate Marketing, Kelly McGinnis, hosted the networking event at her home. There were probably about 30-40 women there. Well, first off, it was an incredibly friendly group. Plus, it turns out that when nobody at the party knows each other it’s very easy to meet people and strike up conversation. It seemed like each person I met was nicer and even more interesting than the last person. Many good business connections were being made all over the place. I talked to several potential partners on the business development side, agencies, and several of the women’s companies were even interested in SugarSync for Business accounts. The women there were at all stages of growing their companies and their families and lots of advice was shared on both topics ☺. Dell is organizing the next major DWEN event in India and expecting the quality of the attendees to be as good as this event I really look forward to attending.
Kudos to Dell who is an important business partner of ours for sponsoring this program. Lots of business was getting done which certainly in a small way and possibly in a large way helped the women entrepreneurs and their companies. Most importantly, this event was a good reminder to focus on doing not whining – better results happen and it’s a lot more fun!