/// Actually, the Pool Is Quite Deep

October 9, 2013  |  All Things Digital


“Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, has prioritized finding a woman to be on the board, but has found it difficult.” “The issue isn’t the intention, the issue is just the paucity of candidates.” “… the pool for board-qualified women in technology is shallow …” “There is definitely a supply-side problem.” So asserts Twitter’s Chief Technology Officer, Adam Messinger when asked about women on boards … – New York Times, October 5, 2013 Wow. Where to begin? Let’s start with a fact: There are fewer women then men who write and debug software code for a living. No denying that. Now an observation: Having been in many, many board meetings over the years as a director, and other times as an adviser, I have never, not even once, been in a meeting where at any time, even for five minutes, any board member of any gender was asked to give a company directive in machine language, scratch out a decision policy in Ruby on Rails or, for that matter, code anything at all in any language. Image copyright hxdbzxy Most of the meetings I have attended have called on board members to ask questions, make introductions, discuss potential acquisitions or acquisition inquiries and, most importantly, to debate and discuss product strategies, marketing plans, management challenges, compensation structures, financial progress, financing options, investment decisions, how to deal with Wall Street and short- and long-term business goals. None of these topics requires a CS degree or years in the CTO’s office. Tech companies may well choose to have some engineering prowess on the board, but companies with nothing but technical directors will, in all likelihood, lose out to companies strategically advised by those with a diverse set of opinions, perspectives and experiences. The problem isn’t a “shallow pool” of qualified candidates; it’s a dearth of high-profile individuals with the right skill set. The real question is how many companies are building boards to provide actual advice versus how many are looking to put impressive, “A-list” names on a list. Sure, it would help any organization to have Marissa or Sheryl on the board, but as genuinely gifted as those two leaders are, they are not the only females in the Valley with demonstrable talent for thinking strategically, solving problems creatively, analyzing financial performance, negotiating terms and perhaps most importantly, assessing management skills

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Actually, the Pool Is Quite Deep



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