Let’s start with some inspiring facts before we talk about the e-G8 technology forum which is preceding the main G8 summit this week. Ada Lovelace’s partnership with Charles Babbage in the 1840s led to the invention of the world’s first computer, the Difference Engine. Adele Goldberg’s collaboration with Alan Kay in the 1970s produced a programming language, smalltalk-80, which evolved into Objective-C. This language is what now runs 180+ million of Apple's innovations such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad; innovations that contribute to Apple's bottom line success and make it the world's #1 most valued brand. Meanwhile, Dame Wendy Hall’s contributions to the original WWW as well as its latest form, the Semantic Web, over the last 20 years alongside Sir Tim Berners-Lee and others is what enables technologies to be increasingly intelligent, open and democratic for global society.
These are some examples of what’s achievable when both genders put their minds together and their hands to work in the tech sphere.
The importance of diversity, inclusion and collaboration to foster innovation, informed decision-making and economic opportunity is never more pertinent than today when technologists and political leaders from G8 countries are gathering for a two-day forum in the Tuileries Gardens of Paris, France. Under discussion will be a range of policy issues concerning the Web and mobile spaces, including: innovation, education, intellectual property, privacy and economic growth. The French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, and the advertising group, Publicis SA, are co-hosting the event, which promises to produce agenda items for the main G8 summit happening in Deauville on May 26 and 27.
What’s notable about the list of speakers and panelists at the first ever e-G8 is the sub-optimal ratio of male:female speakers and panelists (approximately 12:1) as well as the absence of representation by consumer groups and banking technologists. The latter’s omission is surprising because it would seem G8 leaders aren’t exploring ways in which technology and better quality data can be leveraged to reduce the likelihood of another global financial crisis:
Aileen Lee, Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Astia, Women2.org, Catalyst and Arianna Huffington’s WIE (Women Inspiration Enterprise), could have directed the e-G8 organizers towards these women and enabled them to “sit at the big table” --- in the way that Sheryl Sandberg described in her December 2010 TEDTalk:
There are women who aren't "leaving before we leave" and are available for consideration and invitation to participate on policy panels, operational boards and media interviews about the future of technology and global society. It's the responsibility of conference hosts and organisers such as e-G8 as much as of CEO executive search professionals to show initiative and seek those talented women out.
Interestingly, there’s an emerging wealth of research which shows that when women are involved at the board level they boost the diversity of decision-making, companies excel and outperform at the bottom line. For example, Catalyst Research report from 2008 shows Fortune500 companies with 3 or more female board members produced these results:
+ 73% return on sales
+ 83% return on equity
+ 112% return on invested capital
- The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women's Representation on Boards
- Building Gender Balanced Business
It’s vital that this and future generations of women are encouraged to pursue careers at the heart of business operations and where it impacts bottom line revenues: coding applications not only designing and marketing them; being responsible for P+L and not only in a supporting role; and, most importantly of all perhaps, making strategic revenue decisions as CEOs. In this way, when Web 3.0 happens journalists will be able to interview more female tech CEOs than they could in 2010:
- The Men and No Women of Web 2.0 Boards (BoomTown's Talking to You: Twitter, Facebook, Zynga, Groupon and Foursquare)
- Tech Talk Podcast: Female Programmers in History
- IBM Women in WITI Hall of Fame
- A Computer Called Watson
James Brown’s 1966 soul standard does tell us a truth that’s worth bearing in mind as we take a moment to reflect on how far women have progressed and how much further we still have to go. Outstanding women including Oprah, Madonna and Arianna have walked those paths to show us that women are just as capable of becoming successful media and publishing titans as the Turners, the Rolling Stones and the Murdochs.
Yet there are still opportunities and “giant leaps” to be made, particularly in the technology and policy orbits and in light of the e-G8 forum. For 2012, a key mission statement should be that the ratio of male:female panelists at the “big table” of the e-G8 should be 50:50.