Michael Arrington is tired of people blaming the technology industry for the relative lack of women in tech careers, and he's letting everyone know how he feels with a TechCrunch post titled "Too Few Women in Tech? Stop Blaming the Men." (Interestingly in the URL, the title appears as "women-in-tech-stop-blaming-me.")
Arrington was inspired to write the post at least in part because Mediaite founder Rachel Sklar called out TechCrunch as part of the problem in a Wall Street Journal article about the dearth of female entrepreneurs, mentioning the "overwhelming maleness" of TechCrunch conferences.)
Arrington points out TechCrunch spends "an extraordinary amount of time" trying to recruit female speakers. In many cases, he writes, the women turn TechCrunch down because "they are literally hounded to speak at every single tech event in the world because they are all trying so hard to find qualified women to speak at their conference." So, got it -- not enough women in tech.
The problem, writes Arrington, "isn't that Silicon Valley is keeping women down, or not doing enough to encourage female entrepreneurs. The opposite is true. No, the problem is that not enough women want to become entrepreneurs."
Arrington shares a communication he had with Zivity founder Cyan Banister, in which she told him men are far more comfortable taking risks than women. Is there some truth to this? Yes, I think so, and I think nature and nurture probably play a part in this.
When you become a parent and are exposed to herds of small children interacting in social settings, it quickly becomes obvious that the two sexes are wired differently. Boys (mostly) are louder, more impetuous, less sensitive of others' feelings. Because of these differences, I suppose, society seems to tolerate risk-taking from males in a way it doesn't from women. Boys aren't punished as harshly for it, and as they get older, they are rewarded for it. From an early age, females are told more often to "be careful."
Women are also more naturally inclined to seek consensus, which is not necessarily a strength when you're trying to get a company off the ground. I wrote about this in a post called "Do Jerks Make Better Innovators?" citing a TechCrunch post by Arrington in which he compared Digg founder Kevin Rose to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and argued Zuckerberg has been more successful because he largely doesn't care what Facebook users think.
Arrington's post inspired more than 1,200 comments, many of them, unfortunately though, somewhat predictably bickering over whether men are smarter than women. Several touch upon the cultural expectation that employees of technology companies will work long hours. (Entrepreneurs in any field must do the same if they expect to be successful.)
This may not be realistic for women with families, as they usually spend more time than men tending to family needs. I cited two reports from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the role of women at high-tech companies, that mention the impact of family responsibilities on females pursuing technology careers.
Are women forced into choosing between family responsibilities and career advancement? You could argue that one both ways. Maybe men just aren't given the opportunity to make the same kinds of choices. Until both sexes insist on a more equal balance between work and family, I doubt efforts to get women interested in technology careers will go very far. I know one thing for sure: Trying to find someone to "blame" isn't going to help.