Dear Silicon Valley –
The Echo Chamber Works Both Ways
First published in March 14, 2018
Women are Absent from the Technology Conversation
The Echo Chamber works both ways. Yes, recently Silicon Valley has been accused of operating in an echo chamber, and there’s certainly a mountain of evidence that points in this direction. 92% of developers and 94% of investors in Silicon Valley are men. Women receive only 2.2% of venture funding. Then there’s also an overall lack of diversity and seeming intolerance for differing viewpoints, political or otherwise.
So how do these sobering statistics overlay the everyday reality of women like me across America? Based on my serendipitous experience attending Dreamforce, Salesforce’s mega-technology conference, several years ago, I can tell you. I walked in as an opted-out, stay-at-home mom of two young girls. I left an activist.
What struck me in one cataclysmic jolt was how women are absent from the technology conversation at every level. From investors to entrepreneurs, senior managers to product designers, and developers to the end-user, we are grossly underrepresented. This lack of our perspective has reverberating effects in every direction. And what I realized most was that I lived in an echo chamber of my own making.
Keeping up with Technology is a Struggle
Without the benefit of tech-savvy co-workers and access to an IT Helpdesk, I was essentially on my own. Keeping up with technology was a struggle. Many women find themselves in this position as 29% with school-aged children are focused on raising families and another sizeable percentage are self-employed. Barring the occasional conversational snippet with a friend, I was completely out of the technology loop.
Also at this moment, I was waking up to the new reality that technology was caravanning into our home from of all places–school. Without the option to join the welcome wagon or not, I now found myself signing iPad school use policies for our Kindergartner. From this point forward, our six-year-old would require access to a home computer or iPad for learning applications. Unwittingly and almost overnight, I stepped into the role of Chief Technology Officer for my family. As chief overseer of homework, I was now making equipment purchase decisions, setting up devices, troubleshooting, and training. My experience is far from uncommon.
I would argue that this is a positive change and a major step toward getting more women engaged with technology. The problem, however, is that we’re generally not well-prepared. Consider the magnitude when even Melinda Gates was caught off guard by the effects of technology on her kids. Once the train leaves the station, you’re always left chasing it.
As a Parent, Keeping up with Technology is No Longer a Choice
I became intrinsically motivated after my Dreamforce experience, and the stark realization that when you’re acting in the interests of your children and serving as their technology guide, keeping up is no longer a choice. It’s an imperative.
On this journey in the Digital Age, the first stop is how to manage devices for our kids. Where’s the starting point is a question surrounded by a lot of confusion. What compounds the problem is that most articles written on the subject of parental controls are found in publications that don’t appeal to the broad masses of women (e.g. PC Mag, Engadget).
Why I Founded Heard It From A Friend
This is why I founded Heard It From A Friend — to create a dedicated space devoted to the challenges that we women now face with technology on the home front. As 90+% of Our Friends use Apple devices, we help families with setup, so they can feel confident about what they’re putting in their children’s hands. Knowing The Overwhelm that women face, we also focus on technology best practices to make managing chaotic family life easier. We believe that leveraging technology is key to democratizing the running of the ‘Family Business’. Once there’s a better balance of responsibilities on the home front, we’ll be a few steps closer to achieving true gender equality. Maybe it won’t have to take 208 years.
My hope is that by engaging with technology on the home front and modeling for both our sons and daughters, we’ll begin to stem the STEM problem. Imagine the direct and positive impact on our future. It might be the key to dismantling these echo chambers, or at least a major step toward prying the door open.
And Really Silicon Valley, it’s time the echoing got a little less loud.