Women in Innovation and Tech

November 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

I attended Dow Jones’ FASTech conference this week to accept a runner up 2010 Technology Innovation Award.  I’ve been to a few tech conferences, but this was unique – a small amalgamation of technical innovators, venture capitalists, and WSJ tech-section journalists.  There was so much interesting discourse throughout the conference, and I found it incredibly inspiring to be among such a distinguished set of people.

But there was one problem, and while I didn’t intend to write about it (in fact I have a notepad next to me filled with great ideas for blog posts that I scribbled while attending sessions about doing business in Asia, liquidity, and executive Q&As).  But it struck me at the conference before anything else, and I left the conference without feeling terribly comfortable about it. 

There were so few women in attendance.  It sounds trite – I mean, I’ve been in tech long enough to know what to expect.  But this conference wasn’t terribly technical.  There was a smaller percentage of women attendees and speakers than the more technical conferences I’ve attended.  So, what gives?  Are women even more scarce in high end innovation and the business side of technology than they are in technology development?

The conference organizers tried.  The keynote speaker was Judy Estrin – who built networking technology in the 70’s, and used to be the CTO of Cisco.  Impressive credentials, though her speech about innovation was more confusing than inspiring.  The only other woman speaker was a WSJ journalist focused on internet privacy.  I was even mistaken for a journalist more than once (right, because I couldn’t possibly be a technical innovator).  The other women I met were PR, or BizDev, working the conference to create good press and form connections.  These women weren’t the radical innovators, or the people funding and cultivating innovation.  Of all the CEOs that demo’ed at the VC showcase, not one was a woman.   None of the VCs were women.  It was unfortunate, and depressing.  So while I found the conference material fascinating, this disparity stuck with me.  And I can’t seem to shake it.

You can read about the 2010 Technology Innovation Award and the winners here.  I highly recommend checking it out.  The big winners – a Taiwanese research lab created a super thin flexible display that is sooo cool.

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