Twenty, 50, 100 years from now, who will we look back on as a futurist?
Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Dr. Ray Kurzweil…these are just some of the leading futurists known today. While their accomplishments are astounding, these people are overwhelmingly white and male, revealing the missing piece from technology leadership today.
Indeed, when I reflect on my own accomplishments as an engineer and entrepreneur, I’m animated most by how often I was the only woman in the room. From the National Security Agency, to protecting online accounts at eBay, to starting Silver Tail, my own cyber security company, there are very few people who shared my life experiences.
And yet when I look back on my trials and tribulations, it was always women who helped me soar. Susan Mason, who along with Jodi Jahic leads the only female-owned venture capital firm on Sand Hill Road, (the heart of Silicon Valley’s investor community), were among my first investors. They rushed to lead the investment for my current company, Talent Sonar, which disrupts bias in the hiring process that hold women and people of color back.
Debby Hopkins at Citi Ventures led an investment in Silver Tail. Seeing a woman at the head of the investment arm of a bank was truly an inspiration. Earlier in my career, my female boss at Britannica.com helped me understand what it was like to be a woman and a leader.
When I started Talent Sonar, it’s no surprise these same women were by my side - if not literally, then figuratively.
Succeeding in technology is hard for anyone. But when you try to rise in any mono-culture, especially one that delivers riches, prestige and power to those who rise, being not of that culture makes the challenge harder.
Anita Borg has always been my favorite futurist. Given that she started programming in 1969 and went on to get a Ph.D. in computer science in 1981 - it is clear she understood the impact computers would have on the world, years before the Internet was born. The Anita Borg Institute (ABI) shines like a beacon for any woman who is attempting to rise in technology.
The work of ABI is also about the future: guiding women in computing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative. ABI believes technology innovation powers the global economy, and that women are crucial to building technology the world needs.
I am doing my best, and there is still far to go. Research has proven behavior change is necessary to move the needle on diversity. Research also has shown that there’s a business case for more diversity in tech.
It’s time to make REAL changes to our organizations, and the way we hire, review, and promote women and underrepresented minorities. The only way we can do this is through changing the processes that have historically been limiting these groups.
I am so deeply honored to be recognized with a 2017 ABIE Award for Technology Entrepreneurship. And I am in the company of greatness. The list of women being honored this year is a powerful one.
And I think of every single one of them as a futurist. It’s a future for which we can thank pioneers like Anita Borg for creating: a technology sector that reflects the talents of all of us in society
The ABI awards will be presented as part of the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, held October 4–7 in Orlando, Fla.