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Kristen Addix, CEO of MyDrLynx (MDL Solutions), has some insightful stories to tell as she crashes the glass ceiling of the tech world -- stories that show the "bro community" still shortchanges women. Her real life stories further underscore that the gender war is unfortunately alive and the community's frat boy culture is in inverse proportion to a progressively moving industry.
For example, Addix's MDL app provides a simply excellent tech solution that will have a profound impact on patient-doctor relationships, while facilitating, "Healthcare in a Heartbeat." She explains:
The MyDrLynx app is a game changer because it addresses so many issues. For doctors, time is a primary consideration in patient flow and the maximization of patient satisfaction. For patients, post-procedure instructions and the ability to communicate with care providers significantly reduces stress and lowers repeat unanswered phone calls. Last but not least, administrators and insurers benefit as patient satisfaction and quality of care is enhanced.
But Addix and other brilliant women techies are in the minority as the high tech world has very few high-profile women entrepreneurs. Indeed, Silicon Valley hasn't produced a female Jobs, Gates, or Zuckerberg. In fact, ongoing stories demonstrate that a misogynistic climate is pervasive with sexist jokes, gender-based hiring and firing, threats of violence, and sexual harassment lawsuits all rearing their ugly heads.
As the founder of her company, Addix has taken many meetings with a male legal counsel, and recalls:
I was interviewing a coding firm, and I had my counsel with me, and their two executives on the other side of table. As the CEO and the decision maker, it was interesting to me that they knew that upfront. I had all the files, flowcharts and graphics in front of me. My counsel doesn't really know much about the details. So I'm asking the other two gentlemen technical questions about the app build, but they're answering to him, not to me. Everything I asked was answered to the other male in the room. I quickly said, 'Listen, he's just here to support me. He's not the deciding factor. I am. I'm the designer of the project, I'm the senior executive, so if you have any questions, I would respectfully request that you direct them to me.' But, they didn't, and that's why they weren't hired. Right?!
Addix met with another coding firm that was located within a stone's throw of both her office and residence in Hollywood. They weren't up in Silicon Valley or Seattle or even in Orange County, so she "really wanted to like them" but says:
Again I had my files in front of me. I sat down with three of their guys, again with my counsel on my side of the table - two were across from us, their senior exec was at the head of the table. The meeting again didn't last long. And, when we got outside, after the meeting, my counsel goes, 'We're not hiring them, are we?' I replied, 'What was your first clue?' To which he replied, 'Well, I noticed you hadn't opened the files yet but slid them from in front of their CEO to slightly in front of me and you. And then without saying a word, you quietly slipped them back into your attaché case.' Sure enough, I had shaken their senior exec's hand and said, 'It's been nice meeting you, I'll get back to you.' They were doing the exact same thing, I was directing my questions to them, and they would only answer my male counsel.
She doesn't know if these male execs are purposely misogynistic but feels they're "gender-biased," adding, "They live with stereotypes, and it's definitely a boys' club. So there's a reason why there are very few CEOs in my position, working in the tech business. And I think the few that are in my position, the men are very hard on them."
Apple's Steve Jobs was one of Addix's heroes but in their recent management shakeup, no women were involved, and Apple like other tech giants like Google and Facebook is heavily weighted towards men. According to a recent diversity report, women only make up 28% of Apple's leadership team.
Yet, women drive up 80% of all consumer purchasing, accounting for about 65% of all computer and new car purchases. As Forbes says, "If the consumer economy had a sex, it would be female." Yet, Addix feels that high tech companies are still missing something, saying, "We have female centric issues, like with ergonomics for new cars, and our needs are clearly different."
So, having gone through real-life, gender-biased scenarios, Addix says:
I would directly address gender-bias, in a way that tries to let them know, maybe start with joke or in a light manner say, 'I didn't know I was so invisible,' or, 'My colleague, he's not a ventriloquist (and I'm not his dummy)' And watch their reaction and that will tell you your next step. If it's your own personal company, you obviously have more leeway, and you can walk out of meetings, like I did.
What else would Addix generally suggest: support and encourage companies with more women in senior positions; implement a no-interruption rule for everyone at a meeting; don't stay quiet, immediately stop an interrupter in his tracks; get a male buddy to publically back you up in meetings; support your fellow female colleagues if they've got good ideas and give them credit where due; rehearse being assertive, lean in, stand up, speak with authority.
Addix, who is expecting these issues to be discussed at TEDWomen 2016 (October 26-28, in San Francisco), adds, "And when other things don't quite work out, don't apologize for speaking up, and you can learn to talk really, really loud and clearly. Like men do!"
As for her company, she says her MyDrLynx app's "proof of concept" is completed, and that it will allow potential investors "to personally use the interface, seeing how simple, elegant and intuitive it is."
To wit, Bring it on!