A few years ago, if you had asked me if there was discrimination in Silicon Valley, I would have asked you what planet you were from. I believed it to be the greatest meritocracy—the most open, inclusive, and diverse place on Earth. That was until I came to the Valley and attended my first TechCrunch conference. It felt as if I had entered the “Twilight Zone”—a parallel universe with strange happenings. My shock was that there were practically no women on stage. When I looked, I realized that all of Silicon Valley is like this—almost no women in leadership positions. And no blacks or Hispanics.
I have since researched this subject extensively and written a lot about it. I have taken a lot of fire. I am the Indian with all those arrows in his back. I know this battle is worthwhile because I see things changing. For all the bad things you can say about Silicon Valley, you have to give it credit for being open to criticism and constantly reinventing itself. This is what gives Silicon Valley a global advantage: dissent is encouraged and learning and reinvention are the norm. There is nothing wrong with saying I made a mistake and am now doing things differently. They even have a special word for failure in the valley: it is called “pivoting”.
Today Silicon Valley is pivoting—it is learning from its mistakes and bettering itself. Exponential technologies are also leveling the playing field and making it possible to solve the grand challenges of humanity. In this new era of innovation, women are primed to lead—to better the world.
This is the core message of my new book, Innovating Women, which was created with the help of legendary journalist Farai Chideya and hundreds of women. These women shared their stories and brainstormed on ways to accelerate change. More than a dozen women wrote powerful essays. Megan Smith, who is now U.S. Chief Technology Officer, wrote an entire chapter along with Mary Grove, who heads Google for Entrepreneurs.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Autodesk are hosting a launch event for Innovating Women on September 9, 2014 at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco. This is open to all. I expect that the majority of attendees will be women—as are the majority of people featured in the book. But I would like the men who I have been criticizing to read the book and to attend this event. They will get to meet great women and hear their inspiring—and heart-wrenching—stories. They will gain new perspectives—just as I did. They will understand why things need to change.
So this is my public invitation to them. Come and listen. Come and say a few words.
Here is information about Innovating Women–including links to order it: www.innovatingwomen.org. All of the net proceeds from this go to a Singularity University fund to teach and support women entrepreneurs.
Below is the invitation. Here is the link to register.