OAKLAND, Calif. — Joanna Weidenmiller has a problem with the conversation around women in technology today. The San Francisco native has started multiple companies and worked in a variety of tech sectors across the world, but she is concerned that the next generation of female techies and entrepreneurs will be deterred by too much negative conversation.
The #YesAllWomen campaign and numerous investigative articles have brought heightened attention to gender inequality in the workplace, particularly in the technology field where women hold a "disproportionally low share of STEM degrees" and the number of women in tech leadership positions is under 15% across the world. Weidenmiller, the co-founder and CEO of assessment platform 1-Page, is unabashed about her business success and disparages such a focus on gender.
“No kid is going to want to be doing this is if all we talk about is the negatives of [being a woman in the technology industry]. Technology is so new, and women in business is relatively new,” Weidenmiller told EE Times. “Men are trying to catch up as fast as they can and get out of their gorilla style, but they’re not as quick as we are.”
At the G20 Summit-sponsored Women in Leadership conference, leaders committed to reducing the gender participation gap in the workforce 25% by 2025. Weidenmiller believes changing the conversation about women in technology to focus on more positives will be crucial to achieving this goal:
The energy we spend trying to get men to treat us right, they’re never going to. I would rather just ignore it and get on with being in the business. I surround myself with successful and powerful men and women. I work with guys from Google, Yahoo, and Salesforce -- not because I’m a woman, but because I built a bad-ass company and am going places.
Although women control 84% of all buying decisions worldwide, only 30% of top managers in the United States are women. Because women produce more cortisol -- a hormone that is secreted during times of stress -- Weidenmiller believes women are “biologically built” for the stressful tech industry. As a result, she says, female hedge fund managers outperform their male counterparts by 55% and outperform male CEOs by 60%.
Tech is the most stressful business because it’s always changing. Where a male will not take as much initiative and will take chances, a woman will not. What makes us beneficial for technology specifically is that we understand community as well as emotional incentives. We’re able to look beyond plug-and-play coding; we understand motivation and can build successful relationship channels.
Weidenmiller has a long history of outperforming the rank and file. While attending the University of Virginia as a competitive rower, Weidenmiller was recruited by the FBI during her junior year and spent several years training local police force delegates in the Middle East.
When every little girl wanted to be a ballerina, I wanted to be a secret agent. I loved the idea of… being a hero. We were starting to lose US citizens because of terrorism, and foreign countries didn’t have the right legal systems to try cases in US law. I worked with 26 local delegates of the police force and trained them on jargon and investigations.
Working under the pressures of a government institution ignited Weidenmiller’s spirit for business. At 22, she left the Bureau to start her own sales and outside marketing firm, which was sold two years later. Weidenmiller also spent five years in China working in the mobile and e-commerce fields and served as managing partner for China for Hubert Burda Media, one of the largest magazine and digital publishers in the world.
Along the way, Weidenmiller said she experienced verbal and sexual harassment, and was often disregarded by businessmen and potential investors because of her gender. Rather than aggressively confront these issues, Weidenmiller believes women should rise above or “make them feel like idiots” with a quick comment that questions an aggressor’s motives.
China is a country where there is zero political correctness. They called me a white, round-eye wife of a man. In a way, when you let that just be said instead of fighting against it… eventually they get bored. They’ll start respecting women when they see our value on the workforce. The only way to get women in the workforce is to stop only talking about these issues.
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