NEW YORK (NEWS): Vivek Wadhwa, the famous Indian American technology entrepreneur in Silicon Valley and known academic, says it is a discriminatory place.
The so-called “meritocracy” of Silicon Valley is a myth, he says. And women have bore the brunt of this discrimination as they have been systematically discriminated against there, despite the fact that they’re more productive, on average, than their male counterparts, he says in an interview with PBS NewsHour.
The Indian American entrepreneur says he is on a mission to change this.
Wadhwa, whose research on this issue will be published soon, said when you visit any company in Silicon Valley, “it resembles the United Nations. At the Google cafeteria, they always serve Indian, Chinese and Mexican food; hamburgers and hot dogs are nowhere to be found. Indeed, my research team documented that 52 percent of start-ups in Silicon Valley during the recent tech boom were founded by immigrants — like me. So I used to call Silicon Valley the world’s greatest meritocracy.”
But he said this was his before he moved to the Valley and his wife pointed out that practically all people at Silicon Valley’s big networking events were male. “They were mostly white, Indian, or Chinese. Women, blacks and Hispanics were nowhere to be found. When I analyzed company founder data from the Kauffman Foundation, I was shocked to learn that only 3 percent of the tech firms were founded by women.”
Wadhwa said when he looked at the executive teams of the Valley’s top tech firms, he couldn’t find any women technology heads. “Even the management team of Apple didn’t have a single woman in it. And I learned that virtually all of Silicon Valley’s venture-capital firms are male dominated — the few women whom you find there are in either marketing or human resources. Indeed, of the 89 venture capitalists on the 2009 TheFunded list of top venture capitalists, only one was a woman.”
Wadhwa said this proved that Silicon Valley is no meritocracy.
But he said his studies on entrepreneurship prove that there is virtually no difference in motivation between men and women entrepreneurs. “Women start companies for the same reasons as men: because they want to build wealth and capitalize on business ideas, like the startup-company culture and are tired of working for others. Women entrepreneurs are as highly educated as their male counterparts, have the same early interest in starting their own business and learn the same valuable lessons from their work experience and from prior successes and failures.”
In addition, he said, women are more capital-efficient than men, citing an analysis performed by the Kauffman Foundation.
“Babson College’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor found that women-led high-tech startups have lower failure rates than those led by men. Other research has shown that venture-backed companies run by women have annual revenues 12 percent higher than those by men and organizations that are the most inclusive of women in top management positions achieve a 35 percent higher return on equity and 34 percent higher total return to shareholders,” Wadhwa pointed out.
He said girls now match boys in mathematical achievement. “In the U.S., 140 women enroll in higher education for every 100 men who do. Women earn more than 50 percent of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and nearly 50 percent of all doctorates. Women participation in business and MBA programs has grown more than five-fold since the 1970s, and the increase in the number of engineering degrees granted to women is almost tenfold.”
Wadhwa said he has also interviewed about 300 women in tech over the past three years, and his research team at Stanford University recently completed a survey of more than 500 women founders. “We are still analyzing the complex findings (and will likely publish a paper in the summer). At a glance, though, the new research shows a distinct change in attitudes over time. Women are becoming more confident and assertive, and they are helping each other. Men are also beginning to mentor and coach women.”
Wadhwa said his mission is to change Silicon Valley by changing the profile of women there. To achieve his goal, he said, he is taking advantage of an exponential technology called crowdsourcing.
“I plan to harness the genius of the crowd to produce a book about women at the frontier of technology. Along with journalist and author Farai Chediya and my lead researcher Neesha Bapat, we are planning to ask hundreds — possibly thousands — of women to co-author this book with us. We will presell the book on a crowdfunding site such as Indiegogo and donate all of the profits to fund the tuition of women through the Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University and to support women-led startups coming out of this program. This is a 10-week program designed for leaders who want to build innovative solutions to global grand challenges,” he says.