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Women in Tech

The MBA@UNC blog ran an interesting infographic a few weeks ago on women in the workplace. Not surprisingly, women are under-represented in both leadership positions, and particularly in the tech industry.

These statistics aren’t necessarily new, but a quote from Arianna Huffington jumped out at me (emphasis mine)…

Media pioneer Arianna Huffington cites lack of confidence as a killer to success for women. In order to advance their careers, women need to be comfortable seeing themselves as qualified leaders and risk takers.

As a man, talking about women’s issues, and in particular contradicting a very successful woman in business, has a very high likelihood of coming across as arrogant. I’m going to do my best to avoid that, but I respectfully disagree with Ms. Huffington. I’m not saying women shouldn’t be confident. They should. Nor am I saying they shouldn’t be qualified leaders. They absolutely should.

The point I’m on stuck on is risk taking.

As I’ve written about before, research indicates that there is an actual biological difference (not just a cultural one) between the way men and women’s brains work. Particularly relevant to this discussion, women are often more averse to risk.

Unlike Ms. Huffington, I actually see this as an asset rather than a detriment. Men are often more prone to risk, and that has many benefits in business. But, unchecked, it can also be a liability.

Gender diversity in the workplace is critically important, and the solution isn’t for women to adopt what you might call typically male characteristics. It’s for business leaders to recognize the importance of behavioral diversity and embrace it.

(That’s certainly a gross over-simplification on my part of something much more complicated.)