23Sep

Lesbians Who Tech Summit SF // Kara Swisher

In a recent New York Magazine article Kara Swisher, re/code co-executive editor, referred to herself as “sherlock homo,” as Swisher has been an investigative technology journalist for nearly 20 years. She started at the Wall Street Journal as a reporter covering digital issues and her column, “BoomTown,” originally appeared on the front page of the Marketplace section and also online at WSJ.com.According to her bio of the re/code website Swisher, “ With Walt Mossberg, over the last 11 years, she has been co-producing D: All Things Digital, a major high-tech conference with interviewees such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and many other leading players in the tech and media industries. The gathering is considered one of the leading conferences focused on the convergence of tech and media industries. Kara and Walt also have been co-executive editors of the AllThingsD.com Web site since 2007 until the end of 2013.” Swisher and America’s CTO Megan Smith have been linked until recently and have two children together.

Swisher begins her talk with the disclaimer that she isn’t inspirational or aspirational rather, confrontational and introduces the definition of lividity, “the state or quality of being livid discolored by bruise, greyish blue, lead color, livid with rage” She leads with a quote by Norman Mailor, the american playwright and novelist and discusses that while it may seem depressing as a thought, it is something Swisher thinks about frequently. She says that Silicon Valley is quite the opposite of lividity, bustling and alive, we live in a time when the founders of the technology companies are still living and influential. However, it is not that way for women, “the stats for women remain low and it’s worse than you think… tech companies employ 12.33% women engineers but, it the woman helms the company its upward of 50% or more” “The reason this is so important” says Swisher, “is that the engineers call the shots, they are the royalty of Silicon Valley.” Swisher carries on to share some more bleak statistics about women in the technology field.

Prior to Sheryl Sanberg arriving at Facebook, Swisher put up pictures of all of the people running Facebook and what the viewer was able to see was, “white guy, white guy, white guy, indian guy, chinese guy, white guy. white guy” She recounts how the explanations of the men in the senior positions fall short, one man explaining that “if there was a Marcia Zuckerberg” then all the problems in the technology field would be fixed. Swisher says that all the men mean well and they feel bad about the lack of women in senior roles but, they never do anything to fix the problem. She says the solution to getting women in senior roles and on boards of companies can’t just come from women pointing it out, it has to come from the men as well;it can’t always be women vouching for each other, it gets exhausting. Swisher says we need to make some noise about the inequalities. She notes some of the problems she sees, the first being the ‘pipeline problem’ whereby schools aren’t admitting as many women to their programs as they are men. However, the blame can’t be fully placed on the upper level institutions, some of it falls on to the lower school, where schools aren’t encouraging girls to go into math and science.
She concludes her talk with a variety of inspirational quotes, (though she previously said she wasn’t inspirational) “competence is silent, insecurities are loud.”; when you do common things in an uncommon way you will command the attention of the world.”; “be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” ; “you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ; “isn’t it weird that pizza is round, the boxes are square and the slices are triangular?” In all of these quotes, Swisher says it is imperative that we constantly be challenging the status quo, we don’t need to be special, we need to think differently.