Women on the Board

women diversity
Tina Shakour

I saw Aileen Lee’s article Why Your Next Board Member Should be a Women on TechCrunch and I had a very negative reaction.

I’m a professional woman, educated and ambitious. I want to get ahead in my career. So why am I annoyed by this article?

I’m annoyed because it needed to be written.

Women are still being passed over for roles and positions for which they are fully qualified. And I’m offended that the author, a prominent venture capitalist, basically had to write a piece “marketing” the awesomeness of women and provide a shopping list of great women for board positions.

Through the years, I’ve studied women’s issues and how communication shapes how we see ourselves and others. In all my classes, the one that really brought this home for me was a leadership series for women. The discussion was not about diversity for diversity’s sake, rather we must stop hiring people who are just like us.

For example: here in Silicon Valley there are companies known for only hiring Harvard MBA graduates or individuals who have a degree in Computer Science from Stanford. The hiring teams, the companies, want people JUST LIKE THEM. They want to work with individuals with whom they are comfortable. People they can go out and have a beer with, who uses the same lingo and maybe even looksa bit like them.

As a hiring manager, this is the worst thing you can do.

First of all, whether you realize it or not, you are probably displaying sexist or racist hiring tendencies – even if you are not truly an “-ist” person. Second, great leaders know their weaknesses and hire individuals who fill in those gaps for them. They hire people with different backgrounds, different sets of processes by which they navigate the business world or individuals who grew up in a completely different area of the country (or the world). A strong leader values the variety of opinions, insights and commentary and is not threatened by them. And, their companies will benefit greatly!

I recently left the big corporate world to join a start-up here in Silicon Valley. We are small and privately-funded, and I was employee number 12. I was only the second female hire – but I wanted to join Veetle because I saw diversity and inclusion in the team interviewing me. In one of my panel interviews, two engineers disagreed with each other right then and there. One engineer challenged me on the value of marketing to a small start-up and felt it wasn’t even needed.

I was thrilled. THIS was what I wanted.

When you think past male/female and minority/majority and move into looking at what the person really brings to the table that is different from the other voices already there, I believe diversity in sex and race will naturally happen. You won’t feel the pressure to hire a woman because she is a woman – you’ll already have a great representation of the business population sitting at your table.

Click here to see more articles by Tina Shakour on MeaningfulWomen.com.

Tina Shakour lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband Nasir and one very spoiled Shiba Inu named Zuko. She works for the start-up Veetle, and has been an engineer, an Internet TV “personality” and now spends her time loving video, social media and marketing. You can follow her on Twitter (@tinashakour).

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