From a zero-sum game to a win-win — Sandy Carter on women and the game of business

17th Jul 2016
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In a recent TEDx talk in the US, Sandy Carter, the General Manager for IBM’s Cloud Developer Ecosystem and Startups, took the opportunity to talk about the game of business using the analogy of the game rock-paper-scissors.

Unlike rock-paper-scissors, a zero-sum game, the game of business needs to be driven by creating win-win scenarios.

Sandy is associated with Girls Who Code and Girls in Tech, and has worked towards diversity inclusion at IBM for a decade. She has been a crusader for women’s advancement in technology and education, and shared some interesting data at the TEDx.

Sandy-Carter

Through findings from data collected via IBM’s cognitive software, Watson, she highlighted trends in behaviour patterns that distinguish certain male and female responses based on gender types. For instance, in the game of rock-paper-scissors, despite varying response, men mostly (almost 80 percent of the time) go with rock (emblematic of force and power), while women opt mostly for scissors, gradually opting for rock as the game goes on. Women show power and force towards the end game.

The pattern is visible in the role women play in the game of business as well.

Women constitute only 6 percent of the VC and angel investor bucket along with only 14 percent representation in the founder and senior management community. However, these numbers are in stark contrast to the fact that as of today, 50 percent of all consumer purchases are decided or done by women, and this number is only going to increase further, reaching a staggering 75 percent by 2020.

Sandy believes that though women may lag behind in the first two categories, these statistics are not because women are not good investors or founders. In fact, in terms of profitability, the womenfolk are 15 percent ahead, though unfortunately they are 40 percent less likely to get funded! So clearly, “it is not a performance gap but a funding gap.”

Quoting Einstein, “Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results is insanity,” Sandy’s question was, “What can we do to changes these numbers? Have women be more forceful and powerful in funding companies, in founding companies, and as the ones spending.”

Sandy proposes a few unique ideas to supplement all that is already being done to have more forceful and powerful presence in the first two categories (funding and founding).

From 6 percent VCs and 14 percent founders as the current state to a desired state of 50 percent of women in both these brackets; to arrive at this equation she has a strategy, and here is what she proposes:

Men as allies

There is also the need to cast the net wider to include men. What we need to do differently is to form circles of men and women working not in silos not only in women’s groups but partnering and coming together — co-creating to make a cultural difference.

She suggests, “we bring the men in” as a support system and as allies. ‘Dads of daughters’ can do this. Fathers are a strong source of influence and can impact their daughters’ lives by encouraging them to study.

Hackathon ( Hack for women) — Hackathon provides a way to look for collaborative solutions and to bring in women and other experts to look for great ideas for the future. Here startups, women’s groups, dads of daughters help start a movement for making women more powerful in the founder and management structure categories. The hackathons can be about safety, wearable IoTs, healthcare, global policy etc.

This will help women entrepreneurs in their journey by helping them with the exposure, information, methods, processes, and management to design, develop, and deploy successfully.

Learn and fund

As of today, women make 64 percent charitable donations.

In Sandy’s words, “Women know how to see a cause, and support it and change the world. What if we could expand that to venture funding and angel funding?”

All that is needed is to help women learn and understand where they can contribute in this initiative, and if they do that, we will probably be able to raise the women’s presence to 50 percent among angels and VCs.

She highlighted a cascading impact, as more women in funding would mean an increase in the number of women founders receiving funding, for women investors are statistically three times more likely to fund women-run startups.

The future is one that involves finding allies, action, inclusion, collaboration, and making a difference.

More women VCs, more founders, and more consumers will mean only more power for women and businesses.


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