Rachel Sklar is Changing the Ratio in Tech
Rachel Sklar is like the tech bestie in my head. We’ve both been Editor-at Large at major media companies (Rachel formerly at Mediaite, I presently at BlogHer). We both entered the tech/new media space from non-technical fields (she was a lawyer, I was an epidemiologist). We both like to talk.. alot (our conversation was over an hour long). But perhaps the biggest connection between Rachel and I (and many of you as well), is that we both are committed to changing the ratio, increasing the number of women in tech (Rachel founded Change The Ratio, which promotes visibility, access and opportunity for women in new media and tech and founded DigitalunDivided to increase the number of black women in new media and tech).
Recently, Rachel and I riffed on everything from the inequities in gender representation in new media and tech, “information asymmetries” and her new liberating venture, The List.
Q: What is Change the Ratio?
Change The Ratio is an organization that I started with Emily Gannett in spring of 2010, with the specific aim to increase visibility, access and opportunity for women in tech and new media. We’ve extended that even further to anyone who is part of a challenging ratio, to focus on changing ratios that ought to be changed, shining a light on constituencies that are underappreciated, under-showcased, undervalued.
Q: So, with Change The Ratio, you are advocating for increased visibility and opportunities for women in the new media and tech fields. Just what, exactly, IS the ratio, and are you seeing any change in the climate for women in the tech and new media industries?
There are so few women in leadership positions in the tech space that it’s jaw-dropping. In many respects. Change the Ratio is a PR campaign, to change the unconscious biases in the tech industry and across all industries about where women were or were not effective and qualified. You don’t expect everyone to push as hard as you but if you get more people pushing, together that’s a much bigger push than one person alone.
In the beginning, the stuff I would hear -- “women aren’t really in tech, women in tech doesn’t mean they make tech” -- there was this whole qualification put on women to be a woman in tech you actually had to code. However, we’re in a knowledge economy here and women are a huge purveyor of knowledge.
We heard examples, like this one from Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, of women going to a meeting at a firm and asking where the ladies room was, and the male partner was unable to point her in the direction of the ladies room, not just because he had never used the ladies room but he had never directed anyone to it before.
So when I’ve been pitching Change The Ratio and notions of diversity over past few years, I’ve been taking it strongly to the bottom line advantages of diversity. Yes, I get it, and I’m a proponent of the social good of having women involved everywhere, but it’s actually secondary to the fact that any organization that has women involved in decision-making roles, pushing innovation, THAT company is going to do better and uncover areas and opportunities that would heretofore have been unknown.
Q: So, while this issue is a glaring problem in the tech and new media communities, this is an undertaking that still has a much broader reach.
It’s not just techs -- for some reason men ages 18-34, are considered the “sexiest” market across industries , and I’ve always been mystified why that’s the dream demo. Even in the TV world, why the dream demo would be 18-34 anything when people who are over 34 tend to have more money and are more willing to spend it on more expensive things with higher markups, doesn’t make business sense.
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