Monthly Archives: October 2017

The Root of the Tech Industry’s Gender Gap

Although gender balance in the workplace has evened steadily in the last century, the proportion of women in technology fields has actually regressed. In fact, I see first-hand how the tech world fails women at every step of the way due to cultural barriers and lack of mentorship.

The education gap narrows, in some cases.
Some people in education assume that women and girls learn differently from their male counterparts and believe that the gender imbalance can be solved by teaching coding separately and differently to girls. Programs like Made with Code take this approach. This assumption has been proven incorrect in numerous studies and trends in college enrollment do not support it.

In 1985 there were 14 boys for every girl in the top 0.01 percent of math test takers, while today that gap has closed to two-and-a-half to one. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women began outstripping men in the number of college degrees earned at all levels over the course of the 1980s. It is not reasonable to think that innate gender differences could change so dramatically in so short a time. We must conclude that cultural shifts can drive changes in gender-based achievement gaps.

It stands to reason that women majoring in tech fields would increase proportional to the rise in overall college enrollment numbers. But that has not been the case. The number of women getting degrees in computer science grew steadily until the mid-eighties, then dropped over the next 25 years, according to the National Science Foundation. Cultural expectations seem to play a large role in this persistent gap. Data shows that girls with role models in tech will gravitate towards those fields.

The need for role models.
Earlier this year Johns Hopkins University released the results of a study indicating that black students were significantly less likely to drop out of high school if they had just one black teacher in third through fifth grades. Role models in educational settings have a huge impact in shaping the way young people imagine their futures and make decisions. Likewise, when girls have female role models who excel in technology, math and science, those girls tend to maintain interest in those fields.

The Midst of Major Disruptions, Thanks to Data

Research suggests that some 90 percent of the data in the world today was created within the last two years, and our current output is an estimated at 2.5 quintillion bytes per day.

Hiding in those virtually endless strings of ones and zeroes, we suppose, are all kinds of insights, ready to help improve the way we do business and live our lives. All we need is good business intelligence, which is what allows our best and brightest, to convert data into ideas we can actually act on.

Big data is useful in nearly every industry, but over the past year, it’s been making a statement and disrupting the standard in four industries in particular. As 2018 approaches, let’s take a look at how analytics can continue to shape these verticals.

Related: How is Big Data Streamlining Business Operations

1. Urban planning.
In just over 30 years, the United Nations predicts that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas, with the greatest expansions happening in developing regions of Asia and Africa. Cities in these areas will be challenged to meet the needs of their citizens, so it’s important to understand not just how cities will grow, but how to make them smarter and sustainable as they do.

Using a simulation like the classic SimCity game, where you build a virtual city and watch it grow and evolve, can be helpful in developing new urban areas, but it isn’t a perfect solution because of the way it uses generalizations about how the people and organizations within the city behave. These simulations can be useful as general guides, but without nuanced, intelligent accuracy, it can’t be as helpful as we need it to be.

For example, MasterCard recently worked in collaboration with Cubic Transportation Systems to develop a new data analysis platform. They combined MasterCard’s transaction data with Cubic’s transportation data, analytics and visualization platform to develop the Urbanomics Mobility Project to provide insight into the way transit and economic activity are linked together in cities.

2. Education and job training.
Job training is a necessary and potentially costly endeavor for businesses. On-the-job training is a good solution since it allows for being trained while working. But supervisors and more experienced employees may not have the skills for training others. Just because they were good at their work and earned a promotion doesn’t make them effective teachers.

Using e-learning in conjunction with training can make the difference. E-learning is a massive industry. In 2015, the market was worth somewhere around $165 billion. At a 5 percent increase every year, we should be hitting a $182 billion market this year and reaching close to $240 billion by 2023. As it continues to grow, we can expect to see data collection and analysis change the face of education as we know it.

While education traditionally relies on test scores to determine how well a student has learned the material, not everyone learns the same way, and exams can easily be cheated, so grades are not necessarily an accurate reflection of someone’s ability to do the work.

Stop Blaming the Pipeline for Its Lack of Diversity

Out-of-the-box thinking and innovation are prerequisites for success in Silicon Valley. Tech giants pride themselves on being problem solvers, and the infamous slogan “there’s an app for that” epitomizes the mentality that any inconvenience can be avoided with new technology. Unfortunately, the lack of diversity in tech is one code the industry has been slow to crack. But rather than admit defeat and change course internally, they’ve reassigned blame to an external factor: the STEM pipeline.

The “pipeline problem” is the theory there simply aren’t enough properly skilled members of underrepresented groups for hire — including women, people of color, veterans and members of the LGBTQ community. While organizations argue the talent pool is just too small, the real issue may be that the pipeline itself is leaky.

Girls, for example, now make up about half of the enrollment in high-school science and math classes and are scoring almost identically to their male classmates on standardized tests. However, women make up only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce in the United States. Furthermore, Blacks and Hispanics comprise just 1 percent of engineering leadership at Twitter, 2 percent at Google and 2 percent at Facebook.

Without participation and representation in leadership, many minority STEM workers are overlooked. They never receive the mentorship, sponsorship and guidance needed to advance their careers.

While the leaky pipeline is a persistent challenge, tech leaders have a responsibility to not only recognize the importance of diversity in their workforce but also to champion the issue internally. At Hired, we’ve created a diverse and inclusive team through a three-pronged approach that easily can be replicated.

1. Continually evaluate where your talent is coming from and actively seek out diverse candidates.
Companies can’t sit back and expect diverse talent to come knocking on their doors. At Hired, three of our five executives are women, including heads of finance, engineering and people operations. This is partially because we require at least one woman in the interview pool for every leadership role at the company.

We intentionally engage with communities such as Women Who Code, Grace Hopper and Lesbians Who Tech to build relationships with talent who might otherwise not be familiar with our company. While this approach may require more time and energy than waiting for diverse candidates’ resumes to cross our desks, it’s a critical component to achieve a more inclusive culture that values equality.

Related: The Website That Is Helping Companies Find More Diverse Talent

2. Fully commit to diversity, equality and inclusion.
The voices and actions of tech leaders are powerful. They not only influence the behavior of their internal teams but also can be replicated by other aspiring leaders. Ultimately, this sort of collective effort will elicit positive change throughout an industry. Making an authentic commitment to inclusion means more than making a public pledge.

C-level executives must advocate internally for benefits such as generous parental leave, considerations for same-sex couples who cannot have biological children and student-loan repayment programs. Offering meaningful benefits that also account for traditionally marginalized employees communicates an authentic commitment to diversity. It goes far beyond a few slides in an annual PowerPoint presentation.

Freezing Tech for Cryogenics

Dippin’ Dots has been around for 30 years, during which time it has expanded internationally, filed for bankruptcy, sold to a new owner and even found itself criticized by former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Twitter.

But the company, which makes colorful, pellet-shaped, flash-frozen desserts, continues to look toward the horizon. This week, Paducah, Ky.-based Dippin’ Dots announced the launch of a new subsidiary, Dippin’ Dots Cryogenics. With it, the company plans to sell its proprietary technology to businesses in other industries that require cryogenic freezing.

Although many people associate the term with the futuristic concept of preserving human bodies, Dippin’ Dots isn’t planning on lending its tech to corpse-freezers. The company’s patented equipment, when customized, can find applications in the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries, among others.

Products made using the process might include probiotics, bacterial cultures and extractions from plants such as aloe vera. These materials will be flash-frozen into circular spheres, just like Dippin’ Dots, which the company says will help manufacturers accurately measure the volumes they produce, increase shelf life and help them be transported more easily.

Cryogenics isn’t a new field for Dippin’ Dots; it’s exactly how the frozen treats are made. The inventor of Dippin’ Dots, Curt Jones, was a microbiologist who applied his knowledge of cryogenic processes to making a new kind of ice cream using liquid nitrogen.

“The expansion of this concept into these other industries has also led to Dippin’ Dots expanding its services to these segments with our logistics, distribution and shipping containers for cryogenic product that allows our company to expand our global footprint while providing a diversified revenue stream to our portfolio by using our intellectual property that was already being used for our ice cream needs,” Dippin’ Dots CEO Scott Fischer told Entrepreneur in an email. “Overall, we believe this is a pretty cool opportunity.”

The Reason of Blockchain Matters to Small Businesses

There are many disadvantages small and medium-sized ventures face in the current business atmosphere. Despite their status as the backbone of any major economy and integral to GDP growth and other national metrics, smaller firms face high barriers to entry and low insulation from conditions that would barely scratch their larger peers. The current regulatory environment is purpose-built for companies that are several magnitudes larger, and makes it hard to find financing, scale operations, process payments and recruit other ancillary services that are both necessary and yet monopolize the time and resources of small businesses.

With blockchain’s ability to achieve remote, autonomous consensus between users, businesses have quickly figured out that such self-reliant data infrastructure is useful for things far beyond cryptocurrency. It can help bring products and transactional services to market quickly and inexpensively, and offload the traditionally high costs of security, Know Your Customer (KYC) protocols, data storage and other overheads. It not only reduces costs, but also allows businesses of all sizes to compete on a more level playing field.

Piggybacking on blockchain
Small businesses often work solely on scaling, as they should, but this focus neglects and strains the basic processes of invoicing, inventory and payroll that were established at the outset. The bootstrapped peripheral business flows that support a business’s product or service also need to evolve, or risk creating bottlenecks. While this used to mean purchasing a CRM or CMS platform, hiring new employees or contracting with another service provider, blockchain has an alternative solution.

Smart contracts are a more economical option that can help small businesses inexpensively streamline the flows that keep them in business. They use blockchain to create, check and enforce contracts between users, who would be a young firm’s merchants, clients and customers. Whether it be invoicing, paying employees or bills, settling interest fees, creating insurance policies, handling fulfillment of inventory, closing new deals or any other transactional activity, smart contracts can have a positive financial impact on small business.