SXSW 2017: Women in Start Ups, Talking the Future of Social Impact and More Innovators Than Ever
As always, SXSW was a whirlwind of interactive, music, film and gaming fun and insights. Here’s a roundup of some of my experiences from this year’s festivities:
The Twitch/Reddit Panel
Twitch and Reddit teamed up for four days of exclusive live-streamed content, special celebrity guests, and live AMA sessions from their main stage. I was honored to participate in the session titled Fearlessly Female: Boardroom and Beyond with Jill Cress, Chief Marketing Officer, National Geographic Partners and Ingrid Vanderveldt, Founder & CEO, Empowering a Billion Women by 2020 and Austin Mayor Steve Adler. The discussion was moderated by Reddit’s VP of People & Culture, Katelin Holloway.
Here were some of my key takeaways:
- There are still far too few female tech CEOs! While there were a lot of great women in CPG and fashion, other tech sectors are severely lacking the deep benefits of women in leadership roles. We have to work on this.
- The women who are breaking through the glass ceiling are doing so through sheer force of will. These women are true unstoppable pioneers. Jill Cress has been pushing for greater levels of corporate leadership while raising her family. Ingrid Vanderveldt lost everything and could have easily given up. But she didn’t. When all seemed lost, she started building back up from ground zero on her own.
- There was consensus that we need more institutions and resources designed to support women, such as financial advisors, investors, and mentors. Women often feel alone in their journeys and struggle to find the help they need.
Hopefully relentless pioneers + stronger support institutions lead to more women rising into leadership faster
- Women bring unique strengths into leadership positions and we should celebrate being different than men. We don’t have to be “like them” to be as successful as our male counterparts. We can do things our own way. We can celebrate our femininity and not apologize for it. Our perspectives, experiences and skills are gold.
Porter Novelli Perspectives
Porter Novelli invited me to be interviewed from the floor of SXSW Interactive during their new “Perspectives” series which streamed live during the conference. Soon Mee Kim, EVP/Diversity and Inclusion Leader, asked me some questions about Verb, the future of social impact and what we can do to engage employees with purpose. For now, here are some key points from our discussion:
- Companies really want to be more strategic and more integrated with our core business and find new ways to engage employees.
- Brands are moving away from traditional community engagement activities like funding galas and sponsoring big events that might give them brand visibility, but not much else.
- What’s most important to companies now is authenticity and being more “human.”
- Social impact has become a lot more individualized. Customers and employees are all individuals and they care about different things. So companies are trying to figure out how to be more innovative and strategic across the whole business, while also offering engagement that are personal and authentic.
- Right now only about 10% of employees pursue community involvement and 50% of employees say they are unengaged in their companies. And unengaged employees are 87% more likely to leave. So companies are worried.
- What companies are realizing is that not all employees are passionate about the causes of their companies.
- Companies don’t want to give up strategic giving that aligns with their business goals. But they’re also struggling to get that 10% employee engagement number up.
Shout Outs to…
Austin was filled with brand new start ups from San Francisco and LA. Among them were more social ventures, as well as founders like Philip Winter, co-founder and CEO of Nebia and Dave Smith from Unreasonable Group. I am also grateful for the incredible conveners like Task Us, Capital Factory, Jones-Dilworth, and Mutual Mobile who spent money to bring together a bunch of entrepreneurs, investors and corporations to make great things happen in the world.