This morning it was announced that I was part of the executive producer team for the feature-length documentary “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap,” which is set to premiere next month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.  The film takes a critical look at why so many American women and minorities eschew careers in computer science, despite high paying and intellectually rewarding opportunities.  I’m incredibly humbled and proud to be amongst the ranks of Robin Hauser Reynolds and her production team in the mission to better understand the difficulties women face in tech.  Clearly articulating the challenge is the first true step to bridging the technology gender gap once and for all—and CODE moves us toward that goal in an engaging and artful way.

For those who know me, my commitment to the CODE film will come as no surprise.  I’ve been a lifelong advocate for the advancement of women’s issues and a passionate supporter of equality for all—be it gender or any other physiological trait.  For those who only know me as CEO of GoDaddy, last month’s Fast Company article on GoDaddy’s transformation or the gender equality op-ed I penned in Fortune this winter will give you some helpful context.

It’s a different article, however, that comes to mind as I think about the motivations behind my support for the CODE documentary.  Almost exactly a year ago today I had a brief conversation with activist Gloria Feldt that she subsequently published on her popular blog.  Gloria Feldt is the driving force behind “Take The Lead,” a women’s leadership movement to inspire and prepare women for senior leadership positions in Tech and other industries.  In her post, Gloria concluded, “At the root of social change is always the personal story, the most powerful driver in all realms.”  This exceptionally lucid observation has stuck with me to this day.

My personal story is one I won’t linger on here today—it sums up to a life lived with strong, feminist women including my mother, my sister and my wife.  For many years I considered them the cause of my commitment to equality; but after my conversation with Gloria, I realized that they were the catalyst—which is a very important but very different thing.  The women in my life opened my eyes to the reality of a problem of which many people are still blind.

Today, the cause of my support for gender equality isn’t any one person.  My motivations are twofold:  First, I understand that a world with more equality for all is a better world; and making the world a better place is a noble cause for my life.  Secondly, the progress and innovation in my industry is almost certainly held back by a lack of diverse thought.  Women are the dominant users of tech and I’ve come to understand that their insights in the development of technology is invaluable to the process.  Together, these two are strong influences in how I view and act in the word.  Unfortunately, I don’t know that I’d have reached the same point without the catalysts’ for change in my life—particularly from my sister Lori.

I’ve heard it said in feminist conversations that “men shouldn’t need to have a mother, sister or daughter to ‘get it.’  The challenge of gender inequality is as clear as day if men would only look.”  But bias, particularly the subtle and unconscious kind we’re facing in tech, can obscure our view.   And if men don’t see a problem it will be incredibly difficult to motivate them to effect change in their behavior.  That’s where I believe the CODE film will help at scale.

I’ve been fortunate to have a reasonably deep well of lived experience in the cause of gender equality—but I suspect that’s still rare among men.  For others without that life experience, we need to help them see and internalize the problem and inspire them to action.  In short, we need to create catalysts for them like my family was a catalyst for me.  Robin’s powerful look at the difficulties women face in tech can be that catalyst for millions of men.

This documentary project brings with it the potential to attract a mainstream audience that few other works of its kind could accomplish.  CODE stands to inspire countless men to find their own personal story, and that’s worth every ounce of energy put toward its production.   With the Tribeca Film Festival now just a month away, I’m incredibly excited to see how it impacts our quest and I’m honored to contribute to, and be associated with, this great work.

A footnote:  When it comes to gender diversity at GoDaddy, we’re of course not resting at my involvement with CODE.  GoDaddy is aggressively recruiting talented women from across the tech industry—from new grads to industry veterans.  If you’re interested, we have lots of opportunities in Seattle, the Bay Area, the Phoenix area and a few around the world.  We’re also working with the acclaimed Stanford Clayman Institute this year to help our employees uncover their unconscious biases and to discover their own catalysts for change.  As that gets underway I’ll share more on the program and its results.

PHOTO: Nick Gentry


2 thoughts on “Catalyst and Cause – Parsing the Challenge of Gender in Tech

  1. I’m a woman of color, and diversity is much more than gender. I understand that you have been a focus in the past due to your risqué ads, but if you truly believe in diversity, look at your customer base.

    They are white, black, Asian, Korean, mixed, Pakistani, LGBT and so on. Does your company reflect the true values of diversity? Does your leadership reflect that? Does your management team reflect that? Are they of diverse backgrounds and races? Please start seeing beyond gender.

    I was a girl, now a transgender man of color.

    Having someone that is a woman in tech is just a start. Let’s see what else this can go.

  2. Men and women alike struggle to get to the top of their chosen professions. While there may be an old boy’s club, there is also the new girl’s club. It seems to me that women want the government to open doors for them by closing doors for men. Why not let one’s work speak for itself and let the cream rise to the top instead of seeking quotas and special perks to allow shortcuts for the chosen “underclass”
    of the day?

Comments are closed.