After spat over inclusion in tech awards, men and women come out equal
The top four annual executive awards were split evenly between women and men at the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council gala this week, salving the outrage that erupted after the trade group announced an earlier, mostly male slate of finalists.
The council agreed to reopen nominations in July after complaints that the male-dominated shortlist exemplified the chronic underrepresentation of women in the region’s bustling tech scene. The original finalists for three of the four executive categories — chief executive, chief marketing officer, and chief technology officer — included only men.
After the organization gathered a more diverse field, its judges selected Monique Bonner of Akamai as the top marketing executive. Dávid Lakatos of Formlabs was the top technologist, and Mohamad Ali of Carbonite was the top chief executive.
Sunanda Parthasarathy, a data scientist at Wayfair, was emerging executive of the year, the only executive category that had originally included women finalists.
Bonner said she hopes that in the future, more women will be nominated the first time around.
“I feel super supported as a woman in tech and a woman in tech in Boston,” she said. “But I do think there are times when women in business and women in tech don’t think to throw their hat in where there are places to promote your individual and team achievements.”
Tom Hopcroft, chief executive of the council, said in an interview that the criticism had been fair: “We dropped the ball.”
But he said the event at the Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center was an occasion for the organization to show that it values inclusion not just for moral reasons — but because it makes business sense.
“You have better business results by having diverse teams. All the data shows that you have better financial performance, better overall results,” he said.
C.A. Webb, president of the Kendall Square Association and one of the authors of a critical Boston Globe op-ed over the makeup of the initial slate of finalists, credited the council with responding quickly.
She said the issue is urgent because such awards events contribute to an important narrative about who has the power to innovate in Boston. Webb said she often hears people say men outnumber women in tech because women just aren’t interested.
“I have had variations on that theme repeated to me more times than I can count,” she said. “What we must do is surface those women who are more than interested in technology. They have been working in technology for years and years and years. . . . It’s really damaging for anyone to turn up to one of these events and have those tropes repeated when it is not true.”
Hopcroft said the first round of finalists was drawn from a broader group, overwhelmingly male, nominated by people in the business community. After the outcry, he went back to the council’s members and asked them to offer names of qualified women.
The council also remade the panels that selected the finalists and the winners, making sure that at least 50 percent of the judges were women.
Hopcroft said the council is considering further changes for next year, and he noted that other awards at the event went to women. Jackie Glenn, former chief diversity officer at EMC, received an award for inclusion, and Jennifer Chayes, a research director for Microsoft, won an honor for her contributions to the field of machine learning.