Last week, the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, the largest and most powerful technology association in New England, announced the finalists for its annual awards, to be given at a gala this fall. On Oct. 3, in a room of 700 people, an accomplished person will win CEO of the Year, another will win Chief Technology Officer of the Year, and a third will win Chief Marketing Officer of the year. If you go to the Mass TLC website, you’ll see the list of five finalists for each of those awards — none of whom are women.
There are at least three problems with this.
First, 2018 is not the first year when Mass TLC’s judging process produced 15 male finalists for those three prestigious awards. They did the same in 2016 and 2017 for the awards for best CEO and best chief technology officer, and with another flawed process, the outcome is the same this year.
For some reason, although the association represents companies that are addressing some of the thorniest issues of our day, they can’t fix this one.
Second, this is not a pipeline problem. There are phenomenal women leading tech companies in our region, from Stefania Mallett, CEO of ezCater, which just raised another $100 million in venture capital to support its hyper growth, to Sarah Welch, CMO of CarGurus, a public company that is transforming the automotive buying process. Or Nicole Sahin, CEO of Globalization Partners, which is the second fastest growing privately-held company in Massachusetts. Or how about Carol Meyers, chief marketing officer of Rapid7; Janet Holian, chief marketing officer of DraftKings; Alison Durant, senior vice president for corporate marketing of LogMeIn; or Sarah McCrary, CEO of GasBuddy? There are dozens more.
Third, it doesn’t seem that Mass TLC is admitting that the process is flawed — at least based on the tweet by its CEO, Tom Hopcroft: “We shine a spotlight on our amazing diverse tech workforce in many ways throughout the year. For our awards program, we look to the industry to nominate those they feel exemplify leadership.”
Mass TLC is not the first organization to struggle with diversity, nor will it be the last. But in 2018, the frequency of this problem is no justification for its continued existence. Ask anyone who has judged business competitions and they will tell you that the fix is straightforward: If you have a homogenous slate, get the word out that you need additional nominees. Threaten to postpone the event until there’s a diverse list. Senior leaders across this city have signed a pledge not to sit on all-male panels at conferences and have found that conference organizers magically find women to speak when they invoke the pledge.
There are many tricky issues in our civic discourse these days. This is not one of them. If Mass TLC promises to do better next year, that is at least one year too late. And, if our leading organizations can’t figure out how to recognize women, then they don’t deserve to represent any of us.David Cancel is CEO of Drift. David Chang is entrepreneur in residence at Harvard Business School. Diane Hessan is CEO of Salient Ventures. Kathleen D. Kennedy is director of special projects at MIT. Jesse Mermell is president of Alliance for Business Leadership. C.A. Webb is president of Kendall Square Association.