The 15 executives nominated for the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council's top individual awards this year are all men, a blunt reminder that women remain underrepresented and under-recognized at the fast-growing industry's highest levels.
MassTLC President Tom Hopcroft called the absence of female nominees "frustrating," and said the trade group would form a committee to reevaluate its selection process.
The composition of this year's finalists is not a fluke. Last year, 10 of 10 contenders were men. In 2016, 10 of 10 were men.
"The whole technology area is one of the hardest areas for women to gain leadership in," said Susan Rittscher, president of the Center for Women & Enterprise in Boston.
Nevertheless, there are women running successful tech companies who merit recognition, contended Lori Richardson, chief executive of Score More Sales, in North Hampton, New Hampshire. Richardson will be a panelist next week at an event that MassTLC has been advertising on its website. The event is called "Women In Leadership: Advocacy, Acceleration, Sustainability." It is hosted by Burlington software company Everbridge, whose chief executive, Jaime Ellertson, is a finalist for CEO of the year.
"One idea is for women — or anyone — to help create a list," Richardson said.
Diane Hessan, founder of Boston marketing firm C Space, has begun to do just that. Responding to an interview request by Bostonomix, the former chief executive of the Startup Institute emailed a list of nine female executives whom she said would have been worthy of nominations:
- ezCater chief executive Stefania Mallett
- Vistaprint chief executive Trynka Shineman
- Nara Logics chief executive Jana Eggers
- Globalization Partners chief executive Nicole Sahin
- GasBuddy chief executive Sarah McCrary
- CarGurus senior vice president for consumer marketing Sarah Welch
- Rapid7 chief marketing officer Carol Meyers
- DraftKings chief marketing officer Janet Holian
- LogMeIn senior vice president for corporate marketing Alison Durant
"That email took me less than 60 seconds," Hessan said in a followup phone call. "So imagine if I had done some research.
"I think this is completely unacceptable," she added, referring to MassTLC's omission of women for a third straight year.
MassTLC's Hopcroft told Bostonomix that he believes the problem is too few women entering the awards contest — or being entered by colleagues — through an online ballot. The MassTLC staff does not judge entries but rather assembles small groups of tech industry professionals to pick finalists and winners in different categories, which include company of the year and product of the year.
Hopcroft said that among 50 total judges this year, roughly one-third were women. He estimated that about a half dozen judges selected finalists in the individual categories and said he did not know the gender composition of that panel.
"We really need to redouble our efforts and the efforts of everyone who wants to elevate the level of women in tech as role models to be sure that we're nominating women and people of color and underrepresented groups — that we nominate them actively and that we seek to reduce bias in programs," Hopcroft said. "This experience is certainly causing us to get together and reevaluate."
There is one awards category in which women are consistently represented: "emerging" executive of the year. Three of the five nominees this year are women, though the name of one, Wayfair's Sunanda Parthasarathy, is misspelled in MassTLC's official announcement. Five of the previous 10 nominees in the category were women.
The "emerging" label implies potential but also suggests an executive has not yet arrived. The highest individual awards are for chief executive, chief technology officer and chief marketing officer of the year. The marketing category is new, and all five nominees are men.
MassTLC will announce winners in all categories in October.
This segment aired on July 19, 2018.