Creating an old-girls network in Silicon Valley

Wed Jan 28, 2015 7:33am EST
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By Sarah McBride

(Reuters) - Thanks to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and her mega-bestselling book, Lean In, the gender-disparity debate has been front and center for years now in Silicon Valley.

But another executive believes she is taking that concept one step further with her own organization, Upward. Her take: focus a little less on working harder, and a little more on old-fashioned meeting and greeting.

     “Work your relationships,” says Lisa Lambert, a VP with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit. "Build your own network and work it."

      Upward, in less than two years, has brought in more than 1,500 members, says Lambert, 47. That's just a fraction of the 21,000 Lean In "circles" or groups, which have been powered by Sandberg's 72-week ride on the New York Times hardcover best seller list.

     But Lambert, with no book in the works, is largely building her organization on word of mouth. She has launched a new chapter in Israel, and plans four more this year, in Bangalore; London; Austin, Texas; and Portland, Oregon.

"I see the disparity between professional men and women all the time in my business, and wanted to help," said Lambert, who holds an MBA from Harvard University and invests chiefly in software companies.

In venture capital, just 4 percent of senior investing partners are women, according to Pitchbook, a consulting firm. Just 3 percent of companies receiving venture cash have female CEOs, according to a report from Babson College.

Those numbers help explain why gender issues have become such a hot topic, especially in Silicon Valley, at the center of controversies surrounding discrimination faced by women in sectors such as game development. Most big area technology companies report low numbers of female employees, particularly at management levels.   Continued...

Lisa Lambert, executive director of Upward, poses for Reuters in Santa Clara, California January 23, 2015.   REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage