I walked into Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco yesterday expecting to see a smallish group of small business owners - primarily women. It was the PBWC's Annual Conference. The Professional BusinessWomen of California (PBWC) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing the professional and personal development of women by providing tools, resources, training and inspiration. But smallish group - NO WAY - 1000's of women from California's largest companies were there.
I got involved because they wanted to get a Google Women Executive to be one of the main speakers. I am lucky enough to know a few of them. Sheryl Sandberg, Vice President, Global Online Sales and Operations, Google stepped up to the plate to talk about planning a career path. I know Sheryl because called me on her first day at Google, January 2001, panicing about being responsible for client services for this new ad thing. She needed a friendly shoulder (and some information about search). I was suggested as that shoulder because I was one of the more vocal female search marketers and adwords beta testers at the time.
Sheryl had previously been in government as Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Treasury. She told the audience of thousands of women (and 400 female high school students) that she wanted to create and manage an organization in high technology. Boy, did she get a chance to do that. She pushed through her fears about walking into an environment that she was not familar with, for a chance to follow her goals. She is also 8+ months pregnant with her second child - another planned path for her life. Sheryl, by the way, is also a big supporter of women's rights.
At the luncheon, companies were ranked based on criteria that basically judged them on their 'female' friendly environments. The algorithm (secret of course) was based on things like: how many executives are women, how many women are on their Board of Directors, and what type of flexible work arrangements are available. It was no surprise that Hewlett-Packard got the award for #1. While they are short a few women in the top executive ranks now, they have high productivity from many women because they offer employees a chance to work from home, work part-time, job share, etc. These types of arrangements make being a professional woman and a Mom possible. HP benefits greatly by being able to employee the best of breed for their company without losing people to the conflict of being a working Mom. I applaude them.
But the best part was the screaming!! At the luncheon, that had 2500-3000 people in attendance, a company would be highlighted as a sponsor or award winner, and the employees present would scream, 100s of them. It was like a basketball game! I really can't imagine a room full of man screaming in support of their company the way it was yesterday. Women Rock!