Craig Newmark has been on a tear recently with his support of getting more women into tech and advancing women already in tech. In partnership with Women Who Tech, he's just closed the fifth year of a startup competition created specifically for women founders. We got to chat with Newmark about the competition, and his work in the space.
You've been on a mission—a great one we might add—to increase women's representation in the tech space. Where did this come from?
It really originates from Sunday School, where I heard that I should treat others like I want to be treated. Since I'm an old school nerd, I'm very literal, and that became a possibly naive commitment to fairness. I couldn't, and can't, understand anything else. Nowadays, this translates into work toward a new normal, where matters including gender and ethnicity don't matter.
You recently completed the 5th Annual Women Startup Challenge Pitch Competition in partnership with Women Who Tech. What did you learn?
Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech, gets all the credit. She's been doing this, quite effectively, for years. I stand up for the effort, working toward a new normal, where women can pitch their innovative startups and get funded just like men in tech do. It reinforces a lesson that, in my nerdly, dysfunction I need to hear. Good works are amplified by the linkage with some funding and effective media. Allyson also relieves me of any perceived need to mansplain.
We work pretty tirelessly to create ways that people in the tech industry can actually close the gender gaps associated with tech—tangible mechanisms. But it's not always easy. What do you think the space needs to see improvement?
I think people need to hear, over and over, that a new normal is emerging, a more fair one to women. But it's not just about fairness. Investing in women-led startups is good business. Data shows that women-led technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieving 35 percent higher return on investment. There's also good work being done by the Global Fund for Women, Girls Who Code, and the women's veterans effort from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
You're a man. What do you feel your role is in the women in tech ecosystem?
I just need to keep standing up for people doing good work on this area, spending social capital and dollars to support these efforts. This is personal and, at the gut level, I'm committed for at least twenty years.
What one stat would you love to see improved around women in tech?
I'd like to see more investment money directed to women-led startups.
In a recent interview, you said "I also do a little bit with women in leadership." Could you elaborate on that?
That's about the efforts mentioned above, where I help good groups with financial and social capital.
Lastly, what's one little-known fact about you?
I don't do fun, though I do like to photograph birds that visit us in our backyard.
Craig Newmark is a Web pioneer, philanthropist, speaker, and one of America’s most recognized nerds. He was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2013 he was named “Nerd-in-Residence” by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Innovation in recognition of his volunteer work with the department to enhance services to veterans and military families. In 1995 Craig founded craigslist, the online classified advertising site that has seen more than 5 billion ads posted. While Craig has not been part of craigslist management since 2000, he stays connected to the site’s users through his involvement with Customer Service.
In 2016 he created the Craig Newmark Foundation, a private foundation to promote philanthropy and civic engagement through a number of initiatives. The foundation supports charitable and education causes with a focus on consumer protection and education, veterans and military families, government transparency, public diplomacy, voter protection and education, micro-lending to alleviate poverty, and women in technology.
Craig communicates regularly through his own blog at craigconnects.org and through the Huffington Post, Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, and Twitter. He also travels the country speaking about issues and appearing on behalf of organizations he supports.