Getting Credit

Last night CBS 60 Minutes aired a piece about the gender gap in tech and left out a number of important efforts to close the gap.

My friend Rob Underwood tweeted this out about that piece:

And while I completely agree with Rob that Reshma has built something amazing at Girls Who Code, I also feel that the results she and her organization are getting are what matters the most and so I responded with this:

Later today, a friend and fantastic entrepreneur sent me a private email arguing that credit is very important and that it is how organizations gain credibility, legitimacy, and support to keep going.

Of course she is right. Credit is important.

I also got an email from the folks I work with at the NYC public school system pointing out that the NYC public school profiled in the 60 Minutes piece was the beneficiary of the CS4All effort which I have been championing for almost a decade now and that was left entirely out of the story.

All of this is unfortunate. There is a very broad coalition of organizations doing incredible work making sure that we have gender and racial equity in STEM education. And we are starting to see the results of all of the work of these groups. It would have been nice to credit a much broader group of organizations and companies.

But this happens all the time. USV has been the seed and largest investor and a highly engaged board member in companies that are referred to in the press as an “Andreessen Horowitz backed company” or a “Sequoia backed company” or a some other such characterization. When I see that I flinch a bit but tell myself that it is the company, the founders, and the results that matters and not who invested in it.

Success has a thousand mothers and some will get more credit than others. That is the unfortunate truth of success. But if we focus on the success versus the credit then I think we will all be better off.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. Mike Zamansky

    One of the problems is that a few players – usually ones that got their start because they were either connected or had money garner all the attention and all the resources and truth be told, quality usually isn’t the prime consideration when determining who gets credit and who gets funding.I was talking to a friend last year who runs a small organization to support girls and tech. An organization who, in my opinion has a much more sound approach than many of the big players but she struggles to get anywhere while GWC, Technovation and other connected well known programs gobble up the resources.A few years ago, I was struggling to raise a small amount to run our summer program. It all worked out but it shouldn’t have been so hard.It also matters in terms of results. I know that my guys did a better job than most other programs out there as does my friend’s program but giving all the credit to the big player makes it that much harder for us to get the kids and do the good work.A final problem is that few big players end up being far too influential and while they’re great in getting the movement going it can be dangerous in the long run. We can see that in the college board and to an extend with (although I like Hadi, many of the people and a lot of what they do).

    1. fredwilson

      I agree Mike .I am proud of the work you did in that summer program and proud to have been a supporter of it. Few credit you as the father of K12 CS Ed in NYC but those of us who know do

      1. Mike Zamansky

        Thanks Fred. As I get older I realize that credit is only important if it makes it easier to further the mission.Right now, all I care about is getting word out to kids that they can come to my honors program and get a great CS education with all sorts of extras and teachers can come to my programs to get what I think will be the best CS teacher preparation program out there.If reputation or credit for past work helps me get more better opportunities to kids and teachers it’s important. Beyond that, it’s not really important.

    2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      I know you did (was a regular at that time in AVC) and my Congratulations and Salute to you.Do more.

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  2. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:Talk, pat on the back, little results in diversity, more talk.Imagine (Which could only be the reality) all white people didn’t own or limited control of fortune 500 companies, few decision making businesses, few judgeships, few law enforcement decision making placements would be strange.The daily reality of a dark-skinned minority.The people who say they care have the financial means to hire, train and invest in the communities. How many blacks work at USV? A janitor, support, mailroom? Talk is cheap!Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  3. Rob Underwood

    I think the difference between CSforAll, the effort our host launched, or even the Brooklyn Borough President’s efforts (the BBP has funded $65K in technology infrastructure upgrades at the school featured last night as part of the CodeBrooklyn campaign he and I co-founded), and, say, Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code, is that while inclusivity is certainly part of the missions of those former orgs, a central focus of these latter two orgs, and others like them such as NCWIT, is getting more girls and young women into computer science — and that was the exactly the theme of the 60 minutes piece.Had the story been just about the overall effort to expand computer science education nationwide, I think people might be more understanding of how the piece turned out. There is only so much time in a short segment piece, and naturally the reporter and producers have to focus (and cut). Stories can’t turn into Academy Award speeches. And it’s natural that they’d focus on orgs at the top of the app stack so to speak, like, and not on the somewhat more back of the house enabling efforts getting funding for professional development and hardware infrastructure in place.I think this issue here, as I saw it, was that the reporter and producers went with such a strong bent around getting more girls and young women into computer science, and then, further still, portrayed it (as I saw it) as if there was a single person, and a single org, out to change the state of affairs.What prompted my tweet was not so much the lack of attribution in of itself, but more that the piece failed to convey the accurate — and I’d argue, far more powerful — narrative about the board coalition of orgs, many led by women (Jan Cuny at NSF; Lucy Sanders at NCWIT; Reshma at Girls Who Code; Kimberly Bryant at Black Girls Code; the ECS team, etc.), along with great orgs like and CSForAll, all working together looking to change things. That’s my critique — in the cutting of the piece they lost an essential piece of the narrative.To to be clear, and I hope my tweet has clear on this too, my issue is not with Hadi or My issue is with how the producers cut the story, as it ended up introducing an inaccurate picture of the work being done nationwide to improve participation of girls and young women in computer science. As Reshma touches on in her medium piece,…, opportunities like this to reach the general public are precious and it feels like a bit of a lost opportunity.

    1. fredwilson

      Your fourth paragraph is money

      1. Rob Underwood

        Realized after I posted my comment that really Diane made my point much more succinctly in her tweet,

        1. fredwilson

          yes she did

    2. creative group

      Rob Underwood:Your contribution was worth reading based upon substance. We are happy to read the names associated with the front line help for change of the usual.Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  4. Guy Lepage

    >When I see that I flinch a bit but tell myself that it is the company, the founders, and the results that matters and not who invested in it.It’s marketing. And marketing is desperately needed for the high majority of startups. They would move at a much more rapid pace if founders could understand the implementation of this tool at the early stages of their orgs.

  5. Kirsten Lambertsen

    The only question I’d have about this notion is, does it apply equally to groups that are run by traditionally under-represented people (women, people of color, LGBTQ, etc.)? You can’t be it if you can’t see it, as they say.Glad we’re saying ‘equity’ instead of ‘equality’ now 🙂

    1. Richard

      The world will all laugh at the term “People of Color” in years to come. I can’t belive we still use it?FRED isn’t having his best month. The true credit to the outcomes goes to the participants of the programs!

  6. Richard

    No surprise here. The press does everything half-assed. It’s a mixture of incompetence and ineptness. The millennial generation is going to be a huge headwind. We need help.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      The nonsense of the media is not new but goes back at least to Jefferson and maybe in a sense to the first people who gathered around the village well and learned to manipulate and lie!Long the temptation was just to ignore nearly all the media, but that wasn’t reasonable, and the media routinely manipulated their audiences. Now with the Internet, ignoring nearly all the media is reasonable, possible, and likely much better.E.g., if want to know what Trump, Pence, Pompeo, Nancy, Chucky, AOC, Fauxcahontas, etc. said, then just get the video and/or the actual transcript, at C-SPAN, YouTube, some government Web site, etc.For the real stuff, there long have been lots of government statistics: Now it’s easy to find, download, and plot the data or just get plots and analyses by others — much better information. Now anyone can try to investigate, say, how balance of trade, balance of payments, inflation, GDP growth, stock market growth, labor force growth, the prime rate, tariffs, the price of oil, etc. interact — no way will see that on mainstream media!

  7. EON

    Truman said it best: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

  8. sigmaalgebra

    Credit, heck! For a while I contacted VCs until I concluded that they wanted to see my Web site with growing revenue, so much I wouldn’t need an equity check. But I also read a lot of VC Web sites and blogs: As far as I can tell, you have by a wide margin the best VC blog. So, credit, praise: Among people who know much at all about VCs and know and like your interests in getting girls into tech, you have something better — respect. And, among people who don’t know, well ….For “60 Minutes”, that’s via CBS, right? I gave up on ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, NYT, etc.: They pushed too much biased propaganda narrative on me, and I gave up on them. So, that “60 Minutes” makes a mess no longer surprises me and by now no longer concerns me.For girls in tech, I’d be afraid to encourage that. E.g., the boys/men in tech have a high nerd, socially challenged, fraction and, thus, stand to be, among the more interesting fields, some of the least pleasant for girls/women to work in. I have to guess that medicine would be a lot better.But no doubt your wife knows a lot more about such things than I do: If she’s okay pushing girls into tech, go for it. Maybe the tech will be nearly irrelevant and just an excuse for the girls to be interested in social, social media, socializing, social things, gossip, boys, clothes, boys, hair, gossip, in academics the humanities, etc.Gee, in college, no one dumped on the girls for neglecting math and physics. So why did they dump on me for concentrating on math and physics and wanting to neglect old English literature?Ah, I’ve got another disk partition to backup!

  9. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    The soldiers who fight in the front line of any (any) war never get the (due) credit. & they never cared much about it, but, satisfied with their work and appreciation of their family.And we know …. Who takes the credit.

  10. William Mougayar

    Part of the reason is lazy journalism. They don’t bother to fully investigate and they go with what was fed to them.

    1. Richard

      Wow, we made the same point!

    2. JamesHRH

      I cannot find the reference online, but in a biographical article of a media executive many years ago, he describes a series of youthful misadventures in business and then says, ‘Well, you know…media, it is a dilettante’s last resort.’Got me out of the industry.

  11. Pointsandfigures

    When you work so hard at it psychologically you take ‘posession’ of it and want to be recognized for your effort. Tough blow to ego when you are not. Recognize the ones that really matter already know.Where it’s important to give credit is when those that didn’t earn it muscle into the photo

  12. Cristiane Bastos

    I truly agree with your approach on the success vs the credit! Not always the right people will get credit, but you have to stay focused on the results. Credit relates a lot to ego. It is important to be recognized about a contribution but that should not be the main reason of your work. Thanks for keep things real!