Michael Dell, CEO and founder of Dell, interviewed the leaders of Shutterfly, TripAdvisor and XO Group (formerly The Knot) — all companies that are featured in Dell’s latest ad campaign — for a discussion called “Beginnings: Entrepreneurialism with Michael Dell” during the first full day of the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. And in the process, he demonstrated that Dell’s commitment to leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs starts at the top.
Shutterfly CEO Jeff Housenbold and TripAdvisor founder Stephen Kaufer had just answered a question when @adam87am tweeted: “In those first years of incredible growth, how did you create and manage balance between your work and personal life?”
Sitting in the audience, I cringed. It was Carley Roney’s turn to speak, but that question is directed almost exclusively to female leaders. And now it would be yet again, I thought, since Michael Dell would only be following the natural rhythm of the panel as its moderator to turn to Roney next.
But Dell surprised me. Instead of asking Roney, Dell took the question himself, talking about his understanding that people can be productive for only so long. When you turn your attention from work to family, he said, be present. Think about what you’ll regret if you don’t.
When Carley Roney did jump in to offer her thoughts, she corrected the question itself. “I like to think of it as work/life imbalance,” she said.
I’ve often wondered about the source of Dell Inc.’s many investments in women, first as a business journalist and now as an employee of the company. The formation of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network and the Pay It Forward campaign, which offer female entrepreneurs community and support. The $100 million Innovators Credit Fund, which gives them greater access to capital. The Connected Workplace initiative, which encourages flexible work arrangements.
I’m not wondering any longer. To my thinking that decision to answer the typically female-founder’s question, made spontaneously on stage while moderating a panel of CEOs in front of an audience of hundreds, has to have been organic — a product of Michael Dell’s personal philosophy. And even if I’m wrong; even if it was a gesture, well done. I, for one, noticed and appeciated it.
Tech Page One staff coverage of South By Southwest Interactive and key events that happened during the conference.
- 1SXSW: Health startups hit $2.8 billion in funding
- 2SXSW: US, UK team up on healthcare IT, open data
- 3Michael Dell bucks work/life balance query trend at SXSW
- 4SXSW: 23andMe founder talks personalized genetic data
- 5Check out the tech behind Fader Fort live stream concerts
- 6SXSW: Entrepreneurs debate growth versus scale
- 7FOMO, the plague of SXSW
- 8SXSW: Management tips from US soccer’s head coach
- 9SXSW: Chelsea Clinton highlights tech for social good
- 10Don’t do dumb things in social media