Julia Boorstin, CNBC’s senior media and tech correspondent, put her pandemic lockdown downtime to good use. She went all in on a book that examines female leadership in business, how it’s changing and how those management styles are changing business.
“When Women Lead,” to be published next month by Simon & Schuster, is a deeply reported work that brings a global perspective to examining the state of female managers at companies large and small. One fact that stood out like a neon sign in her research was the shockingly low percentage of venture capital dollars that flow into female-led firms. Her anecdotal research only reinforced how much conscious bias there is among VCs who are hunting for founders that look like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
“I thought, ‘This is bananas,” Boorstin says on the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business.”
“The most recent stats are that 82% of all venture capital dollars went to companies without a single female co-founder,” she says. “So that means that all these billions of dollars that are funneling into companies like Uber or Airbnb that are going to change the way we live don’t have women involved. I thought, ‘This is crazy.’ I was interviewing women who have defied those odds, and I thought, ‘I want to know how these women did it.’”
“When Women Lead” is anything but a breezy read. Nor is it dominated by interviews with the usual suspects when it comes to women business leaders. Boorstin did her homework and her research. The book is organized by broad themes that are probed in depth — it’s not platitudes about girl bosses.
“One reason I want to tell the stories of about 60 women in this book is there was such an amazing diversity, such a wide range of different ways that women are leading,” Boorstin says. “And they look and sound and do things in entirely their own ways. I mean, there are women in the book who are naturally introverts and they figured out how to use their introversion as a superpower in business. I think that’s so cool, because it totally breaks this stereotype of what a leader is supposed to be like.”
The book covers a wide range of business sectors, but tech and media firms get a close eye, including the recent sale of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine banner. Boorstin details the strategy that led to the company’s $900 million valuation.
“Reese Witherspoon is a huge star. But what’s been amazing about watching Hello Sunshine is that there was this period where all of these streaming services launched …. and every one of these announcements seemed to feature a show from Hello Sunshine,” she says.
What is clear in hindsight is that “studios and the streamers were figuring out how to leverage the Hello Sunshine brand while Hello Sunshine was figuring out how to leverage the streamers to boost their valuation. It shows that women can do this.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.