Grand dame

WASHINGTON--Today in Washington it's as trendy for politicians to advocate technology as it is to pitch family values.

13 min read
CNET News.com Newsmakers
August 11, 1997, Carol Bartz
Grand dame
By Margie Wylie

Staff Writer, CNET NEWS.COM

WASHINGTON--Today in Washington it's as trendy for politicians to advocate technology as it is to pitch family values. And Rep. Rick White (R-Washington) can deliver digerati speeches with the best of them--he just happens to know his stuff.

A founding member of the Internet Caucus, White is the perfect congressional poster boy for the Net. He holds online chats with Netizens, sponsored a tax-free Net bill, and is dragging his colleagues "kicking and screaming" into cyberspace.

White, 44, could be mistaken for one of the vibrant software CEOs with whom he so often rubs elbows. He is energetic and animated, using his hands to explain complicated concepts. He's probably on the verge of hauling a white board into the House so he can draw a diagram of how the Net works once and for all, holding a Q&A session at the end.

But White is still a politician at heart, a fact made clear by one serious blemish on his cyberpolitic track record. Last year he voted in favor of an online censorship vehicle known as the Communications Decency Act.

"Kids" and "porn" in the same sentence was all a fearful Congress needed to hear to rally behind the CDA's regulation. Once it became law, adults charged with the felony could get up to two years in jail for transmitting indecent material to minors over the Net.

The controversial CDA is before the Supreme Court now. As for White, he has yet to get backed into another corner as he was on the CDA--a provision buried in the Republicans' celebrated Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Despite his vote, White agrees (diplomatically) that the CDA was a mistake, passed by a Congress that didn't know the difference between America Online and the Web or TV and the Net.

That's where White wants to make a difference. As one of the four creators of the Internet Caucus, founded just after the CDA was passed, he and his Net-savvy cohorts want Congress to understand a lot more before making more policy decisions that affect the Net.

In just one year, the Internet Caucus has gained 100 members, all of whom make a pledge to create a Web site within three months of joining, maintain an email account, and most important, to keep an open mind about Net issues. The caucus itself conducts workshops where panels made up with civil liberties groups, computer experts, and lobbyists tackle issues like free speech on the Net and encryption.

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Those issues can no longer be ignored inside the Beltway. In the last few months alone, Congress has had to consider bills that would protect consumers' online privacy, require Internet service providers to offer filtering software, and shield the digital medium from taxes.

Latching on to the Net has been a brilliant strategy for White, who was reelected for a second term last November. This term, White has become even more visible in high-tech circles. And when the Supreme Court held a hearing on the CDA in March, people on the Hill were finally talking White's language.

On the snowy day of the CDA hearing, just before he rushed off to a Microsoft mixer, White sat down with NEWS.COM and eagerly discussed political influence, the caucus, and teaching Congress a few high-tech lessons.

NEWS.COM: You seem like someone who speaks her mind. Does that ever get you in trouble?
Bartz: [Laughs] Oh of course! There's a great saying though: A tall tree gets a lot of wind!

What have you gotten flack about recently?
People occasionally get the idea that because I'm a successful female I don't support family issues. I am a proponent of women being careful about this concept of balance in their lives. There is no such thing as balance in your life and we need to forget that concept. So I get hit up on that occasionally.

To me, the concept of balance in itself means perfection. I can't be perfect. Every day I can't be a perfect mother, a perfect CEO, perfect citizen. I can't call all my old college roommates and check in, and be a great friend, and I didn't volunteer today to do something important for some cause. And by the way, I can't make sure I get my dishes washed. I mean, give me a break. This is not possible!

There are times when I am 80 percent dedicated to what's happening at Autodesk and there are times when I have to be 80 percent dedicated to what's happening with my daughter. This balance concept is ridiculous. It puts too much stress on us. I think that women in particular have issues around this, thinking that they have to be able to do it all, all the time.

NEXT: Women in the Valley  

CNET News.com Newsmakers
August 11, 1997, Carol Bartz
Women in the Valley

Early this year you were admitted by Women in Technology International into their CEO Hall of Fame. In your acceptance speech, you said that a lot of times women can be our own worst enemies in business. Can you explain that?
Well I think that women need to be supportive of each other more than they are now. Although, over the last half a dozen years I've seen it get better. But frankly the issue is that so many of us are trying for so few jobs that I think instead of just being competitive, there might be an issue of thinking, "I worked hard to get where I am. You go work hard to get where you're going." And I think we should reach out and extend our hand, our advice, our limited time, as much as we can, to make sure that we do help other women.

Are there particular ways that you like to do that?
The reason I stress the limited time part is that typically after I give one of these interviews I get inundated with "Please can I have an appointment so we can discuss my career?" I'm not in the business of discussing everybody's career. But I do where I can, through speeches, through email connections with people, through phone conversations, frankly to some extent by just doing a great job so that I prove that women can be extremely successful. I think that's important as well.

So I try to reach out to more groups of women than individuals. In my company, I look at the women individually, but I can't take sort of the whole Silicon Valley female population base under my sort of personal management, nor would they want me to.

Do you mind that when people interview you they ask you what it's like to be a woman CEO and a woman in Silicon Valley?
Well, it gets a little old. On the other hand every time I decide I'm not going to answer one more of those questions I realize that until it isn't so unique, until there are more women, I somewhat have a responsibility to answer those questions and to continue to keep proving to people that I don't have three horns on the top of my head because I'm a woman CEO. I can actually be quite a normal person. I'm not a witch or a bitch, and perhaps if that goes even a step toward their education around this issue, then I've done something important.

It's a tiresome question. And if I'm in a good mood, it's a humorous question to me. And I always love the one about "Well do women manage better than men?" Well I don't know, I'm not a man. Where I get irritated is where people will ask me questions that they wouldn't consider asking a male--more on the rude side where they think they can get away with it because they're asking a female. It's not necessarily the questions you talked about, but there are certain categories of questions that they would never everask a male. And I'm getting less tolerant of those. But some people are just stupid.

It's very hard to live under the microscope. Everybody I think, when you're out of the microscope, yearns for their 15 minutes of fame, but it has a very big price. I don't consider myself a famous person. I can't even imagine how really famous people stand it. It's very overwhelming. Sometimes people look at you and say, "Gee, you don't look that good today." "Well gee, I'm just a person so maybe I'm having an off day. Leave me alone!"

Are there particular challenges for women in Silicon Valley?
I think so. I think that starting with the fact that most of the engineers, most of the technical people are male, most of the venture capital community is male...that it's hard to get ahead here, as I assume it's hard to get ahead in most industries, or certainly that's what I read.

I think that one of the reasons that I'm so anxious to promote young women in technology and math in elementary school is so they have a choice by the time they get to college and after, if they want to go into a technical field, they have the background. So many women--by age 11--are cut out of that choice. And you can't go back. You can't decide you want to become an engineer or a biologist if you haven't had basic math or basic science. And so 50 percent of our population is cut out of a choice. I think that is so wrong.

I think that it has to start with making sure that we have women prepared educationally and then I think that they have to be given more opportunity. I think it's still easier to hire and promote in your own image, and that's the default.

NEXT: The importance of education

CNET News.com Newsmakers
August 11, 1997, Carol Bartz
The importance of education

Were you cut out of a science background and education?
Well I wasn't. I happened to find my third grade report card recently. The teacher had written that I was the best math student in the class, which made me feel good back there in third grade. I must have been adding and subtracting correctly. I love math and I really love science, and because I got good grades, I was sort of encouraged--"Oh you got good grades. Isn't that wonderful?" I feel very fortunate about that because frankly I do remember a lot of my classmates asking me why I was taking trig or calculus, wasn't it too hard? It never occurred to me that somehow they had maybe a false impression that it was too hard.

And now you have a daughter of your own.
Now I have a daughter and I see exactly that's what is happening. Even in second and third grade, she's getting the concept that math is too tough. It's like why do you think this? But there's so many subtle and not-so-subtle messages.

The Autodesk Foundation deals with education as well.
Autodesk has a real passion for education in general. On the Autodesk business side, we spend a lot of time with universities, with technical colleges around the world, technical institutes in the international arena really helping them with their engineering programs. The Foundation actually is taking a supporting role in that it's 100 percent education-oriented. We have a goal to work with primary and secondary schools to help them learn how to use technology in teaching.

It's not just about getting schools wired, it's not just about getting PCs in the school laboratories and on the teacher's desk. How do you teach with technology, what is different?

I think there's a great little story that says if a surgeon from 200 years ago walked into a modern day operating room, all they would recognize was the patient. If a teacher from 200 years ago walked into a modern day classroom, they'd be right at home. And to me that tells it all. We have to really help educators, both on the direct teaching and the administrative side, understand how technology is going to change the way they teach and the way they approach learning.

That doesn't seem unusual for your company. You seem to be very involved socially. Why is that so?
Well I think part of attracting great employees is that you have not only an exciting place to work because you have exciting technology, exciting markets, exciting industry...but also that you're part of a community and that you would be proud to work here. And we want our employees, wherever they are in the world, to say, "I work for Autodesk and I'm really proud of that." And I think one of the ways that they can be proud of that is because we aren't just a commercial-oriented company. We are that because we are successful, but to be successful we also have to be a successful part of whatever community we're in.

Is that part of just being outside of Silicon Valley too?
Oh I don't think so. First of all, even though we're up here in Marin [north of San Francisco], I consider us part of Silicon Valley. I know sometimes the bridge gets in the way, but we consider ourselves a Silicon Valley company. I think that we've just chosen this direction. I think there's wonderful examples of that in the Valley. HP is a wonderful example of a company that's also very concerned about its community. So I think to some extent, technology, because all of our companies have grown so quickly, takes a little while to get around to the social concepts.

NEXT: The Valley's new religion

CNET News.com Newsmakers
August 11, 1997, Carol Bartz
The Valley's new religion

What do you think of Silicon Valley's growing political awareness?
I think it's wonderful! It's a natural extension of the age of Silicon Valley. You wake up one morning and you say to yourself: Wait a minute! I'm in my 40s and 50s here and if I don't start paying attention to what's happening politically and to our society and to the problems, who is? While we were all so busy in our 20s and 30s growing these companies, we always knew there was somebody else paying attention to the rest of this stuff. Now, it's us.

By the way, it does not mean that we need or will take the eye off the ball in making sure that U.S. is the technology leader in the world. That is what Silicon Valley is all about. Just as I have a passion about Autodesk, I have a passion for Silicon Valley. But it is part of our responsibility to not only carry our agendas forward, but to also make sure that this is a world that we want to live in.

Have you been involved with TechNet, a new Silicon Valley lobbying organization started by venture capitalist John Doerr, or with any of the other lobby organizations that are starting to spring up?
Of course I was involved a lot in the California Prop. 211 political environment, for all the obvious reasons. I certainly know what John Doerr is doing. I'm on Cisco's board and John Chambers is very active in some of those organizations. And so I'm very much a supporter. I haven't become an activist, but I'm certainly willing to support those organizations, as my time permits and as best I can.

Does Silicon Valley really have enough of the same political goals to stick together and lobby effectively on non-business issues, like social issues?
Any time you get half a dozen people, you're going to get a half a dozen of political goals or certainly two or three. But that's what this country is founded on: different ideas. So we're going to have the left and the right and the middle and the new middle and the new left and the new right. I think that's what makes it fun.

I do believe though that we are coming together on some basic goals and I think education is a basic goal for a lot of reasons. One is we all have children now. Two, we need new employees. We need employees to feed our growth. And so I think that understanding that California education and U.S. education in general has reached a crisis stage, is a goal we can share.

Who knows? It's hard to tell. Every time you get closer to an election you have a chance for issues to get tougher. So I think it will. But again, that's the natural political process.

It's easy to be a closet politician because you don't have to put your stands out publicly, but there comes a time when you have to go to the front lines and say "I do believe this" or "I believe that." And I think we've all been able to be closet politicians.

I recently saw a Newsweek article that shows the pricey toys of the rich boys from Silicon Valley, like jet planes and fabulous mansions. Do you have any toys?
No, my toys are my tomato plants. I'm a gardener and I enjoy life when I'm not playing with my daughter. And so I've not collected toys in that fashion.

We all know Intel chairman Andy Grove's Law: "Only the paranoid survive." Is there a Bartz Law?
No! My daughter probably thinks so, but ...

What would you daughter think a Bartz Law would be?
My daughter would think that Bartz Law would be "Do your best" and "Be a logical person." If people understood the consequences of their actions, I think this whole world would be a better place. To me that's a simple concept, but a lot of people don't have it! But it's not a Bartz Law.

You're running a successful company. You're in a position that a lot of women can never dream to be in: What do you want to do next with your life?
Well I'm not into "next" right now, actually. The way I've really run my entire career is as long as I'm having fun and learning, surrounded by good people, and making a difference, I can't imagine the next thing. And next things always just happen to me when it was the right time. And we are really on the verge of some great stuff here at Autodesk and I love the employees here, the market is exciting because it's meaningful--we help people create things.

I get a big kick as I travel around the world, seeing that we helped design the tallest building in Asia and the new airport in Hong Kong, and you name it--violins in Italy. It's really fun. And as long as it stays fun, I'm not worried about the next thing.

I think that I will, as time goes on, try to be more involved in helping in this education thing. I am also very intensely interested in the breast cancer issue and I want to make sure that research continues in those arenas. So I have a couple of personal pet projects. And of course I'm very interested in my family. So I want to make sure I'm doing all those things. But from a career standpoint, I'm having fun here.