'Visible and Engaged': Women on Breaking Into the Tech Industry
The good news: there is definitely a push to get girls into the tech arena. With programs and products such as Girls Who Code, GoldieBlox, Engineer Girl, For Girls in Science, etc., there is no question about it that progress is being made.
But here's the bad news: the stats still continue to show massive gender inequality in the industry. A study by The Kauffman Foundation found that only 3 percent of tech startups are founded by women.
While the statistic might look bleak, there is a new breed of young, energetic female entrepreneurs bridging the gap.
I spoke to a few of them to see what advice they have for other women who are trying to break through the wall. Here is what they had to say:
Branch out. Jamie Walker, founder of Fit Approach and SweatGuru, says it best, “for women to break into the tech industry, it's important to be a diligent and persistent networker. And while it is important to attend and support women in tech-centered events -- like Girl Geek Dinners, Women 2.0 and the like -- it is equally as important to network at conferences not centered around women. To reinforce that we aren’t different from our male counterparts, we need to be standing in the same room. We need to be visible and engaged.”
Shaherose Charania, founder and CEO of Women 2.0, adds, “Know a few good men and women: Innovation happens through people connecting, finding common goals, ideals and wild dreams. Build authentic work-friendships at varying levels of expertise to be a part of helping your success. Don't go looking for a mentor, but rather seek out what I call work-friendships. You gain from these successful people but they learn from you as you blaze your trail.”
Change your mindset. Kate Doreksen, a WNBA player turned ecommerce entrepreneur, co-founded DITTO during her second year at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. After being in Silicon Valley for some time, Doreksen explains, “There is a new kind of female technology entrepreneur who no longer feels that being a woman is a disadvantage.”
To start any kind of company, you can't go into it thinking you are at a disadvantage. That will get you nowhere. Instead, find the positives.
Doreksen points out all the advantages of being a woman in Silicon Valley, “In addition to the regulations and quotas, I feel well supported by a growing number of organizations targeted to help us get access to people and capital we need to build a huge company, not just a lifestyle business. Organizations like Springboard and Women 2.0 can provide the network. Funding sources like Aspect Ventures, Broadway Angels, GoldenSeeds and Tory Burch's new Elizabeth Project can provide the capital.”
Support each other. Whether it is true or not, women get a terrible reputation for tearing each other down. Ladies, if we want to get anywhere, this needs to change. We should be supporting our fellow female entrepreneurs because the reality is if we help each other, we can all get further.
Fit Approach’s Walker elaborates, “Women in tech should support one another and leverage their networks to have a voice. By promoting other women in tech, it will help foster a new culture -- one that gives women more visibility and say in the industry.”
Trust your gut. Yes, this definitely goes for any kind of entrepreneur, but women tend to second guess themselves. You can’t do this if you want to be successful. Sonia Kapadia, founder and CEO of Taste Savant, says, “I advise all women who are embarking on an entrepreneurial path to jump right in and start getting comfortable with discomfort."
She continues, “You'll need to make quick decisions without full information a lot of the time. While it's an advantage to make educated decisions, I encourage women especially to start setting plans on incomplete data. Trust your gut and the information you do have, and just go for it.”