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Women 2.0

Where do women really stand in the tech industry?
August 1, 2007
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/181628

Just like in the 1990s, today's coverage of web companies like Facebook and YouTube dominates the media. But just as it was a decade ago, the faces behind the Web 2.0 wonders are mostly male. Are women not running technology companies--or are they simply not getting media coverage? Statistics on the number of women in technology are difficult to come by. Many women in tech believe their numbers are growing, but that they're simply not getting much press. Elaine Wherry, the 29-year-old co-founder of IM website Meebo, hopes the question "are there women starting technology businesses?" will become "less sensationalistic" in the press over time.

For Wherry, being a woman who founded a fast-growing Web 2.0 company isn't an issue; however, a background in computer sciences may have made her more comfortable in male-dominated and technical environments. Wherry admits she hasn't encountered the obstacles some women face when trying to raise venture capital. "I've heard horror stories from other [women], like venture capitalists asking if they're planning to become pregnant," says Wherry, who cites only positive experiences with the two venture firms that invested $12.5 million in the company she founded with two college friends--a male and a female.

In fact, being a tech entrepreneur "just keeps getting easier and better for women," says serial entrepreneur Eileen Gittins, the fortysomething founder and CEO of web-based book publisher Blurb. "There are more of us, and the folks entering the job market might even be surprised by the question [of whether women entrepreneurs play a role in technology]. I hope so."

Gittins, who secured more than $2.5 million, attributes her success to two previous stints as CEO of tech companies, allowing her to "cast a pretty wide net" to grow her company. "The most important element in starting a Web 2.0 company is your network," she explains.

While 38-year-old Kate Everett-Thorp, CEO of Real Girls Media Network, recalls seeing venture capitalists replace female founders as leaders of the company they invested in, she notes that today, "they have stopped trying to replace us."

Elizabeth Carlassare, author of Dotcom Divas and host of the podcast Money Girl, doesn't feel it's a gender issue when venture capitalists do replace female entrepreneurs. "[Someone] can be a terrifically talented entrepreneur but may not have the skills, experience or temperament to be the best CEO," explains Carlassare.

That said, Carlassare believes that when there is more VC money to go around, it's a good time to start a tech company. Case in point: Everett-Thorp, who started RGM with three business partners--two female and one male. She benefited from this new boom and landed $6 million in funding in 2006.