A few weeks ago social media was set ablaze when Isis Wenger, a lady engineer at OneLogin appeared on a recruiting ad for the company. The ad received an inordinate amount of attention and doubt about whether or not she was, in fact, an engineer.
Furious, she went online and tweeted #ILookLikeAnEngineer. It caught on, we joined in too.The fact is that we have a lot of women in Tech. What this episode really highlighted is that a lot of folks (and I mean a lot of folks!) find it tough to imagine a woman in tech.
There is no doubt that the business eco-system of the country today is more conducive to entrepreneurship than it has ever been before. It is also true that India is witnessing an unsurpassed rise in the number of female founders and business owners in the tech space.
Yet, the niggling question of whether women have it harder than men seems to come up every now and again in every discussion, debate and deliberation about the high-growth tech startup world. Are these questions valid or do they often earn more spotlight than they deserve?! For me, the latter holds more water.
It is true that as a woman, one has to often grapple with a unique set of challenges that men may not be subject to. For example, if one has a family, the innate need to nurture in women may present itself as a potential roadblock to professional aspirations of any nature. Additionally, there is often a pre-conceived bias in many societies about women in the realm of technology.
It is presumed that lifestyle or fashion based startups may be a woman’s preserve but tech… well… not so much! How many women coders do you hear from anyway… say the naysayers! Because of similar notions without much logical ground, it is true that some investors view businesses backed by female CEOs differently. They may be less prone to fund them in ways that they would pump in money into a company founded by a male counterpart with exactly the same credentials.
Personally, I believe both men and women have some common and some different set of challenges. However, like every challenge, those that women face in entrepreneurship, especially in the space of technology, can and must be turned into opportunities. And the first step towards doing so is to believe that being a woman entrepreneur isn’t a challenge at all! In fact, embracing one’s identity and seeing it as a strength rather than as a weakness is an essential secret for women entrepreneurs to succeed in the tech industry.
Entrepreneurship is hard for everyone. Even for businesses with great backing and funding, scaling up and establishing a brand is never a cakewalk. The same applies to women entrepreneurs.
Let’s look at tech startups with the same lens as any other company. They need talent management, people management, marketing skills, a lot of hard work, nurturing and a great product amongst other things. But let’s not stop here. They also need grit, mettle, intelligence and consistency to build a brand out of a startup and these are individual traits, not male or female traits. Now that we have this out of the picture, there are things that women entrepreneurs can do to tip the scales in their favour.
First of all, build diversity in your startup.Women make better managers due to that very nurturing capability that we think makes us less competitive. A diverse workforce will result in engaged employees, better talent, low attrition and higher productivity. This will reflect in your business growth and in your investor pitch.
Build a company, not a commodity you can sell to investors. Remember the folks that thought women made better homemakers than entrepreneurs? Well, it’s time to prove them right.Build an engaged organisation, set the rules, put down the schedules, and nurture the company. Build a team that cares about mutual growth more than just mad computer type rush prevalent in a lot of startups.
Many women entrepreneurs in tech have proved their mettle both domestically and internationally and this is acting as a shot in the arm for female CEOs in general. Additionally, in a lot of cases off late, it has been observed that investors are increasingly warming up to the idea of diversity in leadership.
Entrepreneurship also allows women to play a much larger role in creating an ambient environment for other women to realise their professional dreams. They can build a workplace that allows flexibility, work from home opportunities, women-specific health benefits and medical benefits.
At Pulp Strategy, we hire with a goal of building diversity, especially in leadership roles. We have 50% diversity in leadership roles and an overall 27 percent including in tech. Women team leaders work better with other teams and in startups that are a critical asset when a lot of new talent comes together under the pressure of working together immediately as a well-oiled machine.
At the end of the day, all entrepreneurs face the same basic challenges. Each one is judged on the basis of race, age, educational background, religion and of course, gender. But like all other business owners with a vision, women too need to stay committed to their larger dream of building something substantial without paying any heed to the cynics.
Instead of focussing too much on the trials and tribulations of being a woman in tech, my advice to every aspiring female entrepreneur is to worry instead about your product, your team and your goal. Challenges of different sorts impede the growth trajectory of every startup but instead of dwelling endlessly on how you are dealt an unfair hand, stay committed to turning that proverbial raw deal into something exemplary for yourself and for others to be inspired by.