Story and photos courtesy of USAToday.com roundtable with female tech execs. The original post was from Jon Swartz, USATODAY.com. The interesting part is that 1) this story was written by a guy with an awareness that women are heavily involved in technology and start-ups– though not always on the engineering side of things but also that women are also discounted in the male-dominant world. HUGE mistake there and I know it as I get second-guessed in my work in social & digital media & marketing strategy– especially by men. Those that listen to what I say and pause before saying anything are clearly thinking through what it is I have said based on the merit of the commentary. It’s the ones that have closed their minds that I could possibly be correct in my suggestions, projections or theories that are quick to shut the door or ignore my comments entirely. Unfortunately so of those nay-sayers have been my partners. (Eventually those same people find out via a validation from other outside parties — male or female– that I was correct, then things actually start to move forward.)
SAN FRANCISCO – Reshaping a time-worn narrative isn’t easy. Social revolutions rarely are, especially when you’re a woman trying to break into the boys’ club that is Silicon Valley. But an emerging class of early-stage tech start-up executives is helping dispel the notion that there isn’t a leading role for them in the male-dominated valley. Company founders and leaders are coming out of Google, Salesforce.com and elsewhere for the excitement of shaping a young business.
Martin E. Klimek, for USA TODAY
From left to right, Katrina Lake (Stitch Fix), Kathryn Minshew (The Daily Muse), Anjelika Petrochenko (LiveJournal) and Victoria Ransom (Wildfire).
The emergence of young female tech founders and executives reflects sweeping change in the worlds of start-up companies and angel funding, where wealthy investors give money in return for a stake in a company. It underscores the enormous purchasing prowess of women online that is transforming the Web economy. As more consumers reach for their smartphones and tablets to shop and communicate, there is a pressing need for commerce sites that cater to women, who control 70% of online purchases worldwide, according to Lisa Stone, CEO of BlogHer, a digital media company. Many of these inroads are being made by female-led start-ups that are fueling innovation and the digital economy. Women will influence the purchase of $15 trillion in goods by 2014, according to Boston Consulting Group.
“Female users are the unsung heroines behind the most engaging, fastest-growing and most valuable consumer Internet and e-commerce companies,” says venture capitalist Aileen Lee. She has invested in Brit, a lifestyle branding company, and Plum District, an e-commerce site for moms, among many ventures led by women.
Make no mistake: the executive suite for business in general and the technology industry specifically remains a male stronghold. Just 3% of all tech start-ups are led by women, according to a Kauffman Foundation report. Only a handful of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women. Indeed, the glass ceiling remains a reality for many women, and charges of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination persist. In fact, a recent lawsuit by Ellen Pao, a junior partner at one of the Valley’s most prestigious venture funds, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, is all the buzz here these days because it exposes the fragile position women hold in the tech world.
Even so, there is reason for optimism.
“The technology landscape has flattened,” says Shaherose Charania, CEO of Women 2.0, a media company and resource that helps thousands of aspiring and current female entrepreneurs launch new ventures. Its innovation conference in Mountain View, Calif., in February drew 1,000 people, three times the audience in 2011.
There is also an updated article to be read from USA Today’s Jon Swartz- specifically about the roundtable attendees who were lucky to get into the room since the room booked was not large enough to hold all the women who attended. (What does that tell you about the underestimation of the value of women in technology? BUCKETFULS!)
I can only tell you that as a woman who started out building social & digital media platforms, tools and presentations long before those terms were used at all– there is still a long way to go. I take heart at standing toe to toe and know that what I have accomplished created new visions, new platforms, new tools and new opportunities for brands, products not only for women but created by women.
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