Being a female entrepreneur in the male-dominated tech industry is challenging, and comes with a distinct set of barriers. Thankfully, there are several female-led organisations in the US that are working to bring more women into the tech fold.
I asked a panel of successful young female entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organisation comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs, what challenges women in tech face, and what could help eliminate some of those barriers? Here’s what they shared.
1. Women’s organisations help
"While women tend to be more relationship-oriented in general, I've found that networking our way into the inner circle of the tech world is not as easy for us. There are probably a number of reasons for this, but I believe organisations like Women 2.0 and Women in Technology will be instrumental in bridging that gap in the coming years," Lisa Nicole Bell, Inspired Life Media Group
2. Sharing is key
"Whether a woman is contemplating launching her first startup or simply considering registering for a course that will teach her to code, it’s so important that she share this with friends and colleagues. When these conversations between women don’t take place, the circle of women in tech grows at a much slower rate. Outside the tech world, there’s this perception that “only men are doing it.” But if we all talked about it more, I think that would give more women permission to dive in," Amanda Aitken, The Girl’s Guide to Web Design
3. See the glass as half full
"Despite the fact that we tell girls and women that any path is possible, there are still strong gender roles that reinforce the idea that women aren’t as good at STEM skills. The most important step we can take is to integrate these skills in the classroom as early as possible by showcasing successful female tech entrepreneurs. We also need to quit treating women in tech as a rarity, when numbers have grown dramatically. We’re creating something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we need to step back from that," Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting
4. Develop access to capital
"Women founders can find it more difficult to raise funding for their businesses. The statistics show that less than 20 per cent of female-led ventures get funding, which is much lower than the statistics for men. That said, there are several great organisations trying to help women reach their funding goals, including Women 2.0, Astia, and others. We need to support such groups," Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
5. Be yourself
"When I was starting TalentEgg, not only was I a woman in the tech industry, but I was also very young — a 24-year-old who looked like I was only 15. Thankfully, I learned early on that my biggest strength was my ability to be myself. I didn’t pretend to be older than I was, or have more experience than I had. I also didn’t try to emulate men in my industry. I was just me, and I never listened to any commentary regarding the barriers that I was supposedly facing by being a young woman in technology," Lauren Friese, TalentEgg Inc.
6. Have some chutzpah
"When it comes to women in tech, we need more of them, and a little chutzpah, too. I say that because once women start getting their hands dirty in the tech world, there’s no stopping them. That’s what’s important to remember. Also, there’s a huge shift happening right now as more women show an interest in this space. Those actions needs to be rewarded at a much earlier age for girls," Nathalie Lussier, Nathalie Lussier Media
7. Find mentors
"I recently read that only one in five professional women have had a mentor. Yet, most women believe having a mentor is important for career advancement. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, often discusses how important mentors have been in her career. When looking for a mentor, I think it's good to seek out males and females. Women are more likely to choose a female mentor, and while I think it's critical for women to support other women, it's also good to have a male perspective. Personally, my male and female mentors push me and challenge me in different ways, and I really appreciate that," Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World.
(Image courtesy of iStockphoto, courtneyk)
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