According to Crunchbase’s inaugural study, In 2017, only 17% of startups had a female founder. Today, only 26 women are in CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies, making up 5.2% of the female population, according to a report by Pew Research.
With change-makers entering the scene like the #MeToo movement, Women Who Code, and Women in Technology, steps are being taken in the right direction. But amidst the noise, women startup founders are in a unique position. They operate in a heavily male dominated industry, and must navigate not just internal politics, but the fundraising landscape as well. The highly competitive tech industry, especially in Silicon Valley, is just as much about who you know as what you do. Getting in the door is tough regardless. Now add being a woman.
In an effort to alleviate the added strain of inequality in an already tough industry, the women of Founders Network have formed a Women’s Leadership Committee. This committee acts as a watch dog for the private network of 600+ tech founders. The goal is to maintain diversity by staying above the current national average (17%) of women founders. Each committee meeting is rich with thoughtful insights on how to survive as a woman in this industry. Below, the Founders Network Women’s Leadership Committee’s advice for women on how to make it in tech:
No more “there’s only room for one at the top” mentality. In order for women leaders to survive, they need to be united. Our advice is to join a community of like-minded women founders, and build your network so that you can go further and farther together.
“Quite simply, I believe that we can do more together than we ever could individually.”- Barbara Tien (Founder, Ponga)
“I consistently network within my circles to promote women and put them up for positions in companies – I am like a match maker!” Tracie Wagman (Founder, XX).
“As a manager and a leader I have always worked closely with my female employees to make sure they feel empowered and inspired, to mentor and help them achieve their full potential. It is so rewarding to see someone years after you worked together who is thriving in a job which they were dreaming of when we worked together.”
Find Male Advocates
There are men in the tech industry who want to propel women forward, they exist, and can be powerful allies in the fight to raise the glass ceiling. As a women founder, it is important to identify and nurture relationships with male advocates in your space.
“On one hand, I’ve worked to provide mentorships and introductions to women in my network and on the other to work with the men in my network to help them better appreciate the perspective and insights of the women they work with.”- Barbara Tien (Founder, Ponga)
“Our workforce is made up of both men and women. So we need leaders, role models, mentors and change agents who represent both.”- Geetika Agarwal (Founder, VAWAA)
“I recommend women as an option whenever a man is being considered. In my line of work, giving the mic to women helps reinforce, “if they see me, they can be me” mentality.” – Christina Lor
Hire For Diversity
According to a study by Clear Company, diverse teams outperform non-diverse ones by 35%. Women founders have the opportunity to shape their companies to reflect society as a whole. To hire diverse talent and be thoughtful about how they grow their teams. Hiring takes time, something founders are severely lacking. But if women and male founders take the time to hire for diversity, it will benefit their companies in the end.
“Everyone needs to see themselves in their leadership and feel there is a path for success. And to run a successful company you need to have a diverse leadership that represents your customers.” – Tracie Wagman (Founder, )
“Representation of women in leadership means advocacy, inclusion and consideration for women. Women in the C-Suite can level the wage gap, increase accessibility to career paths, and bring diversity of thought to the table.”- Christina Lor (Founder, )
Founded in 2011, Founders Network offers lifelong peer mentorship to over 600 tech startup founders globally. Our platform, programs and high-touch service facilitate authentic experience sharing, warm introductions and long-term professional relationships. Additional benefits include over $1M in startup discounts and mentorship from 50+ Institutional Investors. Members are located in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, London and other tech hubs. Each month our Membership Committee admits a new cohort of full-time tech founders who are nominated by an existing member.