The Complexity of Women Helping Women In the Tech Industry

When looking at the numbers of  women in technology, especially computer science, we find that they are far outnumbered by male associates and CEOs[1]. And it can be discouraging for women pursuing careers in this industry. This is particularly applicable to the female entrepreneurs at the investment stage of a new technology company. For example, when pitching to an audience full of male investors, women are often turned away without real consideration for their products or ideas regarding technology, simply because they are female[2]. One straightforward solution to this problem is that women should pitch to women, or rather startups that cater to women, and they will have better luck. While this might be true and very beneficial to female entrepreneurs, it is a complex solution.

This solution appears beneficial on a surface level, but in reality it also reinforces women as the “other” in the world of entrepreneurship and startups. It almost gives male investors an excuse to push aside female startups and direct them to female investors. Many women realize this and openly acknowledge that this furthers the idea that women can’t thrive in a male-dominant field.  In the article by Issie Lapowsky, “This is What Tech’s Ugly Gender Problem Really Looks Like” from Wired, Danielle Weinblatt, Founder and CEO of the company Take the Interview, admits she is frustrated with this so-called solution[3]. Before she closed the deal for her company, Weinblatt was often redirected to female investors. She understood this was meant to be a solution to her being turned down by male investors, but it made her “feel like being a woman is something to overcome”.[4] In other words, it might be comforting for women to seek other women on the grounds that their gender won’t be held against them, but it also means that women are unable to break through the “bro-culture”.

Part of the complexity of women entrepreneurs seeking funding specifically for women, is admitting that we need these companies. There are empowering and progressive intentions behind these companies[5]. Yet at the same time, it says something about how women may not be able to go past this. Women should eventually be able to pitch to male investors without any concerns that gender could hold them back.  According to Scarlett Sieber, vice president of Operations at Infomous, if we keep business exclusively between women, we aren’t making as much progress as we could if we included men[6].  If there was a balance of sorts, perhaps as long as we encourage female and male investors, it won’t necessarily be understood as a handicap to some. As we have often said in class, in order to make some major changes, we have to start small. Perhaps starting small means admitting that sometimes women need to help women, while also including men in the conversation about the gender gap.

[1] Miller, Claire. “Technology’s Man Problem”. New York Times. 5 April 2014. Web 16 Sept. 2014

[2] Lapowsky, Issie. “This Is What Tech’s Ugly Gender Problem Really Looks Like”. Wired. 28 July 2014. Web 16 Sept. 2014

[3] Lapowsky

[4] Lapowsky

[5]  Casserly, Meghan. “Tipping the Scales: Women Angel Investing Reaches All-Time High”. Forbes. 25 April 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2014

[6] Sieber, Scarlett. “Including Men in the Conversation About Women”. Huffington Post: The Blog. 02 June 2014. Web 17 Sept. 2014.

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