Women Entrepreneurs

I have written 147 Monday posts about Women Entrepreneurs.  It is the hardest post I write every week not because it takes time.  I need to have a conversation with each woman I write about while I am in front of a computer.  Carrying the dreaded Blackberry made it easier for me because I could type on that Blackberry without looking down at any given moment.  So when I meet women in my travels who I'd like to write about I need to take the time to connect with them instead of a seat of the pants meeting.  

I have thought about doing videos with each of these women instead of a written post but these women come from around the globe so that is a challenge right there.  I continue to think about it and perhaps one day I will get there.

I have met the most amazing women over the years who I have written about and who I have not written about.  It has been an important issue for me to not only write about women but support their ventures through my investment portfolio and putting on the Womens Entrepreneur Festival with my co-founder Nancy Hechinger.  

What I have found is that most of these women (and my guess is it would be the same for men) come from families where either one or both of their parents are/were entrepreneurs.  That is not surprisng to me but it would be interesting to see some real data on childrens career paths based on their parents lives.  Being an entrepreneur can be anyone who starts their own company to a doctor with their own practice.  

Technology is threaded into the majority of businesses that I have invested in yet many of them are businesses that are changing verticals using technology vs pure technology businesses.  What I mean by that is I don't see enough women who write code enter my office.  They obviously all understand the power of technology and understand how to engage and manage computer programmers as they are the visionaries behind their companies.  

There has been a lot of conversation and brouhaha around women and code thanks to the interview with Paul Graham on Valleywag.  I particularly liked the thoughtful piece written by Taylor Rose in response to the internet chatter.  Fred wrote about it too.  Dismissing what Graham has to say with anger gets us nowhere.  Thinking about how we solve these issues and make change around the issue of getting more women to engage in writing code from a very young age is productive.  The fact that we are having these conversations is a sign that change is happening.  I certainly believe we are seeing change.

Does writing code give you a leg up being an entrepeneur in the start-up technology community.  Based on the fact that most of the money being invested in start-up companies is provided by men than I would say yes.  Is it the end all be all?  No.  Will we see a shift in the next ten years of women who are computer scientists that have been hacking around on a computer since they were 13? Absolutely because it is what young women want and there are organizations helping to provide that knowledge from Girls Who Code to The Academy of Software Engineering and even universities who understand that engaging women and having an in-depth curriculum around Computer Science is important.  I would be bold enough to say that every college/university should make every freshman take one computer science class.  

The big question is with more women being able to write code will the businesses that they build change?  I don't know the answer to that but being in charge of your own destiny in a technology based business changes when you know how to code.  Women are incredible entrepreneurs.  They are thoughtful, competitive, strategic, hard-working and strategic.  I see that every day.  Being able to actually write the technology that is the back bone of their companies just gives them (or anyone) another boost.  

I will continue working on the Women Entrepreneur posts as I believe it is important to highlight the many amazing women who are building businesses.  They are role models for future generations.  We need to highlight their achievements so that the next generation of women feel empowered to make their own mark and perhaps learn a little code along the way.  

Comments (Archived):

  1. pixiedust8

    What’s frustrating to me is the attitude that people have to start coding really young, when I have worked with some CS majors who were really excellent programmers. (Also, as a sidenote, the best developer I ever worked with was female. She was great because she listened to the overall objectives and made sure she understood the problems we were trying to solve before coming up with solutions.)My daughter’s elementary school has been “adopted” by a major university’s tech grad school, but we keep hearing that they need to focus only on middle school. Don’t get me wrong–we are grateful for tech education in jr. high, but it seems like “tech people” want nothing to do with young children. It just seems backward to me–people are complaining that almost no one starts young enough, but then they have an opportunity to help, and seem intimidated/terrified. (I’ve gotten feedback that “all our MA students are men, and they aren’t interested in education. They just don’t know what to do with kids.”)

    1. Gotham Gal

      that make zero sense to me. cs is a language. if you learn language at a young age it is easier to pick it up.

      1. pixiedust8

        Exactly! That’s what we’ve been saying, but the feeling seems to be that men are just not interested in teaching young kids. The university contact has definitely implied that if the program gets more women, the women might be interested in doing special programs with young children.The whole discussion is indicative of a larger problem, if you ask me.

        1. Gotham Gal

          you should send them articles and data proving why you believe that they should start early and particularly early for women.

  2. William Mougayar

    That series you wrote is what we need to read more about. I think the women gender issue in tech and entrepreneurship has a marketing challenge: its mindshare is smaller than the real marketshare. What I’m saying is that there are some really good examples and amazing women doing great things, but it’s not all visible. Either they don’t blog about it, or not enough people write about it, in order to raise the visibility (like you have been).I’ve said it before on Fred’s blog, and will repeat it. Girls / women need to see more role models like them in order to get more motivated to follow those steps. There are lots of men as role models, but not enough women.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I agree that we do not hear enough about these women. Women network differently, women shout out their successes differently, women are much more humble about their successes, women talk in we not I…I could go on and on but that is something that definitely has to do with it. Although I do believe we are seeing change. Women want the change and so do men.

      1. Brandon Burns

        This was the point I made on Fred’s post yesterday. Pattern recognition goes right down to how someone even says hello or talks about themselves. So when investors are funding white brogrammer dudes, they’re used to them carrying themselves in a certain way, and they’re probably dismissing everyone else who presents themselves differently. All of which can go down in the first sentence of an email. There needs to be some other way to filter through people.

      2. William Mougayar

        That’s a very accurate behavioral depiction. There is rarely any hype when you hear of women stories, unlike some men’s…

    2. Lisa Abeyta

      One of the biggest takeaways for myself from last year’s Women Entrepreneurs Festival was to stop beginning sentences with “I’m sorry …” or downplaying successes. Women care about others’ feelings – sometimes to their own detriment, because they filter their own words and story to make sure others are not threatened or intimidated by it. This year, I’ve worked very hard to stop apologizing and start advocating.

      1. William Mougayar

        Yup, the WEF is great and getting better each year.

      2. Gotham Gal

        It seems to be working for you

  3. Brandon Burns

    “What I have found is that most of these women (and my guess is it would be the same for men) come from families where either one or both of their parents are/were entrepreneurs.”For me, it was both parents and a grandparent (and one more grandparent if a minister with his own church counts). I thought my mother was going to kill me when I quit my job to venture out on my own; instead she said, “What took you so long?”

  4. falicon

    Ability to code is a tool. Anyone can learn to use it if they want, and I think really at any age (though I agree it’s easier to learn and make things a *real* habit at earlier ages).But really critical and creative thinking is what I think needs to be pushed more at the lower levels…doing it with a programming language or environment makes that task easier/more fun (in my opinion)…but it’s really just about opening all kids minds to the fact that there are *no limits* to what they can do, what their future can be, and what tools and skills they can develop (if they want).This goes for boys and girls across the board.I have two boys, one in fifth grade and one in second right now…the girls in the 2nd grade are full of confidence, dreams, and spunk…by the fifth grade you start to see some of the brightest and most talented already start to lose some confidence, to worry and question themselves more, and to self-select themselves out of activities (likely due to peer pressure/perception). Meanwhile the trend is almost completely flipped in the boys (2nd grade boys are more shielded but by 5th grade have become much more adventurous).It’s a depressing thing to see (my wife and I actually try to go out of our way to try and encourage and empower the girls in these classes — constantly telling them they are just as good or better than the boys [one of which being our own son] at anything they put their minds too. I also try to reinforce a lot of that message through my various coaching efforts with them too).So not sure what the *real* answer is…there’s def. a micro and macro thing that needs to happen…it feels like it actually is a bit, but is likely going to play out on a generational time scale more than just a few years…

  5. Lisa Abeyta

    Your posts about women entrepreneurs is how I originally discovered your blog. It’s an amazing thing you do to support women.I, too, would love to see stats on the number of successful founders who had parents who were also entrepreneurs. Interesting enough, my husband is a serial entrepreneur, I am on my first tech startup – and neither of us came from entrepreneurial backgrounds. In fact, my mother gave up her chance at one to raise us. I wrote about her sacrifice, and it ended up being the most popular post I wrote this past year, so I think her experience wasn’t unique to our family.Looking forward to the Women Entrepreneurs Festival – and your continued profiles of women who are changing the economy one business at a time.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks Lisa.I am not surprised that the post on your Mom was the most popular. Staying home not staying home working part time or attempting to do it all and making those decisions are decisions that woman have grappled with forever. I can’t imagine that will ever go away. What is interesting is how each generation makes those decisions

      1. Lisa Abeyta

        My mom commented on the significant differences between a “50’s husband” and my own spouse – someone who was supportive when I wanted to launch a business in the middle of him growing his own startup. For women who are married, I think the attitude of their spouse makes a huge difference in their own opportunities. I noticed that Graham has referred to his wife and cofounder as their “secret weapon” – the subtle attitudes men carry about their wives can make such a difference in whether she has the freedom to bloom and launch something on a large scale.

  6. Shala

    Really appreciated this post on a number of fronts so I can’t help myself but respond. 😉 I agree that dismissing the article with anger is unproductive. There are so many out there that are devoted fully to solving the issue. With that in mind I tend to channel my energy towards contributing actively to the the solution rather than fuming (which in itself is difficult…I am, after all, an irish woman). As with anything, time, patience and resolve are three necessary characteristics to espouse, even if attempting to do so is an imperfect science. To quote the Hunger Games “(keep in mind)…who the real enemy is here.” If one isn’t careful, and only gives way to anger, they themselves can become their own worst enemy to the detriment of the solution itself.I am thrilled about the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival. It couldn’t come at a better time as I take real steps forward to alpha-test an idea with a co-Founder who I have the utmost respect for. NYC in particular has become this haven for women entrepreneurs with the growth of your efforts and funds/leaders like Golden Seeds, Jenn Shaw at NYTechWomen, Angela Lee from 37 Angels, Nathalie Molina Nino at the Athena Center, and of course Kelly Hoey among many others. I feel really lucky to be a part of what I am referring to as the “Jet Stream” of female entrepreneurs that is manifesting here in the city. I like to think it is a newer generation of no BS, focused females that will really counter the gender issue not in word but in action.As an aside, I do think you should consider Google Hangouts as a way to connect and create videos with a number of these female entrepreneurs. I have done a few and have learned quite a bit. While I certainly won’t pretend to have perfected it yet, I think it would be worth considering on your end. Here is my open invitation if you would ever like to discuss lessons learned and possibilities–i’d be happy to help!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Love the quote from the Hunger Games.I might take you up on the Google Hang Out in 2014.

  7. Juliet Oberding

    Great post! It brought up a number of thoughts for me.On CodingWe need to focus more on “making” as opposed to “coding” when it comes to introducing cs to girls or grandmothers. I think there is a big disconnect between learning coding and what you can do with cs. As a local Pyladies organizer, women come to learn how to code for a reason- to build a website, to learn skills for a new job, etc. They don’t come just to learn Python.On EntrepreneurshipInterestingly, Most of the women I know who are cs engineers have zero interest in being entrepreneurs. I have some thoughts as to why- but it would require an essay. In a nutshell, I think entrepreneurism should be introduced at a young age along with coding.On SpousesI would not be a startup founder (or any kind of entrepreneur) if it wasn’t for my husband. He introduced me to the world of entrepreneurism and encouraged me to open my own law practice when we first met. That was my first step. He is truly my “secret weapon”.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Great points on all 3. Engineers are sometimes different than entrepreneurs and sometimes they are of the same ilk. Having a supportive partner is the key to everything.

  8. pointsnfigures

    I am all about creating opportunity, exposing, and giving anyone freedom of choice. I cannot figure out the macro strategy to accomplish total equality between men and women. I am sort of sick of hearing about people talk about it. There are too many different hidden agendas. Because of physical differences and chemistry differences, it may be impossible to accomplish fully–sort of like a utopian state.As a male, (especially a white Christian male) if I write about it, it’s almost always a lose/lose for me. Especially since my views are rooted in classical economics at their core.All I can do is perform and try to create equality for all people and genders at a micro level in my own life. If my interpersonal dealings with everyone are the same without regard to gender, class, sex, orientation et al-then I can feel good knowing that in some small way I am making a difference, changing perceptions and changing outcomes.