Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tech Start-up Executives: Time for Women to Embrace the Silicon Valley Girl Code

Today, Silicon Valley start-ups are dominated by one thing: men.  As a female graduate student in the Northwestern University Medill Integrated Marketing Communications program, I have found two articles that address this important equality issue.

There are rampant examples of sexism in Silicon Valley, even borderline misogyny that Newsweek exposes in this article called What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women written by Nina Burleigh, including:
  •       VCs are 96% male
  •       VCs are not funding women
  •      Women are not getting hired or promoted
  •      Women are being professionally excluded when they are hired
As a result of the apparent sexism taking place, women in Silicon Valley seem to be segregating themselves in women-only venture funds or starting gender-gated funds.  Experienced women in Silicon Valley recommend that women must approach male VCs with caution and awareness. 

A recent report on women entrepreneurs by the Kauffman Foundation identified the chief challenges to female entrepreneurship, and most cited “lack of available advisers” at the top of their list. For women in marketing, media and technology, we’ve seen who succeeds in Silicon Valley perpetuated by movies like The Social Network to HBO’s Silicon Valley and they often look like this:

What is missing from this image of the 13 wealthiest people in Silicon Valley: women.  While Marissa MayerMeg Whitman and Sheryl Sandberg may be in the press, it’s time to hear more women who are living, working and succeeding in Silicon Valley.  

Glamour has profiled 35 women in the tech field that we can look up to in this article called 35 Women Under 35 Who Are Changing the Tech Industry by Donna Fenn – from engineers and developers to business-savvy Chief Digital Officers from companies ranging from Jawbone to Polyvore to the White House.  Check them out for inspiration. 

From my review of these two articles and my experience working in digital media and studying media, brand strategy and entrepreneurship I’d like to share three action items:
  • Seek Out Women Entrepreneurs –  As discussed in Glamour article, follow them and their companies on social media, connect with them on LinkedIn and Twitter, stay up to date with what they’re doing at their companies
  • Build up your hard skillsets - Through judgment-free (and, literally free) coding classes like the ones offered specifically for women through Code Montage.  Even if you don’t want to be a coder, it doesn’t hurt to be able to talk the talk
  • Be proactive - There are resources for women in Silicon Valley – be proactive in seeking them out, such as:
    • An accelerator for women building companies: MergeLane
    • A peer mentorship community for professional women: GlassBreakers

Remember, we’re in this together, so let’s not let tech and innovation keep succeeding without us

Lindsay Saran is an integrated marketing communications graduate student at Northwestern University. She is particularly interested in the intersection of marketing and media with tech companies, participating in NU’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation NUvention: Web & Media capstone, where she is working across business, engineering, and software development & design disciplines to design, plan, and run a web-based business.  You may contact the author via Twitter: @bugs25

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