One of my employees chooses a word at the beginning of each year to guide her personal and professional development efforts. Last year the word she selected was “Rise.” She told me it inspired her to elevate not only her skills, but the quality of her relationships, her attitude toward life and her self-confidence. As a female entrepreneur and the CEO of a growing global software company, our conversation led me to reflect on how successful women in technology rise above our challenges.
Research highlights the plethora of internal and external hurdles female technology entrepreneurs face, including limited access to funding, lack of advisors and mentors, sexism and harassment, social expectations, balancing personal and professional responsibility, downplaying our worth and of course, fear of failure. With such a gender gap to overcome, it’s no surprise that in 2017 only 17% of startups had a female founder, a number which has failed to increase in the last five years.
That’s a sobering statistic considering women-led companies perform three times better than their male-led counterparts. Even with compelling research to prove that female leaders drive unprecedented success and higher returns for shareholders, we’re still underrepresented in the industry.
So, how do we reap the rewards of successful entrepreneurship? The answer is raising awareness of our value through increased visibility. Visibility within our networks, visibility of our capabilities (both technical and leadership), and visibility of our triumphs.
Raising the Bar
Fortunately, we’re making progress every day toward building an ecosystem of empowerment. Female entrepreneurs drive more than $3 trillion and 23 million jobs in the U.S. alone. Organizations like Dell are blazing a trail by sponsoring female-centric research studies to showcase not only the value of female entrepreneurs, but the cities where they can thrive.
Initiatives around the world are inspiring women and girls to pursue STEM careers, with events like Galaxy Convention and Women in STEM. And, while mentoring young women remains critical to filling the pipeline of future leaders, research affirms we must continue to support women already in the field who are facing gender stereotypes.
At Switch, we value leading by example and participate in communities like Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN), Springboard Enterprises, Rare Birds, Heads Over Heels, SheStarts, and others.
Raising our Voices
As women in technology become increasingly visible figures in our cultural landscape, they serve as a guiding light for would-be entrepreneurs. By authoring books, launching founders groups, mentoring one another and establishing a presence at tech events, we’re better equipped than ever to raise our collective and individual profiles.
Each of us can contribute to this effort. At Switch Automation, we take a diverse and inclusive approach to building the best team. Currently, 50 percent of our leadership team is female and women represent nearly 40 percent of our company. You’ll find them in in software development, QA, graphic design, engineering, marketing, finance, data science, and product roles.
Successful female technology entrepreneurs raise more than capital.
They raise awareness, they raise the bar, and they raise their voices. But, most importantly, they raise each other and future generations. As we continue to lift one another up, gain traction and celebrate our successes we’re carving out a legacy that doesn’t just benefit individuals, but improves the way we do business on a global scale.