We all know there is a major gender gap in the labor force at large, but women represent a very small percentage of the tech industry—30%, to be exact. In 2011, the Level Playing Field Institute published a study that revealed women in tech (especially women of color) had more negative work experiences than their male counterparts, which in turn led to high turnover rates and contributed to job dissatisfaction overall. Women in tech, according to the numbers, are in the shadow of men; women make up a mere 11% of executives at Fortune 500 companies and only 5% of startups are owned by women. In search of inspiration, I spoke with three female influencers from Startup Institute’s community, all of whom are founders, to hear more about their experiences being a motivating force in this up-and-coming ecosystem.
[bctt tweet="3 Entrepreneurs Share Advice for Women in Tech, by @elizabethtsung" username="StartupInst"]
Shalonda Hunter, CEO of Fast Lane Interactive:
Q: What challenges did you face as you started your own company?
A: I had a few. First, I didn’t have a strong brand behind it, and I kept thinking about what the message and energy I want this brand to have out in the world. So I created #ReleaseYourBreak, and our intention is helping companies release their break on their digital profitability.
Some of the challenges of having your own business is, depending on what kind of business you have, that you’re very isolated from your peers because they may be working for other people. You’re walking a very different path and meeting other types of people, which can be a challenge. I don’t ever look at being a woman in tech as a challenge, but I know there are gendered differences in terms of how we communicate and network. [bctt tweet="Starting a biz means walking your own path. This alone is a challenge— @digitalshalonda" username="StartupInst"]
Q: Tell us how you start your day.
A: I’d consider myself a morning person. Even though I get easily distracted, I do have a routine. My morning consists of waking up at 5 am and hitting snooze at least twice. I live in Brooklyn, so I do a lap or two around Prospect Park. I also love podcasts—Joyce Meyer Ministries, JV Crum’s Conscious Millionaire, or Biz Women Rock by Katie Krimitsos. I’ve hired three or four people from just hearing them speak on those last two podcasts. It’s a great publicity tool.
Q: Do you have advice for people entering the digital marketing world?
A: Whatever it is that you bring to the table, bring something to the table and know that you’ve got what it takes. You know how to apply it. Just bring it.[bctt tweet="Whatever you bring to the table, know you've got what it takes. Bring it, says @digitalshalonda via @elizabethtsung" via="no"]
For more advice from Shalonda on transitioning your career into digital marketing, check out her three tips for career changers.
Jen Glantz, Founder of Bridesmaid for Hire:
Q: What is a typical day for you like? What is your routine?
A: I wake up around 6:30 am and check my email. Then, I plan out the tasks for my day, schedule a workout session, and get started with a breakfast of fruit and yogurt. I also take breaks throughout the day—I make time to work out everyday at noon and I make sure that when I'm eating lunch, I'm not working. I read articles or catch up on the news. I’m always inspired by people—especially people who tell me to give up or that I can't do something. I'm motivated to prove them wrong and to never give up.[bctt tweet="I'm always inspired by people who tell me that I can't do something, says @JenGlantz @elizabethtsung" username="StartupInst"]
Q: Do you have any advice for female entrepreneurs?
A: Start right now. When I started, I didn’t have a background in business and I didn’t know much about what I was doing. I worked hours on end, and I had to sacrifice a lot. Not many of my friends understood why I wasn't spending time with them, but it was a sacrifice I absolutely needed to make. I also had to be resourceful and find ways to learn without breaking the bank.
Don't wait for the perfect day or reason to start. Everyone can do it. Do something now that'll kick off your business or your idea. [bctt tweet="Don't wait for the perfect day to start. Start today—@JenGlantz @elizabethtsung" username="StartupInst"]
Kanwal Jehan, Founder of Open Source MentorSHOP, Alumna:
Q: Tell us about your mentorship program. I know you’ve worked on events for women in tech—is this program dedicated to women?
A: Open Source MentorSHOP is for new developers to get connected with mentors in the tech space. The purpose of this is to come to events, get networking tips, and find resources to help both mentors and mentees.
While it’s not necessarily female-focused, we’d love to be female-focused at some point in the future.
The reason it is not focused solely on women is because, when I attended the United States of Women Summit in DC, I realized we need to have men in the room in order to get the discussion going. I think if we have discussions with only females in the room, we’re not going to make as big as an impact. We need the right men in the room too, men who understand and are aware of what women in tech face on a daily basis. I don’t think we can make progress without men in the room.[bctt tweet="Men need to be part of the discussion about closing the #gendergap, says @jehankanwal via @elizabethtsung" via="no"]
Q: That’s inspiring, and I agree completely. Where do you see the state of women in tech in the near future?
A: We will definitely have more women leaders, especially in venture capital.
We do have a lot of women working in tech, but we don’t have enough technical women. We need to encourage more females in the tech space to pursue technical skill sets so they can gain deeper understandings of the projects they work on and communicate on a more technical standpoint.
I think we’re making tremendous progress, but we need to voice our opinions more. If we’re harassed at work, or if we feel like we’ve sat at a meeting with male founders and were not heard, then we need to stand up and advocate for ourselves in that moment, rather than be silenced or more passively write a blog post about it. We need to be ready to face these consequences, whether it’s them talking back at us or we getting fired. We really need to stand up for ourselves more.
Q: Do you have any networking advice?
A: Go to as many events as you can and do your research. We, as women, need to be in those spaces. Talk to everyone. Be professional. Let your personality shine.
[bctt tweet="#WomenInTech need to stand up and be heard, says @jehankanwal via @elizabethtsung" via="no"]