Women in Tech: Succeeding as a woman in tech
PUBLISHED: 11:57 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:03 08 March 2019
Sarah Mintey, founder of Developing Experts, on making her mark.
In July 2017 I attended the prestigious Y Combinator’s Female Founders event in San Francisco.
I had never been to an all-female event before and even had a bee in my bonnet thinking that it made no difference if you were male or female.
My view was if you are determined and clear about what you want to achieve, you can do it regardless of your gender.
The conference started, and felt a little bit glitzy for a girl from Norwich. The speakers were inspiring, all the female founders in the line-up were sharing their story. Then Aileen Lee took to the stage.
Five years previously, Aileen had started Cowboy Ventures, a Silicon Valley seed investment firm.
She shared some valuable advice: “Firstly of all, you need to be a great storyteller, especially at that early stage where you’re selling a dream.”
She then went on to say that “it’s potentially harder for female entrepreneurs to be pitching to male investors”.
She explained that investment is dominated by men with 95% VC boards occupied by men who decide who gets what funding.
To be honest at this stage, I reacted! I have until that point always believed that your gender makes little difference, if you work hard and have the talent there are no barriers.
Aileen then went on to to explain that “one of my trigger phrases I hear all of the time in VC board meetings is, ‘He’s such a good guy’.
“I see this all the time in meetings. We make a Google Doc of the target investors for the round, and someone will be like, ‘Oh, what about Scott Jones.’ And someone else will be like, ‘Oh, I love that dude. He’s such a good guy.’ And then someone else will say, ‘Oh, what about Brian Smith.’ And it’s like, ‘Love that dude. Love that guy’.”
Aileen continued: “But then if I bring up a woman, ‘What about Susie Smith?’ They’ll say, ‘Oh, does she invest in security?’ There’s no, ‘Oh, she’s such a great girl’ or ‘She’s such a great woman.’ It’s infuriating.”
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So the advice I’d like to give women entrepreneurs is to be confident, but don’t stretch.
If you’re a little too arrogant, or if you kind of puff things up a little bit too much, they will ding you for being an exaggerator.
But don’t be too shy or underconfident, because to be honest, I think guys can get away with being: “Oh, he’s just an introvert.”
There was an article recently that basically showed a quantitative study that proved women and men get different judgements and they get different questions depending on, basically by investors.
So, it is not fair. We just have to know the deck is stacked, and work around it.
So, practice your pitch, so you come across as confident, but not overconfident, and not spinning and know your numbers.
Following the San Francisco event I submitted my application. We didn’t get in, but the process was transformational in the journey of my business.
I realised for the first time that females do have to go the extra mile. Two months later I closed my first funding round.
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