Women and men all over the world are rising to the challenge of changing the male-dominated technology landscape. Just last week in Stockholm, the Women in Tech 2018 conference sold out completely in just two minutes after tickets went on sale. It seems that you can’t read today’s news without finding another story about women speaking out about gender injustices. Though women have made major strides forward on issues around equality, gender diversity in the workplace — especially at the top — remains an unattained goal.
Women start out their careers just behind men in terms of everything from position to salary. As the chart below shows, that gap begins to widen as they’re up for their first promotion to manager, giving men an early head start in the race to leadership positions. They’re also less likely to be hired directly into leadership positions or to start their own businesses.
Almost nowhere is this trend more prevalent than in the technology, and particularly cloud, industry. As a woman who began a very slow crawl up the corporate ladder at technology companies nearly thirty years ago, and who often finds herself as the only female leader around a table of men, I can personally attest to the absence of women in technology and leadership roles.
Startups fail at the alarming rate of 90% and most of them are coincidentally led by males. In fact, last year in the United States only 20% of businesses were owned by women, and women accounted for just 16% of executives.
Source: Women in the Workplace 2016 study by leanin.org and McKinsey & Company
The funding statistics are even more alarming with less than 3% of VC funding going to female founders. Translating that into dollars, $58.2B in venture capital funds went to all-male founders and only $1.46B to female founders. At the same time, many studies show that better business results are tied to greater diversity in the workplace and on the leadership team.
Women-led businesses outperform comparable businesses led by male counterparts,” Jacqueline Touma, Founder/CEO Curious Enterprises
These statistics and facts are alarming yet many companies and individuals are joining the effort to alter the male-dominated leadership dynamic at play. Companies’ commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high, and new opportunities are emerging regularly to cultivate more females in STEM fields, leadership roles, and as company founders.
Women in Cloud Seattle
One of those notable new efforts was the inaugural Women in Cloud summit in Seattle, led by the Ignite WA leadership team in collaboration with industry partners, Microsoft Corporation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and Meylah. On a typical rainy Seattle January day, I had the pleasure of joining more than 350 technology leaders, predominantly women, at Microsoft’s Redmond campus for the event. We came together to celebrate the few female entrepreneurs in the tech world, discuss the issues that prevent women from becoming leaders and company founders, and to commit to offer a way forward through mentorship, community access, and funding.
You cannot have a strong business if you do not have diverse perspective. This room has to go make that change,” Gretchen O’Hara, Vice President US OCP Microsoft
A great lineup of speakers from the Washington technology and VC community spoke on topics ranging from the language of inclusion and the journey of women in tech, to accelerating women entrepreneurship in the cloud. Entrepreneurship was a common theme with two big announcements of projects to help female-funded startups.
Women in Cloud Accelerator Program
Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft shared information about a new initiative to help highly-motivated women who are founders of business-to-business cloud or technology companies. The Cloud Accelerator Lab is an immersive 6-month program for female founders to start and build their businesses with Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE) and Microsoft distribution channels. Twenty to thirty selected participants team together and live together in Seattle to receive access to resources, mentorship, and funding to build their cloud businesses.
My daughter’s outlook on the barriers in front of her is so different than mine were at her age—let’s make sure that keeps happening,” Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft
Sybilla Masters Fund
Another highlight of the Women in Cloud summit was the announcement of the new Sybilla Masters Fund by Gillian Muessig, Co-Founder of MOZ and now CEO of Outlines Venture Group. Sybilla Masters won a patent for her corn mill invention in 1720, becoming the first woman in the United States to receive a patent. It was awarded in her husband’s name because a woman wasn’t technically eligible, though he fought to make it known that Sybilla was the inventor. The new fund, named after Colonial America’s first female inventor, will officially launch when it reaches $2 million with an ultimate goal of raising $100 million.
In Muessig’s own words as published in an interview with GeekWire:
The object of the game here is to provide a fund that does gender-lensed investing, and that does not mean investing only in females or female founders. It really means looking at a company with the idea that says: How does this affect all genders, and in what way does it further the idea that all genders working together create a better outcome?”
Microsoft veteran, Alka Badshah and Outlines Venture Group President Anne Kennedy are founding investors in the Sybilla Masters Fund and will also serve as advisors to Muessig, who is the general partner and manages the fund’s investments.
With this renewed effort and enthusiasm, I am hopeful we’ll finally see the trends reverse in the near future. And, as the statistics prove, women-owned businesses perform better so we may also see the startup failure rate decline as more female founders are funded and set up for success.
Helping startups get from napkin scribble to market adoption with fewer surprises has always been part of the core of Datica’s DNA. We’re excited to share the news about these new initiatives with our own community of healthcare technology innovators in the hopes of seeing more female-led digital health businesses make it to market.