Empowering Women Transforming the Tech Landscape as Entrepreneurs, Founders, Leaders, and Investors: The tech industry is experiencing a remarkable resurgence in the startup landscape, with innovative technologies such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) and data clean rooms driving newfound inspiration and innovation across sectors.
However, amidst this resurgence, there remains a troubling underrepresentation of women in tech entrepreneurship. Only 15% of tech startup founders are women and funding for startups with all-women teams has declined, receiving just under 2% of venture capital funding in recent years. To empower female entrepreneurs who are changing the game in tech, leaders, including influential women, must take concrete actions.
In this article, we explore actionable ways to support women in their entrepreneurial and career journey
Providing Hands-On Mentorship
Mentorship is a cornerstone of success in business, offering guidance, support, and advocacy. Women professionals and entrepreneurs in tech benefit greatly from having influential support systems that champion their ideas and career progression. Many businesses are now establishing mentorship programs and resources internally to empower their female employees. Notable examples include the Salesforce Women’s Network (SWN) and Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative Network (WIN).
Moreover, within the startup ecosystem, female-centered networking groups are emerging in tech sectors where women are underrepresented. The Biotech Sisterhood, comprising 25 women CEOs in the biotech industry, exemplifies this trend. They convene to discuss ideas, mentorship opportunities, sponsorship possibilities, and ways to support the next generation of women in their field.
As a female leader and investor, I am personally committed to mentoring and supporting women-founded and -run companies. Startups in their early growth phases often seek practical advice on specific strategies. My approach is to maintain regular communication with those I mentor and focus our discussions on actionable next steps tailored to their pursuits. I also leverage my network to connect mentees with potential investors, partners, customers, and even talent.Dr. el Kaliouby
Investing in Women-Led Businesses
A powerful way to support female founders and entrepreneurs is to invest financially in their ventures. Women have played integral roles not only as founders and leaders but also as investors in the startup space. While the U.S. venture capital landscape remains predominantly male-dominated, new VC firms and organizations are working to bridge this gap.
“How Women Lead” is one such community, comprising over 14,000 female executives dedicated to promoting women-led venture funds and making venture investing more accessible to women investors. This organization also focuses on helping women ascend to executive positions and secure seats on corporate boards. Another noteworthy initiative, the Female Founders Fund, exclusively backs female-founded companies at the seed stage.
Recognizing Innovation’s Diverse Origins
In a thriving startup economy, it is imperative to remain open to innovative ideas and ventures emerging from diverse and unconventional backgrounds. The next breakthrough could come from anywhere, and being receptive to these opportunities is key to a leader’s or investor’s success.
Dr. Rana el Kaliouby, co-founder of “emotion AI” startup Affectiva, offers an inspiring example. Her journey into entrepreneurship was far from conventional, transitioning from a plan to work at a university in Egypt to founding Affectiva right out of MIT. She embraced the challenges of transitioning from an Egyptian family to an American single mom, moving her two children to Boston to build her company. Today, Dr. el Kaliouby stands as one of the few female startup founders in the AI space and is recognized as a leading voice in the field.
Dr. el Kaliouby’s story reflects the diversity of paths that lead to innovation. Whether as a single mom, an individual from a different field with limited entrepreneurial experience, or a young founder fresh out of college, recognizing the potential of ideas and ventures from non-linear paths can propel the next generation of women in tech.
Women are making significant strides in tech as entrepreneurs, founders, leaders, and investors. To narrow the gender gap and provide women with more opportunities, building communities of mentorship, investing in women-led businesses, and embracing diverse pathways to entrepreneurship are essential. These actions will empower women to continue building, innovating, and inspiring future leaders in the dynamic tech industry.