Recent research out of Harvard Business found women in the technology sector have 50 per cent less access to funding, and only 7 per cent of venture capitalist money supporting their products — but the women who are financed typically perform 63 per cent better than their male counterparts.
There are a growing number of initiatives actively impacting the gender disparity in the tech sector – from Girls Who Code to Female Founders Fund – but we don’t hear about the success stories from these initiatives often enough. Let’s take a moment to highlight the careers of nine female entrepreneurs from all over the world.
This article was originally published on 23 August 2016
Jo Burston, Inspiring Rare Birds
Disappointed with her experience of young girls equating “entrepreneur” with “man”, Jo Burston created her female focused initiative, Inspiring Rare Birds, to transform our current gendered expectations of entrepreneurship.
Through mentorship, a community of global women entrepreneurs, and importantly, funding, Burston seeks to galvanise more young women into pursuing leadership roles and to offer much needed support to current entrepreneurs.
“We want to give current entrepreneurs a voice,” Burston says, “so that a few years from now, when you ask a young girl what she wants to be when she grows up, it’s not so surprising when she says she wants to own her own company.”
A passionate founder, Burston has already brought together an incredible community of the most ambitious and successful women in Australia in just a few short years. Inspiring Rare Birds was founded in 2014 with the goal to foster a community of 1,000,000 women entrepreneurs by 2020. Rare Birds Con 2016 showcased over 40 female entrepreneurs, each highly distinguished in their field.
Burston’s rallying cry for women in business, and title of one of her published books is, “If She Can, I Can”.
Reshma Saujani, Girls Who Code
There is a trend for women to be less and less interested in coding the older they get, and women today are actually less involved in computer science than they were in the 1980’s. Inversely, technology is one of the fastest growing industries — with women estimated to fill just 3 per cent of the roles.
This is where Reshma Saujani steps in. Her incredible non-profit initiative, Girls Who Code, focuses on girls between the ages of 13-17, which is where the biggest drop in interest occurs. By encouraging more girls to code and learn about computers while they are young, Reshma hopes to empower more women to become “change agents” in their communities and to actively contribute to an economy which they largely make up: the Internet.
Women are responsible for 85 per cent of all online consumer purchases and with 600 per cent greater social media usage than men, but in 2014 only 75,000 women graduated from computer science across the U.S.
Established in 2012 with a class of just 20 girls, Girls Who Code now supports 40,000 women across all 50 U.S states — with support from AOL, Google, Microsoft and AT&T.
Ida Tin, Clue
One of the pioneers of #FemTech, Ida Tin has created a product that has filled a huge and largely unspoken gap in the market—female sexual health. Her app, Clue, allows women to easily track their monthly cycle with a user-friendly, intuitively designed app that fits in with women’s daily, or monthly, lives.
Tin’s vision for her product was to take menstruation “out of taboo land” and to start “a reproductive health revolution”.
“So long!” mysteries of womanhood, “Hello!” awareness and empowerment! This app will improve the life of anyone currently experiencing monthly cycles, and for that we can thank Ms. Tin.
The startup for Clue raised $10 million from various backers including Union Square Ventures and Mosaic Ventures. Releasing in 2013, it now boasts 2.5 million users in 180 different countries.
Anu Duggal, Female Founders Fund
Anu Duggal is a successful serial entrepreneur turned founding partner of Female Founders Fund. The company’s focus is on areas where women have the most impact which, as we already learned, means e-commerce and other web-enabled products and services.
Self-described as “an early-stage fund investing in the exponential power of exceptional female talent,” Female Founders Fund seeks to address the issue of women receiving significantly less financing than men. Their motto: “It’s not just about women. It’s about talent.”
Before establishing Female Founders Fund in 2013, Anu Duggal previously set up the e-commerce company Exclusively.Com, which now has 26 companies within their portfolio.
Ayah Bdeir, LittleBits
Ayah Bdeir’s is the founder of LittleBits — described as the “Lego of electronics” — as well as a high-profile speaker on the importance of creating gender neutral STEM/STEAM tools for children and adults alike.
Bdeir has been recognised by Fast Company as one of the “Most Creative People in Business,” and was named a fellow by Creative Commons. Her work with open source hardware and the democratisation of technology has made her a pioneer of the Maker Movement, earning her endless respect within the technology sector.
Her product, LittleBits. are easy to use, snap together modular building blocks which let you easily create any invention that comes to mind. It launched in September 2011 and now available in over 7 countries. So far, the open source library has over 60 modules.
Melanie Mohr, YEAY
As only the second female founder ever backed by their venture capital funder, you know Melanie Mohr has something special to offer the world. Her new company, YEAY, is described as what you would get if “eBay and Snapchat had a baby.”
The app provides a platform for users to sell items with vertical videos, a game changer for the current mobile shopping market. With female leaders primed to take over the e-commerce world, expect to see big things from Mohr and her young company.
“Mobile video shopping is the future,” says Mohr. “In five years, traditional e-commerce websites will be the same as how we look at mail-order catalogues now.
When YEAY launched its open public beta version in June this year, it had already gained 7.5 million followers on social media platforms. It’s one of the fastest growing startups in Berlin, with forecasts of doubling their user base and tripling the number of sellers on the app in the next three months.
The company has 35 employees from 13 nationalities with a 49 per cent female ratio.
Akiko Naka, Wantedly
Akiko Naka is the founder and CEO of social recruiting site, Wantedly. Naka’s advice to female entrepreneurs is to, “not be too conscious about your gender,” and to hope that you gain an advantage in terms of publicity for being a minority in your industry. She created her product to help reduce the amount of people unhappy in their careers.
Wantedly is the largest social recruiting site in Japan with over 1 million active users and around 15,000 corporate clients. Naka started building Wantedly at the age of 26 and has previously worked at Facebook Japan and Goldman Sachs.
Aisha R. Pandor, SweepSouth
Aisha Pandor founded SweepSouth in South Africa in 2014 to assist homeowners find reliable and trustworthy employees to help with chores and housework. The platform allows homeowners to quickly and easily arrange a house cleaning service and aspires to bring new tech to an industry that Pandor says is “lagging behind the times”.
Pandor is looking to expand her business to include services like plumbing, grocery shopping, nanny services, and so on, for “a one-stop-shop to a happy home.” Her background lies in science, having received a PhD from the University of Cape Town in Human Genetics, and she also holds a Business Management certificate from the UCT Graduate School of Business where she was the first student to graduate with two different qualifications on the same day.
Sic Zhang, Momo
Another one of the big players, Momo boasts 60 million users who are all looking for love, friendship and community in China with Zhang Sichuan’s Momo. After graduating from South China Normal University with a Graphic Design degree, Sic Zhang has proven herself to be an incredible business woman, showing that an MBA is not a requirement to excel in your career.
Zhang is one of five founders of Momo ,and now also leads the development team in the US markets for offshoot company Blupe, another location-based social networking app.