Is the female Zuckerberg on the horizon?

28 February 2013 07:41 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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We have all been waiting for the female version of the legendary Facebook founder.

Although many women have reached the top across a multitude of industries, technology has been slow to attract smart women, or so they say. That seems to be changing hopefully – a new research paper presented by Women 2.0, a media company committed to women founders in tech says otherwise.

Women in technology  

The paper confirms that privately held tech companies led by women tend to be more capital efficient, achieve 35 percent higher ROI and when backed by venture capital, was likely to bring in 12 percent high revenues as opposed to companies run by male counterparts.

Vivek Wadhwa of  Stanford and Duke universities and Lesa Mitchell, a Vice-President at the Kauffman Foundation are due to publish their research titled ‘Women in Technology: Evolving, Ready to Save the World’ which covered a survey of 500 women in the tech industry both in and outside the US.

In outlining their work, Wadhwa says women in the tech zone of Silicone Valley now earn over half of the bachelor’s and master’s degrees and also doctorates. Yet, a mere 3 percent of tech startups are initiated by women and they are almost nonexistent on the management teams, other than in legal or marketing jobs.

Wadhwa’s findings suggest that 33 percent of women tech entrepreneurs confirmed having faced dismissive attitudes from colleagues, while 15 percent had been questioned over their capacities to do what they do.

Wadhwa opined that ‘arrogant young brats’ – male of course, had access to venture capital much easier for ‘silly social apps’ from investors hoping they are funding the next Facebook founder.

Success stories

The study confirmed that the average age of women entrepreneurs founding tech companies has dropped, from 41 to 32, while the percentage of those who have graduate-level education at entry, has risen, from 40 percent to 56 percent.

Their findings strengthen the contribution of women within the industry, as confirmed by previous studies conducted by Credit Suisse Research Institute and Dow Jones Venture Source.

Researchers believe that support and encouragement from peers is boosting women’s business success. “We’re seeing that women who are at this level can now get some of the specialized tips and strategies they need to succeed in this rarefied atmosphere. The more they can hang out and share challenges, the better they all get at it,” says Researcher Julia Weeks.

Wadhwa’s data show that more than 80 percent of female tech entrepreneurs reported having male and female mentors. Of those who said they had women mentors, 45 percent reported they were “very helpful”.

Yet, for all dismay, there are women who have ventured out and succeeded.

Kate Craig-Wood is one successful female entrepreneur who was brave enough and enterprising enough to enter the field of technology. Kate runs Memset, a company that provides dedicated servers – she founded the company with her brother.

They both invested 2,000 Sterling Pounds six years ago. The business has grown and has brought in a revenue of 1.4 million Sterling Pounds and a profit of 300,000. According to Kate, the business called for a fine balance of optimism and of course discipline.

Tremendous potential

She says she had a business plan that she stuck to – she was also sensible and followed advice from the right sources. She saw markets and had very realistic expectations.

“I didn’t expect to get paid anything substantial for three years. In our first year, we made £10,000 profit and that was my wage. I worked hard for several years for much less than I could have earned on the open market. But it was what I wanted to do,” says Kate.

Kate believes women seeking tech-related startups must be brave enough to go there yet realistic. It takes courage and sticking to decisions. But then, all businesses require that.

According to Dr Gloria Moss, a gender marketing expert, having female input on design aspects is crucial when catering to a female audience. Men tend to prefer products designed by men and vice versa.

Besides, her argument holds water because half of the target audience across the world that uses tech-related services online and social media tends to be female. The tech field needs to have more women getting into it – there is tremendous potential out there.

Technology will continue to fuel a demand for innovation and expertise. The industry is competitive but open to women – and men who can spot opportunities and are willing to work hard to go there. For women, the benefits of being able to multi-task, empathize and listen, can add an advantage. Any day.

(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at
 nayominiweerasooriya@gmail.com)
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