Guest Post: Cracking the Code: Women, Entrepreneurs and Technology
May 27, 2011 § 1 Comment
The following post is from a guest blogger:
When I started my eco-friendly review website, Ecoscene back in 2007 I did not delude myself into thinking that there were tons of female entrepreneurs out there just waiting to take me under their wings. But, I at least thought there might one or two. Four years later and now on to my third start-up I reflect on my time in this space and what I realize is that by and large women, and the business organization that are supposed to support us, have just not embraced the technology space.
For example, in early 2008 a Chicago women’s business center announced a business planning competition with a $10k prize, so of course I entered Ecoscene. This women’s business center up until that point basically put all entrants into three categories: (1) retail stores (2) hair/nail salons (3) daycare centers. When I submitted Ecoscene, they literally didn’t know how to categorize us for entry. We almost didn’t get to enter because they didn’t have the correct code in their system and they could not understand how we made money (advertising).
More recently March 2011, I attended a women’s networking group, again here in Chicago, where all of the women were smart and accomplished professionals. I enjoyed talking to each lawyer, real estate agent, and banker in the group. But, not one person was a technology professional or a non-service based business owner.
Where there used to be the “old boys club” of white shoe lawyers and uptight bankers, there is now the “young boys club” of millennial with a network of “bros” to introduce them to the right Private Equity investor or Venture Capital fund that will provide a couple million in seed capital. So where does that leave the girls? Trying to find correct codes for $10k business competition.
Why is this? Is it because I live in Chicago, with a growing but small tech space compared to NYC and Silicon Valley? Maybe not, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, at a recent Barnard graduation speech remarked, “in part because I work in Silicon Valley, let’s just say I’m not usually in a room with this many women.” Or, is it because women shy away from the more math/science world of technology and development? Do we fear the highs and lows that come with starting a business? Are we crippled by the difficult decision of family or career? I don’t know and I’m curious to hear from more people out there? Let me know I’m not alone!
So, in the end Ecoscene won the business plan competition, but I swear it was because we were just so different from everything else they had seen before. So with the $10k I built Ecoscene and sold it back in early 2010. I think every woman should start a business; it is the most humbling and confidence building career move you can ever make. You will never regret it.
Aimee Heilbrunn lives in Chicago and is currently the Director of Online Marketing at Media Chaperone