Things We Love: Women in Charge

We love to hear stories about women taking charge. Normally our focus falls in the realm of fertility and female healthcare, but we can’t help but get excited when we hear stories about empowered women. So when we heard this little nugget of information, we were intrigued:

According to a report conducted by the Kauffman Foundation, women-led tech companies are more capital-efficient, achieve 35 percent higher return on investment, and bring in 12 percent higher revenue when backed by venture capitalists than male-owned tech companies.

Kindara, like many small businesses, has to work hard to be noticed. Will and Kati, our co-founders, built the company on a shared passion and a lot of hard work. It’s no secret, however, that there are fewer women working in startups and venture capital-backed companies. The same Kauffman report said that women found only 3 percent of all tech startups. The data is factual, but the reasons for inequality are more controversial. Some critics suggest that the male-dominated business culture tends to alienate women from participating. Whatever the true reasons may be, data suggests that women face obstacles their male counterparts do not. The industry is overwhelmingly male, and significantly more funding is awarded to male CEOs than female CEOs.

It takes a dedicated personality to succeed in the industry under normal circumstances, but being a minority presents special challenges. It takes a fearless and diligent woman to build a thriving business in a male-dominated sphere. We wanted to understand the pros and cons of being a woman in a startup, so we decided to ask three women leaders why they believe businesses with women leaders and teams flourish.

Ali Schultz, COO of Reboot.io and coach to business leaders, says that women are more likely to bring a different style of communication to a team that facilitates productivity.

“In terms of getting things done and collaborating, the means of communication that women frequently use are really effective,” says Schultz. “Generally, women leaders have a different way of being, and this innate skill set allows them to be well-equipped at leading teams and companies."

The diverse experiences women can offer to a team provide a balance of opinions that can improve the development of a product or idea. GridCraft CEO Lisa Reeves explains that a well-rounded team allows for a mix of strengths.

“Diversity of point of view and of different experiences lends itself to better achieving goals,” says Reeves. “There are certain traits that women bring to a group that men don’t have. It’s incredibly valuable to a team.”

Elizabeth Kraus, an angel investor and CSO of MergeLane, also champions the power of the diversity factor.  She explains that some women, she included, are more likely to feel the need to spend a longer time working on a product to ensure perfection at the expense of timeliness. The tech industry in particular is incredibly fast-paced, so speed is almost as important as quality. However, a team composed of aggressive go-getters and cautious product perfectionists can find a healthy balance that benefits the team as a whole.

“I have that tendency to strive for a perfect, polished product and it allows me to catch big mistakes before [a product] goes out,” says Kraus. “So I can use that to my advantage.”

There’s also a noticeability factor than can positively impact women’s forays in the business world. Kraus noted that MergeLane, an accelerator program for women-led businesses, receives plenty of positive attention from investors due to its unique focus. This, she says, indicates to her that people are taking notice of the powerful opportunities of investing in women. Even in her personal experiences, Kraus explains that being a minority has helped her garner attention for projects.

“People are more likely to remember me and be curious about me and want to know what I’m about,” says Kraus. “Being a woman has absolutely worked to my advantage.”

When it comes down to it, being an entrepreneur is hard no matter the circumstances. It takes a strong backbone, grit and the ability to persevere.  Reeves, who has worked in a corporate environment, a startup, and venture capital mentioned that it takes a well-rounded and dedicated individual to succeed in the business world.

“You have to build out your work resume with a broad range of experiences,” says Reeves. “Don’t let it stop you if you’re offered an opportunity and you don’t think you can do it or don’t know how to do it. You really have to persevere and not give up.”

Reeves, Kraus and Schultz are all a testament to the fact that women are making incredible strides in business. Recent research shows that more and more women are playing leading roles in startups. According to a report conducted by Babson College, the number of venture capital-funded companies with a woman on the executive team rose from 9 percent in 2011 to 18 percent in 2013. A TechCrunch article explains that 10 percent of companies who raised Series A rounds of funding in 2014 were founded by a woman, in contrast to the 5 percent of 2013. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but we’re optimistic about a future where women and men are equally represented in the industry.

“I know it’s possible,” says Schultz. “I see friends and clients who are leaders in the startup world asking themselves how they can unfurl and own all of their capacity to make great strides in their work. It feels part of a larger cultural shift happening in which women are getting noticed for all that they do, and how they do it. Women are making space for themselves and are embodying what it means to be effective leaders.”

Wondering How to be an Effective Leader? The Experts Give Their Best Advice:

Lisa Reeves:

  • “Build a good network. It helps your team and yourself if you have resources you can depend on.”
  • “Never take no as an answer. When you are raising a venture round and a venture capitalist tells you no, try to find out why and use it as a learning experience. Being an entrepreneur is hard, so you just have to keep a strong, positive attitude.”

Elizabeth Kraus:

  • “Just get out there and try it. Sometimes it’s hard to learn that what may seem to you as conceited is what other people see as confidence. You’re stronger than you think, so get out there and go for it.”
  • “Ask for help. A lot of people will not reach out for advice so it will work to your advantage if you use your resources to improve.”

Ali Schultz

  • “I would say there’s a beautiful mix of things required to be a strong human and a strong leader. And by strong I mean authentic. And resilient in that authenticity, meaning you can access it and you know what it is and how you can work with it. It’s really knowing who you are.”
  • "At Reboot we have this equation: practical skills + radical self-inquiry + peer support = greater resiliency + enhanced leadership. All of those things are essential components to being an authentic leader. Practical skills and peer support are necessary - and so is the ability to go deep into those places that scare you or the places that are repeating conflicts. That's radical self-inquiry, and that self reflection allows you to identify inner drivers and motivators.”

Bios:

Ali Schultz:

Ali is a coach, artist and COO of Reboot.io. Her superpower is getting her clients (and her coach friends) to tap into their innermost being, their source of creativity and innovation, in order to bear the rigors of work/life existential challenges. Ali has been managing operations, projects and human resources at startups for over 9 years. She draws on this experience to develop organizational strategy and internal operational systems to transform client’s visions to reality. Ali co-founded Reboot.io and The CEO Bootcamp to empower people to reconnect to their truest selves, transforming workplaces from the inside out. Ali holds a Masters degree in religious studies from CU Boulder.

Lisa Reeves:

Lisa’s diverse career spanning 20+ years has prepared her well to lead an ambitious startup company. She leverages her knowledge in bringing leading edge technology products to market – a skill honed as VP & GM with Citrix Systems SaaS division –with her private investment experience as the head of SAP Ventures and GP at Colorado-based Vista Partners.

She earned an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management and a Bachelors Degree in Economics from Kalamazoo College. A long-time resident of Boulder, Colorado, Lisa’s active in her community supporting education and philanthropy, and she loves running marathons, especially the Boston and the Chicago Marathons.

Elizabeth Kraus:

Elizabeth Kraus is the co-founder of MergeLane, an accelerator for women-led startups, and the Impact Angel Group which is now part of Investors’ Circle. Kraus started her career as an intern for a fast growing startup and has been founding, consulting for and investing in startups ever since. She is an active angel investor, startup mentor and advisor, and has been very active in the state and national effort to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem and mobilize angel investors.

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