July 31, 2012
Liz published this at 1:00 pm
Practical Advice for Female Entrepreneurs
American society seems to have finally reached the commendable tipping point where the number of women receiving advanced degrees and finding high-paying jobs is leveling out with men. And despite a scary statistic that women lead just 8% of venture-backed companies, I believe that the tide has also shifted in Silicon Valley.
It’s hard to ignore the wave of successful startups with strong female customer bases. Women make up 60% of Zynga’s customers, 77% of Groupon’s customers, 82% of Pinterest’s users and 70% of all ecommerce buyers. Those are numbers that even the old boys club of venture capital can’t ignore. I am a huge online shopper myself, and I was able to leverage that authenticity to attract venture backing for my ecommerce startup last August.
4 Success Keys for Female Entrepreneurs
While admittedly I’m pretty new the game, I’m often asked if I have any advice for aspiring, young entrepreneurs. What follows are 4 success keys for female entrepreneurs.
Seek out strong female role models.
I got some great advice early in my career by a female colleague who told me to find the women I want to emulate and get to know them by offering to buy them a cup of coffee. At first, I was a bit nervous to pick up the phone or write the email, because I knew they were busy women. But in the past seven years, I have reached out at least once a month to female bosses, leaders and entrepreneurs and only once to date has the recipient not been able to fit me in. I’m often touched at how openly and warmly they share experiences both professionally and personally. Ask about their management styles and their tactics for achieving the elusive work/life balance. It is through these meetings that I have honed in on my vision for the kind of female leader, mother and wife I hope to someday become.
Take advantage of a growing number of organizations and resources dedicated to promoting women in technology.
Women just one generation ahead often had to rise through the ranks without a support system. And yet these trailblazers have turned around and paved a path for the younger generations by creating organizations that open doors and facilitate connections for young females in tech. I subscribe to Women 2.0, a Kauffman-backed organization that offers content, community and conferences for women founders in tech. It’s inspiring to keep tabs on other female entrepreneurs, and I’ve attended several events in San Francisco where I got to connect with other female founders. I also applied and was recently accepted to Springboard’s program, which matches female entrepreneurs with coaches, industry contacts and investors. Take advantage of these incredible resources!
Be good at what you do.
Seek out opportunities that might give you a second look because you are female, but don’t depend on that to get the job done. I’ve had several female engineers apply to my company, and I was rooting for them. But at the end of the day they weren’t as good on merit, and they didn’t get the job. Be self aware about your weakness and take advantage of online and local courses to improve everything from your coding to your public speaking skills. Deep down, you know when you are really good at something, and this competence is the crux of the confidence that will make you successful.
Speak with conviction and work on your handshake.
I’ve noticed many women do themselves a huge disservice by raising the inflection of their voice at the end of sentences. It makes everything sound like a question and gives others the perception of a lack of confidence. Make sure your statements really pack a punch. Along the same lines, don’t start an introduction with a wimpy handshake. You don’t need to have an Arnold-grip but make eye contact and shake hands like you mean it. Let others know you are confident in yourself, your team and your idea.
Thank you for adding to the conversation!
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!