This week, CommonBond brought together individuals and organizations in New York City and across the country for the inaugural Women in Tech Week 2017, to celebrate the accomplishments of women in technology and inspire the next generation of women leaders. CommonBond partnered with companies like The Muse, ClassPass, Betterment, and Birchbox to create a week dedicated to encouraging more women to pursue technology careers.
The celebration featured an event focused on dynamic female technology leaders, the release of a new study about how women can succeed in tech, and a social media fundraising campaign for the nonprofit Girls Who Code. For every social media post with the hashtag #2017WITW during the week of Oct 9-15, CommonBond is making a donation to fund scholarships for middle school and high school girls interested in tech careers.
"We believe we have an obligation, a responsibility and an opportunity to affect social change," said CommonBond founder David Klein. "Specifically, we're helping to encourage, inspire and empower more women to work in technology because we believe that diversity and inclusion leads to better outcomes inside companies, and outside companies."
Women in Tech Week's flagship event, Inspirations and Insights from Female Founders brought together six inspiring female founders to share what they learned in their first year of building a technology business. The evening was hosted at CommonBond's headquarters and attracted more than 200 attendees, while hundreds more tuned into the event livestream. The sold-out event brought together passionate women in tech supporters and aspiring tech-makers curious about how they can successfully navigate the industry. Attendees heard about fundraising, overcoming adversity, growing a business and more.
We've handpicked the best advice from night's speakers that will have you feeling inspired by women in tech. You can also see a replay of the livestream and check out the hashtag #2017WITW on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to join the conversation about Women in Tech Week.
"No one knows what they're doing, so surround yourself with smart people and figure it out."
When Liz Wessel was recruited to be a college brand ambassador at her university she had no idea it would inspire a project that would lead to WayUp, a platform for early career professionals. As co-founder and CEO, Liz has raised more than $28 million in funding and her platform has reached more than 3.5 million users. Looking back, Liz says she wished more people talked about how we're all learning on the job. "A lot of people are so intimidated when they first go into tech because they're surrounded by people who all look like they know what they're doing, but everyone is freaking out." She reminded attendees that it's perfectly normal to feel like an imposter when pursuing goals, but the important thing is to keep going.
"Behind every click is the heartbeat of your users."
You need laser focus and passion when you're building technology to help solve a problem as daunting as improving K-12 school attendance, said Alexandra Meis, the co-founder and chief product officer of Kinvolved. She shared that in New York City alone there are enough students absent every day to fill two Yankee Stadiums. Those are staggering numbers, but equally important are the students, teachers and parents these numbers represent. Alexandra encouraged the audience to always remember the user and constantly ask for their feedback. People drive the work we do—that's what gets me through the day.
"Don't take no for an answer!" and when all else fails, use a little humor.
When Harper Wilde co-founder and co-CEO Jane Fisher went to raise money for her innovative bra company, it was obvious most of the VCs were men. Despite having polished pitch decks and loads of data, the co-founders asks fell flat with an audience that simply couldn't relate. That didn't stop Jane and her co-founder. Instead of giving up, the team helped men imagine what it would be like if buying everyday boxers was as difficult as bra shopping. Humor changed the conversation with funders and, as it turns out, a little playfulness also helped to build trust and increase engagement with their growing customer base.
"The model of entrepreneurship is based on what it took to be a founder 20 years ago. That model is changing."
Think you don't fit the profile of someone in tech? Think again, says Pymetrics co-founder and CEO Frida Polli. The former neuroscientist spent a decade at Harvard and MIT before realizing she wanted to use her experience to solve more real-world problems. After finishing her MBA and returning to the job market, Frida recognized the job search process hadn't changed much in 20 years. She started Pymetrics, which uses artificial intelligence to help match users with their dream careers and support employers in making more predictive and fair hires. At the time, Frida was in her late 30s and a single mom. "I didn't look like a hacker in a hoodie or even like someone on Forbes 30 Under 30 list." Proof that what you look like doesn't have to determine what you end up doing.
"If you think you've got a great idea, go for it!"
Jennifer Fitzgerald, co-founder and CEO of PolicyGenius, had the room laughing with her story about wrestling with the decision to quit her stable job and start her own company. In a moment of hilarious clarity, Fitzgerald remembered a vignette from MTV's hit reality series The Hills. "In the immortal advice of Heidi from The Hills, "just quit," says Jennifer. If you're feeling risk averse and worrying about all the what ifs—guess what? You'll survive. Rejection is a humbling part of the process that everyone faces, so you need tough skin and you'll get through it.
"If you are proud of what you launch, you've waited for too long."
The Muse co-founder and COO Alex Cavoulacos had a clear vision for her career development site, but it didn't take long to realize simplifying and iterating at every stage would make more sense and build a better product. Alex says the evolution to awesome starts by figuring out what you can do now to make things happen. That rang true for every stage of starting her business, beginning with launching on a WordPress site, to applying for Y Combinator, learning to code and even hiring her first developer by trading coding support for room and board. Alex also shared the importance and benefits of going to market with a minimal viable product, instead of waiting for perfection. You have to start somewhere if you want to start a business.
Want to inspire and support women leaders in tech?
If you're interested in learning more about how we can help women in the tech industry succeed, check out "Building Tech Companies Where Women Thrive." This study commissioned by CommonBond explores data from our recent Women in Tech Week survey. Together with Qualtrics, we asked more than 600 women who work in technology and students interested in the field how companies can create workplaces where women can succeed. Among the key findings: about 56% of all participants said more women in leadership is the number one change they want their company to make. Find more data, insights and recommendations when you download "Building Tech Companies Where Women Thrive."
You can also help send a new generation of women into tech careers by participating in our online social media fundraiser for Girls Who Code. Through October 15, post why you're proud to be a woman in tech or why you support women in tech on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Use the hashtag #2017WITW and tag two friends to participate. For every post, CommonBond will donate to Girls Who Code to inspire girls and young women to choose a career in technology.
This year was the first year of Women in Tech Week, and we're looking forward to an even bigger celebration next year.