With only 17 percent of startups founded by women and female-only teams raising only $82 in investments to every $100 raised by men, it’s clear that women in tech have a range of unique challenges on hand. Not only are there measurable discrepancies in the funding department, there’s also a general lack of hospitality toward women in Silicon Valley.
Last year, a piece published in The Atlantic highlighted the many sexist encounters and cultural imbalances that follow women into the industry, sparking tech companies to invest some hundreds of millions of dollars to improve conditions for female employees in 2018. With that in mind, here’s my advice to women on thriving in a startup.
- Identify and Nurture Relationship with Advocates – There are so many excellent advocates for women in the tech industry, from organizations like the Anita Borg Institute and the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) to motivational executives like Sheryl Sandberg. Regardless of if you’re an entry-level coder or a fully- funded founder; such organizations provide essential resources that can serve you on a day-to-day basis. Connecting with support organizations and advocates within your social circle will help you identify and address challenges faced by women in the industry.
- Keep Skills Sharp and Up-To-Date – It’s a hard pill to swallow, but sometimes you have to work twice as hard to get ahead, especially if you are a woman in technology. Even though females still only earn around 80 cents on the dollar across all industries, we often work harder and longer for the same praise. Make sure that your skills and professional training are always at their best possible level by taking part in industry trainings, events and education opportunities.
- Build Networks of People – The bottom line is this: You won’t get very far without some good mentorship and support. Networking isn’t just important for the success of your career; it’s also good for bolstering your self-confidence and helping you learn how to deal with particularly challenging scenarios. It’s a good idea to prioritize relationships with other women in tech, either through your current role model or a professional organization, so that you always have access to a solid support system. Of course, be sure to offer the same support when other women come to you for advice.
- Seek Out the Right Company Culture – When you’re job hunting, think of your contenders not as possible career paths, but as partnerships. You want to choose a company that shares similar values and offers the right opportunities. A big part of that comes down to company culture. Tech has a notorious reputation for having what’s known as a “bro culture,” and if you know that this isn’t something you’d be willing to deal with, looks out for the signs when you’re applying and interviewing. Partner with companies that have a clear mission statement, particularly one that offers an egalitarian environment.
- Embrace the Mission of the Work – Once you’ve found the right fit, do your best to take a holistic approach to the work, embracing every project and task as a support stake to the broader mission at hand. When you look at your work like this, you’re less likely to get hung up on the bureaucracy, company politics and other issues that hold you back.
- Accept Whatever Pace is Needed to Get the Job Done – This one applies to anyone in the startup world. As you probably know, early-stage companies often need all hands on deck in every department. One day you might be coding an app and the next day you might be helping to formulate a launch strategy. Either way — whether you’re bouncing around or settled into one comfortable role — you need to be able to adapt to the pace of the task at hand. Sometimes that means doing twice the work in half the time and compromising your personal expectations of perfection. As Sheryl Sandberg says in her book Lean In, “Done is better than perfect.”
- Set Expectations for Your Personal Life – There’s certainly a social culture within the tech world and an expectation to be a part of it. After all, Wired famously called it an “alcohol-soaked culture.” In tech especially, it can be hard to say no to after-work events, happy hours, late night deadlines and parties that sometimes bleed into the weekends. Make sure that you’re setting realistic expectations and boundaries for yourself, understanding that you may have to compromise some of your own personal time while you’re at it.
- Be a Phenomenal Communicator – Let’s turn to Olivia Pavco-Giaccia, the founder of LabCandy, to advice on this one. She asserts, “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. It is easy to allow insecurities about age or experience level prevents you from making a big demand, or asking for a meeting with an influential person, or even admitting that you need help.” In other words, you need to make sure that you’re not expecting people to understand what you want. Our coworkers and bosses are not mind-readers, no matter how obvious an issue might be — so speaking up is crucial.
- Take a Breather to Unplug and Recharge – The worst thing you can do to yourself while working at a startup is allow yourself to get burnt-out. Taking a vacation from time to time is good for your physical and mental health, say the experts. Studies show that distancing yourself from the stress of work can break the cycle and allow you to return to your job more focused, engaged and open-minded. You don’t have to schedule regular week-long vacations to get these benefits though. Building in the occasional spa day or weekend trip will do the trick. For the best results, make sure to leave your phone and laptop at home.
Springbot provides advanced eCommerce marketing technology for small to medium-sized retailers. We make the overwhelming task of running and tracking multi-channel marketing campaigns ridiculously simple, from email and social marketing, to online ads, Amazon Marketplace and more. The key is Springbot’s integration with Big Commerce, Magento and Shopify to deliver the power of data management, marketing automation and analytics. We then take that information and make data-driven marketing recommendations specifically tailored for your needs.
Erika Jolly Brookes is the Chief Marketing Officer at Springbot where she leads all brand, product, marketing campaigns and communications. Before joining Springbot, Erika was the vice president of product strategy for Oracle, the vice president of marketing and communications at Vitrue, and other executive-level marketing positions at leading technology companies like MindSpring, Earthlink and Rackspace. In her limited free time, you’ll find Erika running through Atlanta with her yellow labrador Sunny or sharing marketing insights on Twitter: @ebrookes.