Last week I participated in a panel of 4 female founders at the University of Pittsburgh, as part of an event called She Creates for Women’s Entrepreneurship Week (#WEW2018). She Creates was hosted by the University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute, School of Computer Science, Pitt Career and Development Center, CMU Project Olympus, Chatham, and Innovation Works. As panelists, we were asked to discuss the challenges around women as tech leaders and as founders in startups including the gender investment gap and the lack of women in founder-roles.
I spoke alongside other female founders in Pittsburgh: Leah Lizarondo, from 412 Food Rescue, Neysha Arcelay, from Precixa, and Allison Howard, from Auratek Textiles. The panel was moderated by CEO and founder of MedRespond, Ginny Pribanic, who spoke during her keynote about why more women need to not just have a seat AT the table, but need to be at the HEAD of the table, leading discussions and decision-making.
Agreed, Ginny. In 2017, 4.5 percent of investments in the U.S. were in women led companies, and overall women only make up eight percent of the venture capital industry*. This needs to grow, we all know this. And it’s no question that this will happen, as more and more female leaders are coming together to support each other. A recent article in Forbes interviewed top female leaders in the US, and my main takeaway is this: we need to speak up for each other, treat each other well, and share with each other…oh yes, and having a core group to rely on for both support and feedback is crucial. No successful entrepreneur would be where she is now without her most trusted circle to speak to her open and honestly. #realtalk
This panel reminded me of how far we have come and how far we must still go by lifting one another up and driving awareness of ALL female founders which is why I am a very proud founding member of The F Project. I’m inspired even more by all of the passion and creativity coming from female-founded businesses. We need our voices to be heard, and we need to help each other find a seat at the head of the table.
At She Creates, we spoke about our passions, why we started our businesses, and the challenges we have faced to achieve our successes to date. Each woman spoke honestly and openly. Personally, I have faced challenges at all levels: growing a company, building a patented product, raising funding from a typically male-dominated industry, and finding the right people at the right time to grow the team. One of the biggest lessons learned over 4+ years of running Trusst is that people are the most important part of the equation. Your team, and your customers, are crucial to building a strong brand and culture that inspires others.
*sourced from a national study, link here