Where are the Women CEO's?

Recently, the SIIA held its eighth annual Information Industry Summit. I was one of only two women CEO's presenting. So I asked the obvious question, "Where are the women?"
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Recently, the SIIA (Software Information Industry Association) held its eighth annual Information Industry Summit. The organization is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry.

Ten companies were chosen to be introduced by the organization as representing the next wave of groundbreaking technology. According to Ed Keating, Vice President of SIIA's Content Division, "The 10 firms selected to participate in this year's SIIA Previews represent creativity, broad-stroke excellence, and strong business acumen, and illustrate why the coming months and years hold much promise for continued industry-wide success."

SBTV.com was honored to be among the ten presenting companies this year. However, I was dismayed by the lack of female representation. I was one of only two women CEO's presenting. So I asked the obvious question, "Where are the women?"

First, let me say the lack of women-led companies selected to present is no fault of the SIIA. In fact, I learned very few women applied to be considered for this event and that has been the case in previous years as well. So - why not?

Even though women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men, there aren't many who launch high-tech ventures. According to research from Stanford GSB Project on Emerging Businesses, fewer than 10 percent of high-tech start-ups have a female CEO, Founder or President. Technology driven start-ups continue to be largely male dominated.

Why? I honestly don't know the answer, and I doubt there is one definitive reason. But I'm going to put some thoughts on the table and hopefully those of you reading this blog will weigh in on the subject.

First, could the low number of women founders in the high-tech industry be related to funding needs? Women-owned startup companies tend to start with less capital than their male-owned counterparts, according to a study released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Furthermore, only a small percentage of women-owned firms attract venture capital, yet technology driven companies typically need millions. Generally speaking, women aren't comfortable raising venture capital. A lot of that has to do with the fact women have less access to the VC markets. They also lack thorough understanding of how equity market works.

Secondly, there is a tremendous amount of risk associated with high-tech start-ups. Are women in general not as comfortable with that level of risk? There are many who would argue that's precisely the case. Personally, I don't believe this rationale paints an accurate picture of female entrepreneurs. There are inspiring stories of women who have taken great risks and built multi-million dollar, global enterprises.

Finally, let's talk about the gender socialization. Are we still intentionally or unintentionally steering young women away from science, technology and math and into softer subject areas? I presented that question in a staff meeting recently and the women on our team nodded in agreement.

What do you think?

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