By Leah Kinthaert
Earlier this year LeadersIn interviewed several diversity experts on the topic of inclusion in the C-Suite and came across an interesting phenomenon: many women, finding that they are being skipped over for promotions or even channelled into lower paying careers, are deciding to chart their own C-Suite paths by becoming Founders. I did some digging and found that this exodus was not just anecdotal, research backs it up. A 2016 survey from consulting firm Real showed that “among millennial female entrepreneurs, nearly 90 percent left their job in the corporate world to start their own business” and 2018 American Express research tells us that “the number of women-owned businesses increased nearly 3,000% since 1972”. A study from MBO Partners sheds even more light on the situation, finding that “a major way for women who are in professional jobs to really manage to work and be a parent” was to become independent with 75% of them doing so “in order to get workplace flexibility”. There is a combination of factors here: women who now “have equal, if not slightly greater, ambition than men” to move into top roles ranging from VP to the C-suite” see lack of access to opportunities for growth AND they are finding that the “demands of managing both (their careers and their lives) can’t be squeezed into a traditional 9-to-5 office job.”
In the book Dear Female Founder, a wonderful collection of letters from 66 Female Founders compiled by Lu Li, Tine Thygeson gives one of the most powerful, and empowering, rallying cries that I have ever read. Thygeson writes: “Rather than staying in a position where the current power structure makes it unlikely for you to rise to the top, make your own power structure. Change the rules.” With that in mind, I decided to try and meet as many Female Founders as I could, to ask them why they decided to “make their own power structures” and found their own companies. The ideas around exclusion and lack of opportunity in the corporate world certainly came through for some of the women, but I also learned so much more. The women I spoke to founded companies for reasons that are as unique and individual as they are, ranging from a desire to empower other women and change the traditional workplace culture to innovating a broken system in diagnostics and healthcare.
Sarah Nadav had this to say in Dear Female Founder: “The future does not belong to young white men. It belongs to a diverse group of people, who are courageous enough to fight to make a place for their voices to be heard and their projects to be built.” I am privileged to introduce you to fifteen female founders doing just that: Marija Butkovic, Founder and CEO, Women of Wearables; Rhonda Moret, Founder & President, Elevate For Her; Adelaida Diaz-Roa, Founder,Nomo FOMO; Shelley Zalis, CEO, The Female Quotient; Hannah Mamuszka, CEO & Founder, Alva10; Christiana Iyasere, Co-Founder, Dyrnamix, Inc; Charlotte Japp, Founder, Cirkel; Jes Osrow, Co-Founder, The Rise Journey; Erin Yoffe Halper, Founder & CEO, The Upside; Jenny Thompson, Founder, SafetyPIN Technologies; Theodora Lau, Founder, Unconventional Ventures; Jenna Guarneri, Chief Executive Officer, JMG Public Relations; Casey Erin Clark, Co-Founder Vital Voice, Diane Gilpin, CEO, Smart Green Shipping Alliance and Sara Vakhshouri, President, SVB Energy International. I hope you find their founding stories as inspirational as I do!
“I’ve become increasingly interested in wearable tech ever since I co-founded Kisha Smart Umbrella in 2014. I very soon realised there isn’t enough support for women in wearable tech, digital health, fashion tech, IoT, VR and AR industries. I knew there was a market for it because I had been in the industry for 2 years and known only a handful of women. They all wanted and needed visibility, advice, mentorship, funding, etc. On the other side, I knew there was a big problem with women in tech in general, and my co-founder at that time Michelle and I decided to fill the gap. That’s how Women of Wearables was born in 2016.
Today, three years later, I’m proud to say WoW has grown to a community of 20000+ members and 100+ partners in more than 20 countries around the globe. Our mission is not only to support and connect women in these industries, but also to encourage more women and diverse teams to participate in building hardware and software products as designers, product managers and developers or being founders of their own companies, as well as create more jobs for women in STEM. Of course, WoW is not just for professional women, but for anyone with an interest in wearable technology and providing women with a platform for growth.”