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Why Social Business Means More Women in the C-suite

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VC Sonya Brown explains why she thinks women are often more suited to lead in a world of social business, and why she’s a big believer in hiring well networked women.

By Sonya Brown (General Partner, Norwest Venture Partners)

A new wave of executives is shaking up the old order of things: There are more women in the C-suite, and new research shows that startups with female CEOs are more likely to succeed. Women like Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg and Meg Whitman are running some of the largest consumer and enterprise companies in the Valley, while balancing work, personal life, family and sometimes even pregnancy.

It seems that the Web-enabled world of social business is turning out to be a particularly female-friendly environment; disrupting old business hierarchies and enabling a world for which women are particularly well suited.

Relationships are the glue of social business, and in my experience women are more interested and better at building them. They tend to maintain more relationships than men across all the concentric rings of closeness.

Why I Recruit Well-Networked Women

Building strong personal and professional networks has always been a top priority for me and has served me well when I’ve been in the unique position to work directly with and recruit executives for leadership roles. My most successful recruits were not found through executive search firms or formal recruiting processes, but rather by tapping into my own network. In this process, I look for leadership, networking and general business skills that I know will have a powerful and immediate impact on both the operations and the culture of a company.

Below, are a few examples of the women that rose to the top of the list and some of the key leadership characteristics that resonated with me:

  • Eileen Martinson is a leader in the enterprise software industry. I knew Eileen would be the ideal fit as CEO of Sparta Systems, an enterprise quality and compliance management company. The company was in a transitional phase when she came on board. Her sales and marketing experience made a huge impact right off the bat and continues to define the culture of the company.
  • Natural wellness and immune support company Airborne has had women executives at the helm from day one. Victoria Knight-McDowell, a mom and elementary school teacher, founded the company. As she wanted to step back and spend more time with her family, I looked to bring on an executive management team and found the perfect fit with CEO Elise Donahue. Elise’s experience growing personal care product company Prestige Brands International gave her the ideal background to help transform Airborne into a global brand while maintaining its founding, relationship-based culture.
  • Ingrid Jackel, CEO of Physicians Formula, was promoted from within, and therefore, already had critical enterprise knowledge to be a successful leader in the cosmetics space. As I sat on the board, we helped bring the company public and continued to witness its growth and expansion of market share under Ingrid’s direction.
  • Amy Kothari, CEO of Alarm Capital, played a pivotal role in growing this home security company in an industry historically dominated by male executives. She put the business on a fast track for growth with her vast experience in structuring, negotiating and executing transactions in the security alarm industry. Amy also tapped her wide network to build a diversified team of executives that included both men and women.

In summary, women are in a key position to take on all aspects of the current business environment including networking, technology, social networks – and more. They are more open to seeking resources and relationships to help with this balancing act and tend to leverage their networks to identify the best available resources to streamline their lives and accelerate their companies. 

About the guest blogger: Sonya Brown is a General Partner at Norwest Venture Partners focusing on growth equity investments across a wide range of sectors, including information services, software, business services, financial services and consumer. She has been in the investment business for more than a decade, working with some amazing female executives. 

Women 2.0 readers: Do yo agree that women are at an advantage in a world of social business?

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