Entrepreneurship Takes a Village Too
The founder of UrbanSitter calls on fellow entrepreneurs to support other women in the industry by “becoming their village.”
By Lynn Perkins (CEO & Founder, UrbanSitter)
Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about gender bias in the startup community and people ask me my perspective on the topic regularly. There’s no denying that we’re not working on a level playing field – women make up just 10% of founders of emerging-growth tech companies and raise significantly less capital than men. However, it’s been my experience in the business world that people are judged primarily by their skills and ability, and not by their gender. That means women, especially, have to support one another and work really hard to make sure their skills and abilities are seen and heard and that the right people are seeing and hearing them.
I have more female peers and see more support for women in the startup community than I did a decade ago. I don’t think it’s because of a fundamental shift in thinking, but rather because of the strength of the networks women have created for themselves.
I started my current business as a mother of young children and became pregnant with my third child shortly after securing funding. At times, I was very nervous about how prospective partners would perceive my pregnancy and the implications they might assume it would have on my business. I focused on finding partners who didn’t dwell on a temporary period of maternity leave, but were instead interested in my company as a whole, over the long haul. I built a network of people I wanted to work alongside and do business with, people that would challenge and encourage me and support my vision. I worked to convince them that as an entrepreneur and a mother, I am focused and decisive and I don’t sweat the small stuff. In other words, I’ve found a way to showcase my skills to the right people.
One of the advantages of working in the technology sector is that it is innovative not only in the products and services it delivers, but also in culture. Typically, the focus is simply on doing good work and not on face time or company politics. This focus on the quality of the work coupled with some flexibility, such as the ability to occasionally work from home or work odd hours, makes being a working mom somewhat easier than it might be in other sectors.
How can we, as company founders in the startup community, continue to help level the playing field? We need to encourage women to take a place at the table, and to mentor and support them by demonstrating that they can be fulfilled in the workplace and at home. We need to become their village. We need to tell them to have confidence in what they are doing, to showcase their talents and to focus on the right partners – people who believe in, support and fund businesses that just happen to be led by women.
What are you doing to support your fellow female founders?
About the guest blogger: Lynn Perkins is co-founder and CEO of UrbanSitter, a service that enables parents and babysitters to connect online. Prior to founding to UrbanSitter, Lynn served as founder and CEO of Xuny, and VP of Business Development at Bridgepath. Follow her on Twitter at @UrbanSitter.