BizeeBee's Poornima Vijayashanker suggested that "women need to get more comfortable with making the ask." By Emily Gonzales (CTO, Bookigee)
Rather than focus on a specific issue facing women in technology today, the panelists discussed various topics and provided insightful advice for the 100+ women in attendance.
Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner organizer Sukrutha Raman Bhadouria kicked off the night and gave us an overview of the growing women in tech community and reminded us that "Everybody has that inner engineer in them. You just have to find it!"
The panel was moderated by Rebecca Buckman, an award-winning journalist, formerly for the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, and is currently a communications consultant and writer based in Silicon Valley Her questions were based on survey results asking how satisfied we are as women in tech.
Here's what I learned from the Atlassian Girl Geek Dinner:
On Funding For Women-Led Startups
- Poornima Vijayashanker, founder of BizeeBee and former founding engineer of Mint.com, told us the story of how she talked to VCs but preferred dealing with angels since her company was pursuing a slower growth strategy than most venture-backed businesses. She found angels through her own networks and raised $500k. She suggested, "women need to get more comfortable with making the ask."
- Sarah Lacy, Founder of PandoDaily, raised 2.5M with a baby in her arms during her meetings on Sand Hill Road. She said, "I never set out to pretend I wasn't a new mom, never hid the fact that I was planning on having another kid soon. I didn't experience any sexism. Lots of startups don't get funded - to say that it's because you're a woman is weak. I don't have patience for women who say they didn't get funding in the Valley for sexist reasons."
- Patricia Nakache, Partner at Trinity Ventures, advised that getting introduced to funders through your network is best. She also cites less women applying for funding as one reason for less women getting funded. She agrees that although women receive less funding, it's not because of the quality of our ideas. Other reasons include the confidence, credibility or qualifications of the founder. She advises women founders to "have more confidence."
On Opportunities For Women In Larger VS. Smaller Companies
- Audra Eng, VP of Product Management at Atlassian, stated that at smaller companies (less than 100 employees), "There are more opportunities to make a larger impact."
- Catherine Norman, Director of Corporate Communications at Atlassian, added that at larger companies, "It's political. Can you get the right people to agree with what you want to do?"
- PandoDaily's Sarah Lacy told us, "If you are really passionate, there is no better place to be than a high-growth company, if you can absorb lots of pain and take on more and more stuff, you can get anything you want. You'll leapfrog in ways you never could in any other industry. If you're lazy, go work at a big company."
On The Importance Of Having A Mentor
- BizeeBee's Poornima Vijayashanker noted that "It's hard to find a mentor because everyone is busy." Her advice is to pick a few people you can rotate through who can provide what you need in different areas (engineering, entrepreneurship, etc). She admitted that it's hard to find a woman mentor and advised to just figure out what you need help with and don't necessarily look for a woman. Her advice is to "build a support network that will help solve a lot of your problems."
- PandoDaily's Sarah Lacy reminded us that we have a "massive responsibility to give back and actively mentor, especially if you're a woman. Be willing to take that phone call."
On Female Role Models In Tech
- Although we are fortunate enough to have pioneers inspiring future generations of women in technology, PandoDaily's Sarah Lacy told us that "just because Marissa Meyer didn't take maternity leave, it doesn't mean everyone else has the resources to do that." She is also a big fan of total integration between her work and family life. She brings her baby and nanny to work and doesn't try to pretend she's not a mom.
- Trinity Ventures' Patricia Nakache takes a different approach and advised us to "Know your boundaries." She talks about how even Sheryl Sandberg prioritizes being home to spend time with her kids at night. She goes back to work after seeing them, but she has set that boundary. The panelists all agreed that every woman has to do what's right for her specific situation. While we have role models to admire, we have to take a look at our own lives and make the right decisions for ourselves.
On Sexism In Silicon Valley
- According to the survey, 20% of respondents think sexism still exists in the Valley. PandoDaily's Sarah Lacy had a fantastic response to this finding: "Of course there's sexism but there's a difference between sexism existing and sexism being an issue. You have to choose if it makes you a victim or if it makes you stronger."
Photo credit: Courtney Mayeda
Women 2.0 readers: What were your takeaways from the Atlassian Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner? Let us know in the comments.
About the guest blogger: Emily Gonzales is the CTO of Bookigee, an early-stage startup that builds online analytics and marketing applications for the Book Publishing Industry. Prior to joining Bookigee, Emily was a Director at Expense Reduction Analysts. Before that, she was a Senior Design Engineer at Motorola. She holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from The University of Miami and writes for TechFemme. Follow her on Twitter at @emilyshere.