Welcome to the fifth feature in the IWD Spotlight series, where women in the science and tech industry share their journey and advice for others walking the same path.
What are some of the challenges you’ve personally encountered or seen women face in the tech industry?
I think that many of the challenges faced by women are not unique to the tech industry. For one, there’s still a lack of senior female role models; for another, there’s still the need to balance work with other life demands because, let’s face it, women in most families still bear a disproportionate share of caregiving and household responsibilities.
The gender equality movement has progressed, but many women face the much more insidious issue of workplaces that are not overtly hostile – just still plagued with a lot of embedded unconscious bias.
In the tech industry, female founders often face challenges their male counterparts do not — for example, it’s still the case that the most effective way to get a VC’s attention is through a warm referral, and in that sense, it’s still an “old boys’ network” where men have the advantage.
We’re changing our approach at Integra Partners. When our analysts and associates meet female founders, we make sure that one of our senior team members — a partner or a principal — meets them too. It may not always be the right time for Integra to invest, but we see the opportunity to help founders refine their pitch or to make introductions.
What can society do to ensure gender equity in a male-dominated industry?
There are two things I feel strongly about.
The first is to ensure equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes.
I aspire to invest in more women founders, so I make it a point to meet every female founder my analysts meet, within reason. I don’t necessarily want to have a goal to have an equal number of male and female founders in the portfolio — because that’s addressing the symptom, not the cause, which is that there are some inherent challenges that disproportionately affect women in the tech industry.
One of the key initiatives that Integra is working on is a venture partner program called Win With Women, together with USAID, to promote female participation in angel investing, venture capital, and technology startups, and to source, evaluate and invest in companies that are led by women or that disproportionately serve women. We will work with four female venture partners — one each in Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, and Pakistan — who are eager to offer their time and mentorship to female founders, and work with them to identify and make their first angel investments. We’ve identified our Philippines and Pakistan venture partners so far, but we’re still finalizing the roles in Vietnam and Indonesia — so if you’re an aspiring angel investor or a female founder who’s eager to learn more about the program, please reach out.
Secondly, I think it’s important to encourage and support women interested in careers in technology from a young age, addressing gender bias in hiring, promotion and pay practices, creating safe and respectful work environments, and providing flexible work arrangements for those who need it.
What advice would you give to your younger self when starting out?
I can’t stress this enough: build and maintain networks. Mentorship and sharing of experience are integral in this space. And focus on creating value — not just with dollars, but with connections and introductions you make where you can leverage the network you’ve built over time.
What kind of workplace/industry changes do you hope to see in the next five years or so?
I’d love to see more women, people of color, and underrepresented groups in leadership positions. I’d like to see a greater focus on impact — with investments in companies and tech that address the many social and environmental challenges we face, not just a focus on financial returns, and certainly not at the expense of ethics or responsible practices.
And I, for one, would like to play my part in fostering greater collaborations and partnerships amongst companies in our portfolio and beyond because I think it will inevitably drive innovation and create value.