The blogosphere is on fire lately regarding the lack of women who launch and/or lead tech companies. So what’s going on? That’s the million dollar question people are trying to answer, especially after the Center for Women’s Business Research (CWBR) released a study last year that showed that women launch businesses at twice the rate of men.
There are several factors though at play, at least in the technology industry, that makes this a very complex issue that often turns into a heated debate. As someone who is gender-blind, I never thought much about this issue until last year. After reading several articles on the topic, I researched and found that on a national level men do out-number women in terms of these executive roles. I then wondered if Chicago mirrored the nation or if we are doing a little better. So I asked business owners and groups like the Momtrepreneurs Exchange, LadiesWhoLaunch and the Women’s Business Development Center how many tech-owned* female entrepreneurs make up their memberships.
I looked at the companies they shared with me along with my own list and found that there is at minimum 36 – 50 women-owned tech companies in Chicago. There were some interesting findings that quickly stood out at me including:
Men are 13 times more likely than women to create businesses with 2 or more co-founders. I’m intrigued by this. Does partnership help a business succeed? If so, why don’t women partner up? And when we do, why do we usually partner with our husbands than say a friend or business colleague? I have no issue with women choosing their husbands as co-founders. I am curious though how we come to this decision as it is very different from men. Men normally partner with other men rather than with their wives when they start their businesses.
In terms of the types of companies we usually start, I found that they often fall into 1 of 4 categories including:
- Social networks/communities
- Media – blog networks, media sites
Men, though, are often on par with us in terms of some of these areas. In fact there was only a 15% difference between women-owned media sites and men-owned sites. Also, it was interesting to see that more men started online businesses geared toward education and health than women. These two industries are often thought to be heavily female-oriented.
I know my sample size was somewhat small, but it gives a little idea of what is happening in this space. The lack of women tech-entrepreneurs and leaders does need to be addressed, and I hope that we do so. I also hope that whenever this topic comes up, we don’t forget to recognize those women tech-entrepreneurs in our community who are currently blazing the trail for many of us to follow. Often times when we’re looking at this issue, we forget to give a nod to those who are working in this area already. So for that, I say thank you to the many women who have come before me.
In the coming weeks, we will shine a light on these innovative women and let you see what they are up to and hear the challenges they faced as the launched their companies. So stay tuned. In the meantime, to read or hear more about the debate, take a look at these articles:
- Men and Women Entrepreneurs Not That Different
- Addressing the Lack of Women Leading Tech Startups
- TedTalk: Sheryl Sandbery – Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders
- Where Are All the Women High-Tech Entrepreneurs?
- High Performance Entrepreneurs: Women in High Tech – Summary
*Tech-oriented = we are taking a broad view of this term.
Marian Mangoubi is the founder of Sassy CEO, an online community for women entrepreneurs to connect with and learn from other women as they launch and grow their own “empires”. Please connect with us via twitter @sassyceos, facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sassy-CEO/ or our site http://sassyceo.com.*