This post was written by our Online Marketing Manager, Casie Gillette.
I attended The Successful You: Women's Leadership Forum yesterday in Cambridge and sat in on the session 'Boston. The Destination for Female Entrepreneurs'.
The panel featured four Boston-area women involved in the entrepreneurial community - Stephanie Kaplan, CEO of Her Campus Media, Jennifer Lum, Partner in Apricot Capital, Katie Rae, Managing Director of TechStars and Pam Reeve, Chair, The Commonwealth Institute. The session was excellent and each panelist really brought a unique perspective to the topic.
Here are a few key takeaways:
Boston is Great
According to the panelists, there is a true advantage to being a woman in Boston! Not only does the city have a history of women growing businesses here, but there are support systems (groups of women CEOs, CTOs, etc), competitions like MassChallenge and a community of people willing to mentor and help.
You MUST Speak Up
A common theme throughout the session was that women don't tend to speak up when they want something. There is an innate belief that just by doing good work and doing good things, you'll be recognized. The problem is, that's not true, whether you're a man or woman.
Want funding? Ask for it. According to panel moderator Pam Reeve, only 5% of venture funding in the technology sector goes to women. That's not because women are less qualified, it's because they just don't ask.
Network Network Network
In order to be successful, you have to network and you have to build relationships. While this goes for everyone, Katie Rae pointed out this is especially true for women as they don't typically run in the same social circles as venture capitalists, 'We aren't in frats or out golfing'. So, it's important to be out there, networking and getting to know board members and the people who are actually giving the money.
What to Look For
Each panelist was asked what they look for in others, whether that person is a co-founder or an employee coming on board.
Give them the trash test during the interview. Leave a piece of trash on the table and see what they do. People who are proactive and solve a problem tend to do well since most startups don't have systems in place to train you. - Katie Rae
People in your startup need to have energy and passion for what you want to get done. They don't see it just as a job, they see it as mission. - Pam Reeves
Being adaptive and flexible is key to working in a startup. The ability to deal with chaos in an unstructured environment. Also be persistant. You will go to war with your team members - Jennifer Lum
You have to be the kind of person who can play multiple roles - Stephanie Kaplan
Each panelist was asked for their best advice, here were the answers:
Lower your voice and make statements vs asking questions as we are taught to do. - Katie Rae
Don't get caught up in emotional stuff. Focus on what is best for your business and your business goals - Stephanie Kaplan
Be more vocal or push for things to happen - Jennifer Lum
The panel offered a ton of great advice. To learn more from each of these women, check out their Twitter feeds:
Also be sure to check out women's events all over the country including SheEO, Girls in Tech and Women 2.0.