Foundry Women’s Exec Summit

A few weeks ago we had a summit for the women execs in our portfolio. About 40 women attended. Overall we identified about 70 women in our portfolio in leadership positions, which I estimate is about 15% of the exec positions in our portfolio.

The event was organized by three of the women – Joanne Lord (until recently CMO at BigDoor, now at Porch), Nicole Glaros (Techstars Boulder Managing Director), and Terry Morreale (NCWIT Associate Director). Like many of our internal summits, the agenda was organically developed and the event was a lightly structured, high engagement day. It was an all female event until 4pm, when I joined for a 75 minute fireside chat followed by a nice dinner at Pizzeria Locale.

This morning I’m heading over the NCWIT annual employee retreat and participating in the first session, which is a retrospective on the past year and current state of NCWIT. I’ve been chair of NCWIT for nine years and am amazed and what Lucy Sanders and the organization has achieved. Personally, I’ve learned an incredible amount about the issues surrounding women in technology and have a handle on what I think are root causes of the challenges as well as long term solutions.

Last night I gave a talk at Galvanize on failure for Startup Summer, one of the Startup Colorado programs. About 10% of the people in the room were women. After almost 90 minutes of talk and Q&A, the last question was an awesome one about the women in the room and what we could do to encourage more engagement by and with women in the startup scene.

About a year ago, we realized that none of our active companies had a female CEO. Today, three of the 58 do: Moz (Sarah Bird), littleBits (Ayah Bdeir), and Nix Hydra (Lina Chen). If you are looking for a percentage on that, it’s 5%.

5%, 10%, and 15% are low numbers. But at least we are looking at them, measuring them, talking about gender dynamics in tech, and taking action around it.

  • http://www.feld.com bfeld

    Just back from the kickoff of the NCWIT Annual Strategy meeting. Super inspired.

    • Matt Candler

      This is awesome, Brad. 55% of launch teams in our 9th cohort include women co-founders.

      • http://www.feld.com bfeld

        Dynamite.

  • Shawn Bridgeman

    Thanks for addressing this issue on your blog, Brad. I’m a big fan of NCWIT’s work, especially their campaign on including more male advocates. I look forward to your future posts on this issue.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx. Glad NCWIT has been helpful.

  • http://www.about.me./Mariah.Lichtenstern Mariah Lichtenstern

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on root causes and solutions to issues surrounding women in tech. It seems there is a surge of attention to the next generation (which is great!), however, I’m also interested in addressing issues related to women in business and tech now. I agree with Shawn that male advocates are vital and appreciate your commitment to this cause. #DebugDiversity #Inclusion

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      There’s now a huge amount of information on the NCWIT site – http://www.ncwit.org.

      • http://www.about.me./Mariah.Lichtenstern Mariah Lichtenstern

        Subscribed… look forward to learning more about it.

  • Chris Heivly

    1/3 of our 26 portfolio companies have women founders. We might have a quorum. ;-) Here in Durham, NC Google just helped us launch a program which you can read about here: http://americanunderground.com/recent-post-4/. I am proud of what we have seen so far . . .

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Fabulous. Techstars numbers are similar – dramatic increase over the past few years in number of female founders AND female CEOs.

  • Detrick

    Brad, This is great. I have seen you as a leader on many fronts for a long time now. But what about inclusion of underrepresented minorities in general (i.e. African American, Hispanic, etc.)?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I’m doing things around that with other activities, such as Rising Stars (part of Techstars) at http://www.techstars.com/risingstars/

    • Lindsay Caron

      Detrick – Kapor Center does a lot of work to foster minorities in tech.

  • farmstr

    Brad: thanks on behalf of female founders (Farmstr.com incl. 2 female co-founders) for bringing attention to the need to ‘grow’ in women in tech, leadership, startups & BODs.

  • David Oberman

    Brad: More women than ever are involved in tech, but still there exists a tremendous gap between the number of female founders by percentage and the number of women in tech. I was wondering what you think accelerators could do to promote more women in tech to become founders and start their own companies?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Focus on building the pipeline – recruiting more female founders to apply. We’ve done that at Techstars and have had incredible success getting many more female entrepreneurs in the program.

    • Lindsay Caron

      My crazy theory: women overwhelming choose majors in college that are focused on social impact (nursing, teaching, social work…) by growing a portfolio of tech companies that positively impact the world or strengthen communities (more sharing economy, less tools for developers), I suspect more women will be interested in entering the field. There’s a proliferation of new accelerators popping with this focus (HomeBrew, Tumml, Fledge come to mind). I suspect it would be enlightening to study the gender makeup of such companies versus video game & dev ops-focused startups.

  • http://www.earlygrowthfinancialservices.com David Ehrenberg

    Good and encouraging post Brad! We just did a webinar this week with 37 Angels on funding for female founders (http://www.slideshare.net/emalzberg/fundraising-tips-for-women-entrepreneurs) ….another important piece of the puzzle.

  • http://techbenders.com Karen Fredricks

    Too many people still make the assumption that women are technology-challenged. I work with men in the IT area all the time who talk down to me, and worse, talk down to the women who hired them. Ironically I find that women make wonderful IT consultants because we actually LISTEN. Too many of my male counterparts believe in the “mushroom theory” – keep the client in the dark and pile a lot of manure on their heads. I am thrilled that you recognize the gap and are trying to fix it!

  • http://www.pointsandfigures.com/ pointsnfigures

    Part of the disparity could be your firm’s focus. “The themes we pursue tend to be horizontal in nature and are often driven by underlying technology protocols and standards or emerging market trends and customer needs. Rather than looking for short-term hits, we focus on themes that have the ability to drive a cycle of innovation (and hence provide multiple investment opportunities) over a period of five to ten years or more.”-do women lead businesses tend to fall within or outside that definition?

    I am really happy that women are coming to entrepreneurship in far greater numbers. The entire innovation industry is better with 50% more people. In addition, my experience has been that women look at things a little differently, solve different problems (suretint.com for example) and it really adds to the rigor and diligence prior to making an investment.