For Women in Tech, Gender Barriers Persist Amid Flickers of Hope

Recent stories of harassment, discrimination, pay inequity and intimidation from women at some of the world’s largest technology companies have become as frequent as they have been alarming. Long underrepresented in the science and technology fields, women are pursuing such careers in greater numbers, but they are doing so amid a persistently challenging and unwelcoming culture.

“Now people are bringing it out into the light,” said Gina Ashe, CEO and founder of ThirdChannel, a retail analytics company. “It’s ugly but people are talking about it.

Ashe was part of a panel that included leading women in the technology, life sciences and venture capital sector gathered for the latest installment of the Goodwin Download Speaker Series before an audience of nearly 100 entrepreneurs and others on May 8 at Goodwin’s Boston office.

Speakers shared their own personal stories of gender discrimination in the workplace and obstacles they had to overcome.

“I find it laughable when people tell me 10 percent of venture investors are women. Like, that’s just a lie. That includes the admins, the CFOs, the heads of marketing and the doorwoman,” said Katie Rae, president and CEO of The Engine. Katie is also a member of the Founders Workbench advisory board.

Rae said women have more recently improved their chances at securing seed funding, “but the follow-on is abysmal. We have a lot of hope there will be more female entrepreneurs, and there are. There are incredible women starting companies… but the follow-ons are hard.”

Payal Agrawal Divakaran, principal at .406 Ventures, said it’s hard for founders – both male and female – to secure investors, but she recognizes the extra challenge there is for female entrepreneurs to get funded. “What I am really focused on are the small, substantive actions that I can take to fix the issue,” she said.

Ashe said it will be incumbent on companies to become more diverse and equitable if they hope to hire those young people as they age into the workforce.

“To grow a company that people of the next generation are going to want to come to work for, we have to reflect the world that they’re growing up in,” Ashe said. “Their world is so different from what our world was. And if they go to a company that has a bunch of wacky stuff that’s out of line for them, they’re not going to want to work there.”

(Note: For more news on this and other Goodwin Download Speaker Series events, join the conversation at #GoodwinDownload.)

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