If you read the news, you might think that it is a terrible time to be a woman in tech but according to Christine Whitman, CEO of Complemar, this is the best time ever.
Christine has navigated gender bias since the 1970’s and is part of an elite and accomplished group of women CEOs who have taken their companies public on NASDAQ.
“Women need to rush in now more than ever, we can’t walk away from the table. We have to face the gender bias head on. Women in tech need to be persistent.” says Christine.
She is hoping that young women will follow in her trailblazing footsteps and has some solid advice for them. Her advice is this:
Embrace the work that you have to do:
The work of women in tech right now includes fighting two battles at the same time. The battle to get your work done, and the battle to get your voice heard.
Put obstacles in the periphery:
Build a company that meets a need, find a product that you are passionate about and then keep working towards that. Put blinders on if you need to, so that all you can see ahead of you is your vision. This doesn’t mean that you should let others walk all over you, because you shouldn’t. Just stay focused and don’t let them take you off your path.
Seed your meetings:
Sometimes it is hard for a woman to get her voice heard. You have ideas and often women are ignored. Make sure that your ideas get on the table but don’t wait until the meeting starts, because that might be too late. Speak with people about your ideas ahead time and find champions. This means that when you sit down, your idea is on the agenda and you have support in place.
Tactical Team building:
Part of being an effective leader is creating a strong team. And that team needs to be built to withstand criticism and skepticism of a gender biased industry. Every woman should know that she is capable enough to get things done, but too many women end up fighting these battles on their own. Instead of going it alone, women should pull in subject matter experts to help make your case.
Leave your lane:
Women have a tendency to go in expected verticals. This can be a successful path for some but it will be a huge handicap for most. A lot of the most exciting work is happening outside of narrow gender determined roles, especially manufacturing.
There is chaos in the tech industry right now and it is hard to stick it out. With recent revelations, it is understandable that women have been leaving the industry in droves. But Christine believes that the only way to fix this is going to be by women staying and demonstrating success.
Her message to women entrepreneurs:
“The antidote is you. You start the company and build your core values. How do we get equitable pay? We need to get in charge, and then we need to make it right. And most of all, women investors need to put their money into women led companies, buy stocks from people they believe in and divest from the funds and companies that don’t reflect their values. Women have considerable resources and need to vote with their money.”
Christine personally does this by angel investing, supporting women in her companies and playing a leading role locally. She lives in Rochester, NY where she is the first woman to be named as Chair of the board of trustees of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
She founded the Greater Rochester Enterprise, the Rochester Angel Network and serves on the boards of numerous startups. She is also a board member of High Tech Rochester and sits on the advisory boards of Venture Creations and New York State’s Finger Lakes Regional Development Council.
According to Christine, we are entering the best time in history to be a woman in tech and the most important thing is not to be discouraged.