by Callie Payne
Despite the odds being stacked against them, women founders are currently killing it in the technology sector. With 50% less access to funding and with only 7% of venture capitalist money supporting their products, women who are financed typically perform 63% better than their male counterparts.
While there’s still a long way yet to go, the tech sector has made some significant grounds in recent years, with plenty of high-profile media coverage leading to greater awareness of the roadblocks faced by women at the top of their game in tech careers.
Nowadays, there are many female positive initiatives that are actively impacting the gender disparity in the tech sector; from Girls Who Code, a non-profit keeping young students interested in learning computer science, all the way to Female Founders Fund, a venture capitalist firm working towards getting more women financed in their startups. By highlighting the successes of women in a field where they are significantly underfunded, under represented and even actively disliked, the aim is to encourage more women into the technology business and to apply for financing in their startups.
As inspiration for women considering a future in the Techsphere, this list takes a look at ten enterprising female entrepreneurs who have successfully overseen rapid expansion within their company and who are showing amazing potential for further growth.
1. Reshma Saujani, Girls Who Code, NYC
There is a trend for women to be less and less interested in coding the older they get, and women today are actually less involved in computer science than they were in the 1980’s. Inversely, technology is one of the fastest growing industries, with 1.4 million jobs predicted to be available by 2020. U.S. graduates are projected to fill 29% of those jobs, with women estimated to fill just 3%.
This is where Reshma Saujani steps in. Her incredible non-profit initiative, Girls Who Code, focuses on girls between the ages of 13-17, which is where the biggest drop in interest occurs. By encouraging more girls to code and learn about computers while they are young, Reshma hopes to empower more women to become ‘change agents’ in their communities and to actively contribute to an economy whichthey largely make up: the Internet.
· Women are responsible for 85% of all online consumer purchases and with 600% greater social media usage than men
· In 2014 only 75,000 women graduated from computer science across the U.S.
· One of the biggest and fastest growing companies on this list with backing from AOL, Google, Microsoft and AT&T
· Established in 2012 with a class of just 20 girls, Girls Who Code now supports 40,000 women across all 50 states
2. Ida Tin, Clue, Copenhagen / Berlin
One of the pioneers of #FemTech, Ida Tin has created a product that has filled a huge and largely unspoken gap in the market—female sexual health. Her app, Clue, allows women to easily track their monthly cycle with a user-friendly, intuitively designed app that fits in with women’s daily, or monthly, lives. Tin’s vision for her product was to take menstruation “out of taboo land” and to start “a reproductive health revolution.”
“So long!” mysteries of womanhood, “Hello!” awareness and empowerment! This app will improve the life of anyone currently experiencing monthly cycles, and for that we can thank Ms. Tin.
· Clue was initially released in 2013 and is available on iOS, Android and Apple watch
· The app has over 2.5 million users in 180 different countries
· The startup raised $10 million from various backers including Union Square Ventures, Mosaic Ventures
· Before her start-up success, Ida Tin led motorcycle tours around the world and published a bestselling book about the experience
3. Anu Duggal, Female Founders Fund, NYC
Anu Duggal is a successful serial entrepreneur turned founding partner of Female Founders Fund. The company’s focus is on areas where women have the most impact which, as we already learned, means e-commerce and other web-enabled products and services.
Self-described as “an early-stage fund investing in the exponential power of exceptional female talent,” Female Founders Fund seeks to address the issue of women receiving significantly less financing than men. Their motto: “It’s not just about women. It’s about talent.”
· Anu Duggal previously set up e-commerce company Exclusively.Com
· FFF was established in 2013 and now has 26 companies within their portfolio
· Duggal holds an MBA from the London Business school and speaks fluent French
4. Ayah Bdeir, LittleBits, Lebanon / NYC
Ayah Bdeir is the owner of New York City based startup that provides the ‘Lego of electronics’ as well as a high-profile speaker on the importance of creating gender neutral STEM/STEAM tools for children and adults alike. Bdeir has been recognised by Fast Company as one of the “Most Creative People in Business,” and was named a fellow by Creative Commons. Her work with open source hardware and the democratisation of technology has made her a pioneer of the Maker Movement, earning her endless respect within the technology sector.
Her product, LittleBits are easy to use, snap together modular building blocks which enable users to easily create any invention that comes to mind.
· Launched in September 2011 and now available in over 7 countries
· So far, the open source library has over 60 modules with plenty more to come
· Bdeir has been a speaker at TEDX and SXSW about her vision of the future for open source technology
· Alongside being a founder, Bdeir is also an interactive artist who explores the representations of identity within the Arab world
5. Melanie Mohr, YEAY, Berlin
As only the second female founder ever backed by their venture capital funder, you know Melanie Mohr has something special to offer the world. Her new company, YEAY, is described as what you would get if “eBay and Snapchat had a baby.”
The app provides a platform for users to sell items with vertical videos, a game changer for the current mobile shopping market. With female leaders primed to take over the e-commerce world, expect to see big things from Mohr and her young company. “Mobile video shopping is the future,” says Mohr. “In five years, traditional e-commerce websites will be the same as how we look at mail-order catalogues now.”
· Mohr previously ran her own media platform APOLLO.TV, a creative space for viewers to watch videos on the latest in art, design and technology
· YEAY launched its open public beta version in June this year, prior to the launch the app already gained 7.5 million followers on social media platforms
· The company has 35 employees from 13 nationalities with 49% female ratio
· One of the fastest growing startups in Berlin they are on track to continue this expansion within the global market, with forecasts of doubling their user base and tripling the number of sellers on the app in the next three months
6 & 7. Tatiana Livesey & Diana Isac, Winerist, Moldova / UK
Tatiana Liesy and Diana Isac are more girl bosses solving a problem within e-commerce, this time for wine loving tourists. Their website,Winerist, is a global wine traveling platform dedicated to helping wine lovers find the perfect destinations with their free online booking service.
The pair have spoken widely and publicly about the challenges being female founders, and business owners in general. Their article “Beware of Startup Prostitution” is a good read for anyone thinking of starting a “glorified small to medium enterprise.” They give well grounded tips for entrepreneurs that are based on their own experience.
· Featured in Harper’s, Financial News, Los Angeles Times, Tech City News, and more
· Winerist won Travel Website of the Year in 2014
· Both Livesy and Isaac were born in Moldova and they moved to London where they worked in finance for several years
· In 2011 they decided to pursue their true passion, and came together to create Winerist
8. Akiko Naka, Wantedly, Japan
Akiko Naka is the founder and CEO of social recruiting site, Wantedly. Naka’s advice to female entrepreneurs is to, “not be too conscious about your gender,” and to hope that you gain an advantage in terms of publicity for being a minority in your industry. She created her product to help reduce the amount of people unhappy in their careers.
· Wantedly is the largest social recruiting site in Japan with over 1 million active users and around 15,000 corporate clients
· Naka started building Wantedly at the very young age of 26 and has previously worked at Facebook Japan and Goldman Sachs
· Naka will be a speaker at Slush, Helsinki this year and spoke at Bloomberg Tech Conference earlier in 2016
9. Aisha R. Pandor, SweepSouth, South Africa
Aisha founded SweepSouth in South Africa in 2014 with her husband, to assist homeowners find reliable and trustworthy employees to help with chores and housework. The platform allows homeowners to quickly and easily arrange a house cleaning service and aspires to bring new tech to an industry that is lagging behind the times.
Although a female founder in her own right, Pandor also credits the complementary skills of her business partner, her husband and co-founder, Alen Ribic.
· Pandor is looking to expand her business to include services like plumbing, grocery shopping, nanny services, and so on, for a one-stop-shop to a happy home
· Her background lies in science, having received a PhD from the University of Cape Town in Human Genetics
· She also holds a Business Management certificate from the UCT Graduate School of Business where she was the first student to graduate with two different qualifications on the same day
10. Sic Zhang, Momo, China
Another one of the big players, this app reportedly boasts 60 million users who are all looking for love, friendship and community in China with Zhang Sichuan’s Momo. After graduating from South China Normal University with a Graphic Design degree, Sic Zhang has proven herself to be an incredible business woman, showing that an MBA is not a requirement to excel in your career.
· Zhang is one of five founders of the extremely popular social app in China
· She now leads the development team in the US markets for offshoot company Blupe, another location-based social networking app
· Previously, Zhang also founded a company called 4 degrees motion design
Callie Payne is a freelance writer who covers the startup tech scene, particularly in her current home city, Berlin. Follow her on Twitter.