8 female CEOs on bridging the gender gap in tech

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Hannah Ransom, Community Specialist, Global Innovators, World Economic Forum


The technology industry is booming – in the first quarter of 2021, global venture investments reached $125 billion (a 94% year on year increase). But if a rising tide lifts all boats, why has the inclusion and participation of women in tech not also shot up?

According to the most recent Global Gender Gap Report, it will now take 135.6 years to reach gender parity, up from about 100 years in 2020. Here, we meet 8 women CEOs and 2021 Technology Pioneers, who are working to change this statistic.

Amena Ali, CEO, Airside

On the work she is doing now

Airside’s Digital Identity Network provides secure and convenient digital identity management in a way that protects personal information and meets privacy regulations.

On facing and overcoming challenges

“I have come to find that creating a business and scaling it will not always be an ‘up and to the right’ dynamic. Setbacks are inevitable, whether on the front with a customer, partner, or your own team. To learn and bounce back from challenges, it’s critical to do retrospectives with the team. Doing so is key to building the company’s perseverance and resilience, and as a leader, you need to model that for the organization. In some ways, I think women can keep everyone’s egos in check and behave in a way that best leads the way through organizational challenges.”

Luan Cox, Founder and CEO, Finmkt.io

On the work she is doing now

FinMkt is revolutionizing point-of-sale consumer lending through its omni-channel, multi-lender, software-as-a-service platform.

On getting more women in leadership in tech

“It needs to start with changing the perception of what qualifies ‘a founder’ within our global culture: This begins by teaching and coaching young people that successful entrepreneurs are not classified or limited by gender. If young males are taught early that females can be impactful leaders and entrepreneurs, they will be more supportive and better able to recognize success. Young women should learn that they are equal to men, and can and must dream big: women must know that they can be even better business builders (especially in technology, life sciences and finance). Additionally, venture capital firms and angel investor groups would do well to create and invest in mentorship and training programmes in their communities that provide tools and guidance that encourage more young females to start their own companies knowing they are supported by an inclusive network.”

Mikela Druckman, Co-founder and CEO, GreyParrot

On the work she is doing now

GreyParrot provides AI-based computer vision waste recognition software to monitor, audit and sort large flows of recyclables at scale.

On getting more women in leadership in tech

“Firstly, we have to stop celebrating hyperbolic visions of founders and value different metrics of progress and success. Women will have a tendency to downplay or be more cautious in their projections, but are equally capable of building great ambitious companies. Secondly, we need to normalize the combination of family life with entrepreneurship. Many women will hesitate to start a company because of the perceived all-consuming lifestyle of a start-up founder and expectations of investors. In reality, a good founder will lead a ‘sustainable’ lifestyle that allows to build a company over five-10 years, and this should include the possibility of having a family. The ecosystem should celebrate female or male founders having families and discourage the narrative of the sleep-deprived, over-worked founders as the only way to success. Finally, we need more women in partner positions in VC firms to create a more balanced investment community that is attractive and welcoming to female founders too.”

Maria Carolina Fujihara, Founder & CEO, SINAI Technologies

On the work she is doing now

SINAI Technologies is mitigating climate change by enabling organizations with digitized tools for intelligent carbon emissions measurement, reporting and mitigation option assessment.

On facing and overcoming challenges

“Besides being a female founder, I’m also a Brazilian female immigrant. I moved to the US four years ago (I bought my own ticket!) and had to build an entire life from scratch, not only a company. Latin female founders represent only 4% of all female founders in the US. The biggest challenge was at the very early stages, when I was still trying to figure out my own voice and didn’t have the baggage needed to position myself, I was constantly judged because of the way I look, my gender, my accent. I tried to make friends, but I didn’t have the money to hang out with them, go out for dinners and mingle. Being very focused on my decision, trusting myself and my passion, listening to my intuition, my gut, and being my authentic self no matter what, was the only way to overcome the judgement, the exclusion and the fear of being an impostor.”

Priya Lakhani, Founder and CEO, CENTURY Tech

PRIYA LAKHANI IS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF CENTURY TECH, A COMPANY DESIGNING AND TRIALING ED TECH SOFTWARE THAT IMPROVES TEACHERS WORKFLOW AND UNDERSTANDING OF WHICH PUPILS NEED FURTHER HELP WITH THEIOR LEARNING.©RUSSELL SACH - 0771 882 6138

On the work she is doing now

CENTURY develops world-leading AI-based learning technologies. Its team of teachers, neuroscientists and technologists develop AI tools for schools and colleges, as well as for learning and development environments.

On getting more women in leadership in tech

“If we are to encourage more girls to consider careers as start-up founders, we need to start by encouraging them to take more calculated risks from an early age. There is no part of start-up life that doesn’t include taking big, calculated risks, so it tends to only attract people who are more inclined that way. That tends to lean towards men, at least partly because of how we raise girls with far more caution. It stems from everything like protecting girls when playing more than boys, which research has found to be prevalent among parents, to the types of role models girls see in these industries. But I am confident that we are heading in the right direction and that being a start-up founder is an incredible opportunity regardless of your gender.”

Nita Madhav, CEO, Metabiota

On the work she is doing now

Metabiota harnesses data science, provides analytical tools and delivers hands-on support, helping governments and businesses around the world mitigate and transfer the health and economic risks posed by infectious disease.

On facing and overcoming challenges

“This might sound like a cliche, but whether it’s establishing technical credibility or a presence in the boardroom, I’ve often felt that I’ve had to strive to be extraordinary and prove myself to a greater degree, working 10 times harder just for people to take me seriously. I don’t know if the main reason is due to being female, or if it is my understated, introverted personality, but I feel like some combination thereof means I don’t fit the preconceived notion of what a CEO is, and it can be difficult to overcome other people’s biases, whether they are implicit or explicit. It’s been my observation that a person who fits the more ‘traditional’ CEO mold seems to be given a certain amount of assumed baseline credibility, while for those who don’t fit the mould, it is not just a given, and it can be a battle just to get there.”

Ruth Poliakine Baruchi, Founder and CEO, Myndyou

On the work she is doing now

MyndYou’s AI-powered virtual care assistant takes population health and patient care management to an entirely new level.

On the strengths of women founders

“Every entrepreneur, regardless of gender, has different skills, experiences and goals. But in my experience, female entrepreneurs are reliable, responsible and attentive. Relationships and collaboration are important to them. I think, too, that women entrepreneurs tend to see how a solution, product or technology can benefit society at large. My company built a groundbreaking commercial solution, but it grew out of my desire to improve the life, health and independence of older adults who are living at home.”

Jutta Steiner, CEO, Parity Technologies

On the work she is doing now

Parity Technologies is a core blockchain infrastructure company. It is creating an open-source creative common that will enable people to create better institutions through technology.

On getting more women in leadership in tech

“I’ve gotten this question a lot, and the key for me is that rather than asking, “Why aren’t there more women? or “How do we get more women interested?”, we should highlight the great work being done by women already here, and use that as an invitation for others to come and build on our successes.” Technology

Who are the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers?

Launched in 2000, the Technology Pioneer community is composed of early to growth-stage companies from around the world that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies and innovations, and are poised to have a significant impact on business and society.

By joining this community, Technology Pioneers begin a two-year journey where they are part of the World Economic Forum’s initiatives, activities and events, bringing their cutting-edge insight and fresh thinking to critical global discussions.

Meet the Technology Pioneers cohort of 2021. This year we’re bringing together 100 early to growth-stage companies from around the world that are pioneering new technologies and innovations.

Apply here to become a Technology Pioneer of the World Economic Forum.

On the strengths of women founders

“Being a successful leader is as much about listening as it is dictating, and I tend to find the women around me listen more actively and internalize that information before taking an action, which I believe can help us make better decisions when it counts.”

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