Friday, June 29, 2012

Female Tech Entrepreneurs – A Slow but Steady Evolution

Since beginning my career as a lawyer for entrepreneurs focusing on the high-tech sector, I have to admit that at many networking events I have been a minority being a woman in attendance. Perhaps it’s something about the mind-set of traditional entrepreneurs (studies show that women are typically more risk-averse than men), or the stereotypical affinity of men to tech-related activities (see this article on how video games stimulate men’s brains more than women’s).
Despite these conceivably ingrained barriers to women’s involvement in the tech-entrepreneurial sector, however, there seem to be a growing number of counterpoints. For example, The Huffington Post explains that a growing body of evidence is disproving the notion that “men are the tech industry’s most coveted market.” According to a cited study, women in Western countries use a significantly higher percentage of technology than men. This includes both mobile phone and internet use, especially social media. One rationale for this trend is that this type of technology speaks to women’s traditional inclination toward “talking to each other, cooperation and being part of a group.” The explosion of Pinterest is a perfect example.
Another recent article in USA Today notes that the growth of female tech entrepreneurs reflects larger change in the world of technology. For example, women purportedly control 70% of online purchases worldwide (If you had sat next to my law school classmate Katrina, whose favorite websites were and, this would not surprise you –  I’m pretty sure she made some kind of shoe purchase every other day on her laptop during Federal Securities Regulation class). This statistic begs for the development of further applications and commercial sites tailored towards women.
Numbers support the emergence of women in the tech-entrepreneurial sector. The USA Today article states that the number of women founding tech companies in the U.S. doubled over the past three years. 89% of the high-tech IPOs in the U.S. in 2009 had at least one female officer. Last year’s grand prize winner of the Minnesota Cup was a company led by a woman. Finally, few months ago my fellow blogger Nevin Harwood posted about an Internet-based company founded by two women that was featured on ABC’s hit TV show Shark Tank.
There is definitely still progress to be made. The USA Today article cites the fact that still only 3% of tech start-ups today are led by women, and only 11.7% of computer-science bachelor degree graduates in 2010-2011 were female. It also notes that the recent economic downturn and drop in venture capital especially impacted women-led companies.
I remain an optimist, however, and truly believe that –  especially in Minnesota – the evolution of female tech entrepreneurs is just beginning.

A Post by Karen Wenzel, Guest Blogger

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