Much has been said and written about the lack of women in the tech sector, be it as investors (or associates), founders or in management positions at major companies. Is the problem the old boys network – or that success in technology is seen as a young man’s game? In this series, we speak with some of the top industry women in New York as they discuss the challenges they face, the perceptions that need to be changed and the work that’s being done – or not – to help to promote women in tech.
Today we hear from Carley Roney, Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of XO Group Inc. (NYSE: XOXO), formerly The Knot Inc., a global media and technology company devoted to weddings, pregnancy and everything in between.
What was/is the biggest challenge facing you as a female entrepreneur?
Getting enough beauty rest! All kidding aside: I bet my challenges are the same as my male counterparts: finding the right talent to grow my business, having enough hours in the day for all the things I want to do.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurship in New York?
I’ve found this city to be very open to female entrepreneurs. NYC has always had a model of powerful, brilliant female businesspeople, particularly in media (Gerry Laybourne, Susan Lyne, Cathy Black) so female entrepreneurs weren’t a big leap. Also, since many of the early digital companies in NYC were founded by women, we’ve had a built-in support network.
What is being done that you like presently?
I love to be involved with young startups because it is so hard to start from the ground up without any guidance. I recently spoke at the Dell Women’s Entrepreneurship Network Dinner and this is a perfect example of events taking place that can help encourage female entrepreneurship.
Are you involved in any organizations that help to promote female entrepreneurship? Or, do you do anything personally to help promote women in technology?
I am on the board of a female founded company I love, Rent The Runway. We have an event space at XO that we offer gratis to folks like Dell Women’s Entrepreneurship Network and Techonomy. We love empowering girls in tech! And I keep my schedule open to meet with 2–3 women entrepreneurs every month – and I am as open and honest and helpful as possible in that hour!
Do you feel investors have a different mindset when it comes to investing in a woman-run company? For example, does the work/life balance issue come up?
Of course it does. Because it is a natural question: How is this person going to cope with the very real demands of being a mom while running a start up? How long do we have before she’ll want a baby? Does it seem like she’ll be the type to hand over the care to a nanny? Or are they going to want to work less? Travel less? No one says it out loud, of course, but these questions are in the equation.
Do you think that women in top roles at major tech companies are scrutinized more closely than their male counterparts?
Only for their outfits! The extra demand on women is that we not only need to be whip smart and hardworking, we also need to be stylish and 100% pulled together at all times. That takes an extra hour a day that guys don’t have to deal with.
Where do you and your company fit into the ecosystem?
We are NYC’s poster child for a creating a real brand and a real business. As one of the earliest tech startups in NYC, XO has always been a trailblazer in the digital media/content space. With our launch property, TheKnot.com, we were literally the first to do much of what seems common on the Internet today. We built the first CMS, we pioneered the first online advertising formats, we founded the first niche social network, we launched the first “photo galleries” with “scrapbooking”, and we even premiered the first 24/7 streaming TV channel! But most of all, we are known for 1) being the first true brand created online that is truly successful in other media, such as magazine/books/TV and 2) being one of the only NYC media startups to go public and be profitable to this day.
Photo credit: Vimeo