Are you a woman in NYC Tech and interested in participating in this series? Make sure to read the whole article…
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 women in tech 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 speak with Bryony Cole, former Yammer and Microsoft employee, currently running Future of Sex. Bryony is a sextech expert who speaks globally about the impact technology is having on intimacy. Her podcast, Future of Sex, is part of the Walkley Foundation and Google Media Incubator program reaching thousands each month to explore the merging worlds of sex and tech. The project has been dubbed by Mashable as “the podcast helping women to build the future of sextech”. Bryony is based in New York and hails from Melbourne, Australia.
Bryony Cole, Future of Sex
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
As founder of Future of Sex, I have always been motivated to explore how humans and technology develop and influence each other.
I moved to New York from Melbourne, Australia five years ago with Yammer, which was acquired for $1.2B by Microsoft. I went on as head of community and thought leadership at Microsoft, and then several roles with other enterprise technology companies before striking out on my own.
Moving into the intersectionality of technology and sexuality was an outcome of research at a think tank for the next 30 years of nightlife. I saw a real gap in conversation in the broader business and tech world around the impact technology is having on intimacy. I launched Future of Sex, a podcast to bring ‘sextech’ into the public domain and consider how the innovations we create, invest, and use are influencing our behavior and human development.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
Being a woman in tech naturally has its blessings and curses. There have been times when clients thought I was there to take notes in the meeting, rather than run the workshop. Then there are the times where you are favored opportunities because “we need a woman in tech.”
A great advantage of being a woman right now is the burgeoning femtech market. JWT Intelligence Report has called 2017 the year of ‘vagina-nomics’. There is no segment better poised to lead the growth in this sector than the half of the population it is intended for.
I love seeing women in tech lead markets specifically geared toward them, from Katherine Zaleski at remote-work for women in tech start-up Power to Fly to Miki Agrawal’s underwear company Thinx.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
I think it’s important to demystify what it means to work as a woman in tech throughout all stages of life. There is plenty of marketing toward women for entry-level skills, but there are many different stages at which you can enter a career in tech. Highlighting the various pathways for women throughout their working life, such as those taking a second charge at their careers, those pursuing flexible work, or working as the major breadwinners. These are storylines that compete with the traditional hustle-till-dawn overnight success of entrepreneurship that attracts graduates, but I believe these are the real stories that inspire and help women understand how entrepreneurship or a career in technology might work for them.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
It’s about every single person working in technology thinking differently about everything from how we recruit to how roles are defined; providing women, people of color and other underrepresented groups the opportunity to succeed and add value.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
Moving women into senior roles inside organizations is a necessary signal boost for the whole industry around diversity and its outcomes.
Obviously on a personal level, senior experience is invaluable professional growth that will serve you well when you branch out on your own. For the organization, research has been done into the financial benefits (amongst many others) in retaining women inside the organization.
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
The future of teams will be about enriching business with more humanity. And by default, that’s a diverse industry. Creativity, mystery, intuition and all the ‘human’ characteristics that will be a competitive advantage as machines take the more technical roles we currently employ people to do. We must look to how we develop future-forward skills with all of our workforce, with everybody. Teams will be more and more about how women, men, and technology work together as a team, rather than technology just as a tool.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
Women can rise by finding their champions. Often we become frustrated with traditional models of mentorship and struggle to find someone to champion them because the mentor does not have time, or sees it as an additional workload.
I believe in breaking the traditional mold of mentorship, meaning you don’t necessarily need a mentor directly above you in rank or older, but instead can find your champions through lateral networks, who can offer honest feedback, help you prioritize your time and relay opportunities.
Importantly, don’t do anything in a bubble! The unseen barriers to rising can be to do with your own concept of self. Women consistently underestimate themselves, keeping themselves out of positions of power. The sorts of questions you will wrestle with when you arrive in New York are:
Can I still be feminine and strong? Can I be myself to get ahead?
It helps to unpack to examine these with your peers and develop a clear sense of your strengths and value so you can be your own cheerleader.
I’ve been passionate about alternative mentoring structures for a while now. If you are interested you can see my presentation here.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
I’ve been involved with the incredible Women of Sex Tech for the past year and found many close allies and collaborators through this group. If you are interested in a career in sextech I strongly recommend you join. I’ve also found the Summit to be a close knit, supportive community in New York across a range of industries, they also hold specific events for women. Ladies Get Paid helps women rise up at work and offers regular town halls to share challenges and workshops to solve them. Finally in the podcast world, LADIO, for ladies in radio, is a listserve where opportunities and learnings are shared daily.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Take action with women through listening, promoting, sharing a seat at the table, ensuring there is equality on panels and public platforms, or developing their skills. According to the World Economic Forum predicts we won’t reach global gender equality in the workplace until 2185. The more people that participate in bringing women into the tech industry, the more successful we will be.
The team at AlleyWatch believes it’s important to have an inclusive discussion around the challenges facing women in tech along with highlighting the work of the female entrepreneurs that have made NYC one of the best places for women in tech according to some recent studies. That’s why we are running this series that showcases women in tech in New York.
If you are a female founder in NYC working in tech and interested in participating in the series please visit this link or click on the image above.
Please feel free to pass this on to any women in NYC that you feel should be considered for the series. Thank you