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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.
Today we speak with Chau Mui, founder of the online travel magazine, We Were Wanderers. Coming from the advertising and TV production industry, Chau discovered a disconnect between travel blogs and the places we visit. Wanting to bring the human touch back to travel, Chau created We Were Wanderers to shift the discussion into a more humane and nuanced one. Still working in adverting as the head of business development with XY Content, Chau stays involved in the NYC tech ecosystem, using her passion to empower women across the world.
Chau Mui of We Were Wanderers
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
Traditionally, I come from a heavy content background, working in the advertising and commercial television production industry. I speak best in 60 second ads and copy that was trial, error and tested three ways to Sunday before ever making it’s way to your screen. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been much more liberal. As a travel blogger and writer for the past two years, I’ve traveled across 17 countries, experiencing adventures like watching the Olympics in Brazil last year to reuniting with long lost cousins and eating stinky tofu from a street stall in Hong Kong.
When I came back to NY last year, I found a huge niche in the travel content world for millennial travelers. There were only luxury travel guides or “quit your job and backpack” blogs, but no medium offering content millennial travelers like myself wanted to read. Where were the stories for young working professionals, eager to explore the world in all of it’s culture, people and textures who wanted more than a Top 10 destination list?
I’m teaming up with my cofounder and chief Strategist, Mark Cersosimo, a content and community manager at Vimeo to develop a platform for millennial travelers. It’s a website featuring curated articles, guides, stories, videos and photography featuring locals from around the world.
As a female entrepreneur in the tech world, my goal is to develop an efficient, easy to use and relatable platform that showcases honest, unfiltered stories that millennials can relate to and learn about the world. I truly believe that we are better people when we understand one another’s perspectives and cultures. My hope is that this will do just that.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
Being a female in tech is exciting!!! You don’t have to look very far to find an inspiring and badass female entrepreneur. Just get on the subway and you’ll see ads from female led startups – Away, Thinx, Lola. I can list off a handful of female led Startups, yet struggle to name 5 founders with most Fortune 500 companies. The best part is how women are solving problems for each other, which have been long accepted as the norm. It’s exciting to have a platform where we can finally have a voice, and make an impactful change that is more than a status update.
Because of the very chemical makeup of the startup world, the whole industry thrives on diversity, from women, from POC, from ideas, from solutions to problems. The tech industry has pinned that down, and there are more platforms, organizations and places for the industry trying to breed and help us succeed. This is the first time in my life where I have been surrounded by so many female leaders.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
Reframe the conversation.
People tend to think of an all for one band aid solution. Just like solving neighborhood crime isn’t adding more cops to the streets, but instead redeveloping the infrastructure and providing better school systems, affordable housing, job opportunities, after school activities, mental health assistance and better nutrition, we need to reframe the conversation.
Thought leaders in today’s tech companies need to ask, “What current problem do we have that prevents women from emerging in these roles, and am I adding to that? What can I do to alleviate that?”
It’s a simple solution. Ask women. Every single company in NYC should ask their staff what they can be doing to empower women. Send an anonymous Google survey about women’s past experiences in other companies have been like, what they think of the current situation and how we can make it better. I promise, every woman has a story.
As we reinforce the conversation, know that people will start to place females in positions just to fill that diversity quota. It comes from good intentions, but placing a woman on the board can’t be the only thing to change.
There has to be a shift in mindset from the higher ups that allows for her, new ideas, creatives and talent to be brought on board. You’d also be surprised how certain mentalities prohibit change, in both men and women. They should read and listen to those insights and have more of those conversations.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
Coming from the world of advertising I’ve seen firsthand what a lack of diversity does to not just an industry, but the entire nation. Earlier this year, we all saw how the Pepsi/ Kendall Jenner, #thankyoumattdamon and #Oscarssowhite debacles have played out.
Diversity is not about checking off boxes to make sure you fulfill the status quo. Diversity is about allowing different perspectives, ideas and voices make it to the surface so that better ideas are formed together, which benefit everyone and attack problems that were missed in the mainstream.
That means having people from different backgrounds come on board. The tech world is incredibly powerful to me. It’s an industry of people who are passionate self starters who have an innate desire to make something better. This is producing more diverse solutions, people, and founders.
With remote working, I think our companies are going to be more diverse, located all around the world with people and talents from different countries working together.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
When a glass ceiling is removed, everyone grows.
Having women develop into senior roles within their organizations is not only validating that individual, but everyone else within the company, male, female, young, LGBTQ, POC. It means that everyone is judged for their talents, work and ethos, not simply because they fit in with the boys club. It will inspire a new generation of women to be confident to speak up in meetings, apply for the higher position or start their own companies. It’s also about the ripple effect that our actions will have.
Driving diversity in leadership brings room for new ideas and approaches. People flock to great leadership, and a company with a dynamic and multifaceted leadership team will draw that type of talent.
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
Like Kobe. Swish.
Diverse environment allows for diverse voices and stories to be told. The most impacted ones are the people that aren’t even in our generation, but generation Z and the kids of tomorrow. Companies will develop into such a diverse group of female and POC leaders, a beautiful blend of colors, talents and skills – that it will be the new norm. For the next generation, they will grow up not knowing what a glass ceiling is. They’ll grow up knowing they are judged by their merit and character, not skin or sexuality or sex, and wouldn’t that just create the most beautiful world?
Smaller scale, I think teams will be more dynamic, collaborative and less hierarchical. More open format offices with remote teams from all over the world. Problems facing one country will affect it here. We will be tied together yet our teams may be more spread apart.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
There will always be barriers.
There are also people who are willing to help. Seek them, and be them.
It’s up to us to help one another up the ladder, speaking up for one another in boardrooms, motivating one another or just being a support system. The importance of supporting one another is essential, female leaders should make it their mission to mentor and help younger staff.
We need to restructure the system so that environments are open for women to flourish. Every single time another woman reaches the top, and is successful — it’s like another angel gets its wings. It instantly confirms for women everywhere that it is possible
The unseen barriers, sometimes are the very ones we put up ourselves. Sometimes we shut ourselves off from speaking in meetings, trying things because we think that we can’t.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
As I am relatively new to the tech world, I want to highlight a few organizations that I would like to be involved with including Girls Who Code, SCORE NYC and WE NYC.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Talk to women.
Ask your coworkers. Ask your female friends. At dinner or anytime. Ask all of them. Just ask them have they ever experienced sexism or glass walls in the office place and what could be done to fix that. You will be floored by the stories. I think you will learn a lot of insight from them, especially if they are your close families and friends – they will tell you their solutions. You just have to be open minded and listen and not engage in that type of behavior.
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.