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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 Kris Jandler, founder of Emojibator. With a trajectory towards a career in politics, Kris moved to NYC to pursue a career in adtech. After completing a digital marketing course, Kris and her cofounder created the eggplant emoji vibrator — the Emojibator. While it started as a joke, Kris became more serious about sex tech in NYC and became passionate about de-stigmatizing sex toys and masturbation. While many still deem it ‘inappropriate’, Kris is doing her part by creating medical-grade silicone sex toys. Kris is a celebrated author, with her work being featured in 100+ publications, including The New York Times, The Guardian, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Buzzfeed, and Mashable.
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
I graduated magna cum laude from the University of Delaware in 2014 with my Bachelors in Public Policy. In sum, I spent 6 years believing I was meant to succeed in politics: I moved to Washington, DC and worked for progressive nonprofits and digital agencies to advance millennial-led policy issues. Then, I learned how to leverage the powers of social media and the Internet to drive action and conversations. However, I was completely uninspired to grow professionally in our corrupt system of special interest policymaking. On the eve of 2016, I moved back home to NYC to pursue a tech career in marketing operations. Within six months, I completed a digital marketing course, got a new job at a tech recruiting firm, and my best friend and I launched our first business: Emojibator. We created the eggplant-emoji vibrator as a joke, but quickly activated our global audience of people who love our humorous brand’s empowering mission: to make women feel more comfortable masturbating and to increase the number of female orgasms.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
Contrary to popular belief, women like helping other women. As a first-time female entrepreneur, the most generous and badass female founders in New York City welcomed me to their community of Women in Sex Tech. Polly Rodriguez of Unbound and Alexandra Fine of Dame Products both shared their friendship and strategic advice for growing a business in one of the most difficult and competitive markets. My business would not have grown as quickly without women like them supporting me and elevating our success as the sex tech industry’s collective progress forward.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
The sex tech industry in particular needs the financial infrastructure options to open up for our businesses, and not automatically labeled as inappropriate or taboo. By 2020, the sex tech industry is estimated to be valued at $20 billion. There is no reason to limit the number of sex-positive startups like Emojibator from accessing the necessary capital and strategic resources to grow our ideas from side-hustles to venture-backed companies.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
Diversity is the vehicle to progress and involves various perspectives and experiences being represented in our institutions. Given the tech industry’s stereotypical “struggle” with diversity, I’ve been fortunate to meet leaders in NY’s tech community that want to elevate women and other minorities in their organizations. However, this cycle of recruiting new talent to tech requires them to have access to the skills-education they need to be competitive in the job market. We have to support both ends of this challenge to move diversity to the forefront of the tech industry.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
It’s important because a woman has every right to that senior seat at the table as a man does. There is no need for debate beyond that. My full-time job outside of Emojibator is with a female-founded tech recruiting firm whose employees are over 80% women. It’s an incredible environment to learn and grow. I am inspired by the success of my colleagues in senior management positions, as they are the role models I’ve been seeking ever since I left politics. We have to inspire our girls and young women to not limit their minds to their immediate surroundings, but to instill and cherish their self-confidence.
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
We can’t rely too much on technology when our teams are more geographically dispersed than ever before. Although Emojibator can definitely achieve more as a remote business, my partner and I know that we are the most productive and happiest when we’re face to face working on the needs of the business. I think it’s important to prioritize spending time with coworkers that is meaningful and not always “work-work-work-work-work.”
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
Women have to seek out and stay loyal to the organizations and businesses that outwardly and proudly support elevating women in their organization. Our wallets are powerful. Doing so, we can collectively condemn the companies that are not authentic or fair in their treatment of employee productivity.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
The Women of SexTech and Tech Ladies.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Men need to have candid conversations with the women in their lives and take the important actions to elevate their voice with their own. It’s a matter of not being afraid to be wrong, or to say something stupid. Tell the women you care about that you want to know about the challenges they face. The fears they have if the future is not female. Men are allowed to have opinions, but they have to be open-minded to new ideas. Technology helps us achieve this group-mindset environment, inviting an unprecedented amount of men to join women in our action-oriented discussions.
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.