Are you a woman in NYC Tech and interested in participating in this series? Make sure to read the whole article…
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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 in tech.
Sara Rodell is the founder of Loop & Tie, the company making it easy for companies to connect with customers through gifting. A former equity sales broker on Wall Street, Sara has been active within the NYC tech community, regularly speaking and influencing the next generation of female leaders in tech. Loop & Tie is Seed funded and backed by Second Century Ventures. The company recently won the 2017 Salesforce Dreampitch competition from a field of thousands of competitors, earning the company an additional $250K.
Sara Rodell of Loop & Tie
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
Before starting Loop & Tie, I worked at UBS as an institutional equity sales broker. After spending way too much money and time on buying client holiday gift baskets, I became interested in the gifting industry and the dated processes businesses have when purchasing client and employee gifts. We designed our platform so businesses could treat customers to choices of unique gifts from makers around the US. Through gift choice, the exchange becomes a new source of client data and a conversation, rather than a symbolic gesture. Today’s platform is the result of testing different ideas and understanding the features that are important to our customers.
I left New York to move to Austin and get my company off the ground. Austin was a great environment for me to keep overhead low and work through the growing pains of starting a business. Unlike any other tech hub, New York has a diversity of industries and corporate headquarters that can be leveraged for business development opportunities. While our company still has a strong presence in Austin, I moved to New York to gain access to the growth and scale that’s more accessible in NYC.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
A core part of business growth is identifying your point of differentiation and owning that market position. I believe the same is true for personal growth. There aren’t many women in tech, which means there’s a core advantage by simply being different. Women bring different life experiences. Our advantage is owning those differences as inspiration and leading with them rather than trying to melt into the status quo.
While it can serve as an advantage, I think it’s key to not defend the position of being the only woman in the room–we need to build each other up. Having that minority position should feel galvanizing rather than intimidating. Women should take advantage of the fact that they have a key competitive differentiator and waste no time in their work to claim a visible leadership presence so that they can add value to their companies and inspire the next generation of female leaders. As the advantage of being the “only female in the boardroom” is thankfully competed away, we get to evolve higher orders of competitive differentiation that aren’t gender-based.
Corporate partnerships are key growth drivers for startups. If companies could focus on pilots with female-led startups it gives that startup invaluable access and provides a motivating example for women within the sponsoring company.
Mentorship is key to creating a thriving ecosystem. If each successful female leader coaches up the next generation, we create a network of support and growth that takes on its own momentum.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
Diversity is openness to ideas and people. Diversity is stepping outside of the same old pattern. Entrepreneurship and diversity are natural companions. Being an entrepreneur means being able to see and believe something that others don’t. It means giving an unproven thing a chance. Without embracing diversity the tech industry, or any industry, stifles its own potential
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
It’s important to have women in senior roles because diversity fosters innovation. We need people who come from different backgrounds and experiences so that the products being built and funded are representative of broad market opportunities and needs.
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
As teams become more diverse, I think there will be growing pains since differences can sometimes create discomfort. It’s important for leaders to foster empathy across their teams. It’s my hope that creating empathy across different social groups in the workplace will naturally extend into communities and have a positive social impact.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
Women can rise through manifesting and following their own confidence, even when it feels shaky or scary. Part of this is internal resolve; part of it is finding mentorship. Mentorship doesn’t always need to be from women. It’s important to know your context. Seeing how men, women and different age groups would solve a problem all serves to grow one’s perspective and creates better leaders. A more complete perspective drives a thoughtful approach. It takes time to rise and the path has many hurdles. Through resilience and camaraderie, setbacks can be fodder for future motivation.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
I do everything I can to contribute on a 1:1 basis. I speak on panels and use my experiences to be a visible example for other females interested in tech. I always respond to the women who contact me after events and do what I can to support their growth. I am a mentor for the Built By Girls organization, helping high school girls grow their confidence and networks in the tech community. I’m also a member of the Vinetta Collective, a group that supports and elevates female-founded companies through collaborative portfolio programing and a diverse mentor network.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Men can demonstrate inclusion, lead by example and have the presence to uncover and understand subconscious bias. I think a helpful management exercise is to pretend a female client is a male (and vice versa), and do an honest self-audit as to how gender impacts the way you communicate and interact. Understanding where one’s biases lie is both a humbling experience and an opportunity for major growth.
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.