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 three-time founder Anne Kavanagh. Born with an entrepreneurial spirit, Anne is guided by her personal mission to build technology that contributes to people’s lives in an impactful way. Her most recent venture Steereo incentivizes rideshare drivers to play songs from emerging and independent artists in their cars, facilitating discovery for the artists and allowing the driver to earn incremental income. Anne joins us today to share some insights on the changing landscape for women in tech and her personal involvement in various groups dedicated towards fostering a more honest discussion about creating a diverse and inclusive ecosystem.
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
I tried college for a couple of months, but my learning style wasn’t conducive to traditional academic education. Once my parents realized I wasn’t going to follow a traditional path, I was encouraged to simply “figure it out”. Without formal education I had to choose a profession that allowed me to develop skills I could use in any company or industry, so I got into sales. After working with a sales and marketing company for about a year, I transitioned into advertising, which was my first exposure to working in an environment where we had an expectation of generating millions of dollars in revenue every year. A couple of years in, I came to the realization that I could do it on my own, if I had a product to sell. New York City provides access to so many opportunities, a big part of accessing those opportunities is hard work, your network and the ability to follow through. If you are genuinely engaged in what you are doing and building a product or company that solves real problems, the sheer size of the market allows you to grow as an entrepreneur. Finding people and communities that support your growth is key. Make sure you are surrounded by people who will guide you through the process and support you through the challenges of building a business.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
The female entrepreneur community in NYC is incredible. There are lots of people supporting women in tech. One of the biggest advantages is there’s an underground movement of strong women coming together to support each other and help facilitate each others growth. Organizations are also realizing the importance of nurturing female entrepreneurs, so many times you are presented opportunities, introductions, and education. Also, as a woman there’s a level of vulnerability and honesty you can have around your experiences. I think we need more of that in the industry. More empathy and vulnerability.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
Education and conversation. I think we talk at each other vs talk with each other. Much of the biases and miscommunications come from our experiences. We can’t change the past but we can change the future. We need to build an environment where we can understand each other better, I think we have a long way to go in private financing and tech but I think if the city and government continues their efforts in providing opportunities for women and minority led businesses, then other organizations will have no option than to follow suit. If corporations support local and city governments, then they can invest in schools and educational programs that will help the next generation of female entrepreneurs.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
Diversity to me means building teams, companies, corporate structures, even social circles where we don’t even consider gender, race or age differences. It’s definitely evolving, but we have a long way to go. In our organization it’s not even a thing. Everyone is naturally treated the same irrespective of experience, position and gender. We encourage open and honest conversation about how we feel. We can only work to be better everyday and take baby steps towards making a difference.
You are now a three time founder. Do you see any marked improvement in the landscape for female entrepreneurs?
The interesting thing is as I gain more experience, I become more aware of it. It’s definitely great that there are a lot of discussions around gender biases in business, but I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
You’ve founded companies in adtech, real estate, and now music. Any observations on which verticals have been most friendly to female entrepreneurs?
Music definitely has more women in decision making and senior roles. However I don’t think that it’s related specifically to the industry. For example, I’ve never felt my gender made a difference in a sales or client interaction. But it definitely does for investment. With that said, the type of investors that are most friendly to me as a female entrepreneur are investors who truly believe in the product or have experience investing in the field.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
Teams need diversity. Not just gender, but across the board. Having female leaders within organizations mean that there are more women available to help pave the path for generations to come. Female growth is an important part of life, and is a part of the natural evolution of our society. Succeeding and watching people succeed inspires others to do so.
It’s statically proven that women-led companies are more successful than their male counterparts. Why do you think they still only get 2% of funding available for new ideas?
We often speak different languages. It’s the same as putting someone who speaks French in front of someone who speaks Italian and asking them to understand one another. It’s mostly men who control investment and we are asking them to learn a different language and perspective from what they are used to. In fact, there are many women I’ve encountered in investment positions that react the same, so maybe it’s more cultural than gender related. If you are used to being pitched by one profile type, then typically when you see something new or out the ordinary, unfortunately it’s going to seem unnatural. I also think ego has a big part to play and self-awareness around one’s actions.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
Dreamers and Doers, which is a membership based community, have some of the most incredible, supportive women I’ve ever encountered. I’m also working on producing a series called “The Glasshouse” with Like A Boss Girls — a platform for women to learn, while supporting one another. The Glasshouse is all about inclusion and communication. It’s co-hosted by both a guy and girl. Our goal is to create more inclusion discussions from both sides. The podcast will be released late spring.
How much do you think casual sexual harassment and misconduct affects a woman’s career?
I’ve been lucky that I’ve worked for myself for most of my career, so I choose who’s in my circle and who I interact with. However, looking inside some of my friends’ experiences I see a different world that I think is frightening. It definitely exists and has a major impact on women’s careers. But I think that organizations have a part to play in facilitating it. The saying “The devil finds work for idle hands” comes to mind. If you give people a healthy and challenging environment where teams are expected to respect each other, then people don’t have the time or intention to participate in behaviors that may be inappropriate. Companies and organizations have to set the bar in protecting women by creating zero tolerance policies.
What can men do to support this movement and/or participate in this discussion?
Keep an open mind and be curious. Ask questions and don’t just write-off a reaction from a female counterpart as “Oh you’re just being a girl”. Try to interpret things differently and ask clarifying questions. Also… be conscious of your ego. We all have one.
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.