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 Dana Levin-Robinson, the Chief of Staff at VirtualHealth, a company that uses cutting-edge technology to speed up patient care while reducing the high costs of hospitalizations. Prior to joining VirtualHealth, she was a Senior Account Executive at the CDM Group and the Senior Marketing Manager at AccentHealth. Dana is a very active member of the NYC tech community, serving as a mentor to the NYU Stern Women in Business. Dana gave us a candid and honest perspective on the challenges of being a woman in NYC tech.
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
My background is tech-adjacent- I started my career in a digital advertising agency, completed my MBA at NYU Stern, and spent some time working on media tech. I never truly worked for a tech company until my current role. I think there are two dimensions to consider when entering this world – entering tech and entering startups. People often use both interchangeably, but there’s a big difference working in Amazon and working at a 10 people post-Series A company. I knew I would love working at a startup by helping build something and seeing the effects of my work immediately. Tech was a tougher call- I’m not a coder and it can be intimidating to work on a product you’re not building yourself. But I’m a healthcare person at heart and there’s an incredible opportunity for tech to change how our industry is run.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
There are fantastic, supportive communities that are doing great work encouraging women to enter tech, deal with challenges at work, and advance their career. Many senior women in tech, myself included, consider mentorship part of their roles. I see a real camaraderie in our industry of women helping other women start out.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
One of the critical things companies can do is keep a close eye on their talent pipeline by making sure women are half of the resumes, half of the interviews, and half of the offers. If you notice any deviation, it’s worth exploring why that shortage is happening and whether that is something the company can address. For example, a company can ask a recruiter to source a balanced set of resumes or ensuring candidates interview with a diverse team. I’m proud that say we don’t see any issues at VirtualHealth- 50% of our leadership and 45% of the entire company is female.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
Diversity means not just gender, but race, backgrounds, and perspectives. At VirtualHealth, we have intentionally hired from outside of healthcare, so we can build a team that thinks beyond the limits of our industry. I see companies approach diversity inconsistently- there are a lot of companies only hire people who have done exactly the same position and it’s hard for outsiders to enter. On the other hand, I optimistically think we will see an increasing amount of diversity in the next few years and companies intentionally build their teams with that in mind.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
The best way for companies to avoid bias is to ensure that multiple perspectives are represented, and it’s critically important for these perspectives to be at the highest level of a company. It’s hard to build a diverse team if leadership doesn’t find it important since everything from hiring practices, company culture, and policies can be affected.
Given your expertise, are there any interesting applications that you have seen that can overcome issues with gender bias?
I think bias appears most on the social side – more men in tech has meant that more men recommend their friends for roles. While I completely understand companies, especially earlier stage ones, want to hire quickly, there’s a long term-benefit in making sure the candidate pool is balanced from the beginning.
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?
There was a study recently about VC’s asking female-led teams similar questions as male-led teams but in a more defensive and pessimistic tone, which resulted in the former groups’ ideas seeming less promising and profitable. This can be solved in a simple way: VC’s should use an internal list of standardized questions and track the difference of where their funding goes.
I’m a big fan of several organizations that promote women: Tech Ladies, a wonderful Facebook community that has job posts, speaking opportunities, and general advice for women with all kind of backgrounds and ages; fairygodboss, a helpful website that provides the information about companies that benefit summary sheets don’t such as parental leave, work/life balance, and culture; and NYU’s Stern Women in Business group of which I’m both a mentor and alum.
How much do you think casual sexual harassment and misconduct affects a woman’s career?
I consider myself lucky to have not experienced sexual harassment that affected my career and am probably not the best person to answer this question.
What can men do to support this movement and/or participate in this discussion?
There are a few things men can do to support more women in tech. A diverse talent pipeline is critical regardless of whether HR is led by a man or a woman. Everyone needs to ensure that their companies are being built with a variety of perspectives and if they’re not, look to rectify it with additional external recruiting or reaching out to niche communities. In addition, men who are putting together conferences, events, or articles highlighting achievements in tech need to ensure their roster is better balanced. I constantly see conferences with an all-male lineup where a simple search could have found many qualified women for the same spot.
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.