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 industry women 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 hear from Christina Bechhold, Co-Founder of Empire Angels, a member-led, New York City-based angel group comprised of young professionals who are making smart investments in and offering support to early stage technology ventures, with a focus on young, US-based entrepreneurs.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurship in New York?
Entrepreneurship can be intimidating; it takes tremendous confidence, and women tend to judge themselves very critically. I would love to see increased awareness of the many resources available to first-time entrepreneurs, and for event organizers to ensure that they are including and highlighting female founders. Investors need to make sourcing and evaluating more female-led companies a defined goal. There should also be a concerted effort by schools to encourage more female students to explore business, computer science and technology.
What is being done that you like presently?
There seems to be a louder, broader conversation throughout the local early stage community about supporting female entrepreneurs, which is important and encouraging. There are also a growing number of women focused Meetups and events gaining real traction, from NY Tech Women to Female Founders, which suggests more women are stepping up to help one another.
Are you involved in any organizations that help to promote female entrepreneurship?
I enjoy meeting with as many female entrepreneurs as I can; even if they are focused on an area in which I don’t personally invest, I never say no to a meeting with a female founder. Giving feedback, words of encouragement and a warm introduction to someone relevant in my network is the least I can do.
From an investor’s perspective, do you think there is a different mindset on the part of investors when it comes to investing in a woman-run company?
As a young, female angel investor, I am often the only or one of very few women in the room at pitches and industry events. The early stage investment community, globally, is male dominated. As a result, women entrepreneurs can be at a disadvantage, particularly if their idea is focused on a female user or customer base. I am finding though that some of that is generational: Empire Angels’ member base, which is currently mostly male, consistently voices support for female led or focused companies. Our first investment was in a fashion tech start-up. Strong teams and great ideas should be gender indifferent.
From your corporative perspective, do you think women in top roles at major companies are scrutinized more closely than their male counterparts?
If they were not, we would have many more female Fortune 500 CEOs and Board of Directors members. If you work hard and deliver results, gender should not matter. I’m very hopeful we will move closer to that standard as my generation comes of age.
Where do you and your company fit into the ecosystem?
I am an angel investor and co-founder of an angel network harnessing the collective capital of individual young professionals to support start-ups founded by young entrepreneurs. I am particularly eager to encourage more young, female professionals to participate in early stage investing.