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 Janett Martinez, CEO of Loomia, a smart farbic for wearables. Growing up in NYC, Janett studied design technology and previously freelancing as a programmer, board op and master electrician prior to launching her venture. Active in the NYC FashionTech scene, Janett is also extremely involved with with other organizations that help women advance in the tech world. Janett herself advocates for progress and runs her company under the same mantra.
Janett Martinez of Loomia
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
I was born and raised in NYC by two hard-working parents who embody drive and determination, as well as unshakeable optimism and thankfully passed those traits on to me. I studied Design Technology both at NYC Fame School and Emerson College, as well as audio engineering and freelanced as a programmer, board op and master electrician for various major and minor theatres/ production companies. Growing up in NYC makes the hustle and grind a birthright, built my network as a concierge, as PA’s for film companies. As a technician, spent plenty of time rigging up lights, building in woodshops and learning as much as I could about how things are made, and why.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
The element of surprise. Sure, it’s frustrating to be underestimated, but it’s delightful to open people’s minds. It’s also a huge asset to teams who realize that having women at the table prevents the kinds of mistakes made when you exclude 50 percent of the market from critical product or design decisions. This is a completely unscientific claim, but I also believe that women tend to see much further down the road, consider more variables, and have deeper insights into motivations for trends. I often liken the building power of women to nature, and men to man-made civilization. The natural world considers everything, unfolds, and has an eye for sustainability. I think many of the seismic waves going through several industries is due to the overrepresentation of masculine energies that tend to be more aggressive, resource heavy, and present focused. Women in tech have an exciting opportunity to tilt the scale back and make meaningful products that truly serve their users, not just stakeholders.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
Fighting the mirroring effect, improving “access”, and encouraging diverse definitions of what “woman in tech” can look like and mean. I have noticed that “women in tech” tends to lean heavily in one phenotype, and minority women fall under a separate classification, both in funding, and in access to educational resources. In some As an industry, we need to dismantle the innate desire to support what is like us, and what is familiar. Not every woman will want to learn to code, and expanding definitions of what jobs in tech means is just as critical to bringing women into the workforce. There has been a monolithic approach to what “tech” means, largely filtered by the pedestal of the valley, and that’s really only half the picture. We need women who have the insight to make meaning of big data. We need electrical and mechanical engineers. We need passionate mathematicians. We need to blur the line between art and design, because great design is art and great art is rooted in good design. We will only truly see a seismic shift in employment patterns when the groups with hiring power see it’s actually a huge liability to have technical teams that so poorly reflect the largest spending group in most economies.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
Here’s an unpopular opinion- not really. If we look at diversity as a box to check or a charitable/noble thing to do, we are doing it for the wrong reasons, and progress won’t be made at the pace it’s needed. Circling back to my previous point, if diversity was seen as a fundamental necessity in technical teams because of how it prevents the existence of echo chambers, and prevents embarrassing product mistakes (think automatic hand sinks that don’t respond to black hands) you’d see the business driven change we need. Until the decision makers see the lack of diversity affect their bottom line, and until they recognize the size of missed opportunities by not nurturing the brilliance in communities that aren’t white and male, we will still be having this conversation 5 years from now.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, to me, it’s about mitigating risk and ensuring you’ve got a 360 degree view of your market, landscape, competition, and organization. Why wouldn’t you want your leadership to be diverse? The markets you operate in are diverse. That kind of diversity prevents PR disasters like the Pepsi/Jenner, Shea Moisture mishandling, and I would bet would keep large long lasting corporations from being surprised by how their customers are shifting. To me, the overrepresentation of men in executive positions (and the financial fiascos of the last 15 or so years) shows we need much more pushback in board rooms, and people who take a longer view.
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
Initially, I think there will be many uncomfortable moments, resistance, and ultimately learning and iterating. I think there will also be a fair amount of unlearning about where revolutionary ideas come from. The historic precedent of minimizing or “acquiring” the accomplishments and contributions of POC and women is well known, and as originators of great work become more empowered to take “ownership”, that will inevitably lead to short lived, but tense teachable moments on how we can create truly productive and equitable workforces. I think that creativity and design will shift from being seen as accessories added at the end of technical masterpiece, but as essential building blocks. This shift is already underway, and with it, we see an influx of POC’s and women entering into arenas once well dominated by men.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
Focus on greatness, take advantage of the many organizations that are dedicated to advancing this cause. Women in positions of influence need to help each other, (and sometimes that means not promoting someone if the feedback they need to be great, is to improve) and not see being a woman in tech as a badge, but as something that really needs not be special, but a norm we fight for. Unseen barriers are many- inherent biases, which we must overcome by not being “just as good” as men, but significantly better. I also think a barrier is the narrative- fighting for the right to do as “men” do is funnily enough a big disservice to the diversity of experience and value that more traditional women also bring to the conversation. The narrative that says “women don’t have to have kids” while true, misses the point that mothers too, add tremendous value to the workforce, and the economy. “Women” can and do everything, so let’s keep that definition, and who we fight for, open.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
As CEO of a female founded company, with a team that is 75% female, I feel like I’m fighting the good fight day in and day out! I speak in DC around advancing steam for underserved communities, and mentor technical creatives from my former schools.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Men can participate best by listening, learning, and then acting on the feedback. Men can use their voices to advocate against their own interests in the short term if they truly are convinced that when we support women, we end up supporting our success as a whole. There needs to be a philosophy shift around men helping women, versus men doing the right thing, for women and for themselves. In the same way we can appreciate poisoning the river from which we drink water is bad for us and the environment, we need to highlight in concrete ways that undercutting women undercuts us all.
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.