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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.
Today we speak with Marci Weisler, cofounder of SWSI Media. Weisler has over 15 years of experience growing digital media businesses; at both the startup and brand level. Presently at SWSI, Marci is shining a spotlight, through video, on female founders building the consumer brands of tomorrow. The platform recently launched its newest show, Queen Boss, which highlights the women at the intersection of style and technology. Outside of SWSI, Weisler is extremely active in the tech ecosystem, working with a number of organizations to affect change and promote entrepreneurship among women.
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
Throughout my career, I’ve been part of the NYC tech ecosystem often on the leading edge of new technologies—scaling early startup leaders like Vindigo (a leader in mobile 1.0) where I led business development and carrier sales, growing the business to a successful acquisition, and building digital businesses within brands like Time Out. Over the last few years, I’ve been COO at a mobile platform company, worked with companies like Kellogg’s and Entertainment Benefits Group (a leader in the travel and entertainment space) on launching new digital initiatives and digital transformations, and advised startups in emerging segments including Kenzen (wearable tech/digital health) and Seek (augmented reality).
I’ve been the only woman on management teams and worked with broadly diverse teams over team. In all situations, it’s been important to me to have a strong voice in the conversation. Sometimes it’s been welcome; other times, I’ve had to make extra effort not to be overlooked.
After working with many startups and diverse teams it became apparent a few years ago that women were starting more companies but not getting the funding or exposure they needed to go big. My SWSI Media partners, Heidi Lehmann and Suzette Cabildo, saw the need to fill this gap and created SWSI.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
For many years there was an advantage in terms of standing out amid a sea of men, but that also meant I was subject to not being “one of the boys.” I didn’t realize it at the time. No matter what I was doing, I was focused on doing my best and delivering, and I did. In hindsight though, I realize that there were opportunities that did not come my way because I was not part of that club. I still strive to create my own opportunities and encourage other women coming up to do so as well, but also be open eyed to those your peers are getting and be sure you’re in the running—whether it’s for a job, funding or the chance to invest in a startup that you believe in.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
It’s great that we’re starting to see more female VCs, but they are still a small segment. Funders need to realize that they are missing valuable perspective by not having diverse teams making decisions about up and coming companies. They should also pay attention to the great ideas coming from a diverse set of entrepreneurs and the data that shows women-led businesses have strong success records.
Diversity is bringing a mix of perspectives, smarts and experiences to the table—at different levels in the team, in leadership roles and in funding. It means having people who look like the broad customer base. It also means equitable pay for work—no more of the gender disparity.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
Women are half the population! They are smart, they are leaders, and they get the job done, oftentimes better than male peers. Approaching problems differently often brings unique and powerful solutions. Women in management lead to better performing companies—not just in supporting roles but also in the leading roles. This shouldn’t be about numbers but about good outcomes. Women leaders also become role models for the next batch of leaders.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
Unfortunately, women often have to work harder and longer to prove themselves, but to do so, they must believe in themselves and keep going. If you know you don’t know something, don’t let that be a barrier but a challenge – you’re smart and you can figure it out and grow. Seek out mentors and sponsors in your company and industry. Push each other forward.
In terms of barriers—there are many and as of late many of the unseen barriers have been exposed—they are still there though and we all have to continue to work hard and prove our successes to break them down.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
In addition to SWSI Media, I’m involved with Deals&Divas, which drives socially responsible female entrepreneurs to success, a mentor at Grand Central Tech, and various other women’s roundtables where we work with one another as a sounding board for solving problems and propelling each other forward. Additionally I work with STRIVE International, a great not-for-profit whose women’s initiative gets women on their feet and enables them to have a career.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Nothing is going to change if this isn’t a broad discussion. Many men are currently engaged, but others are not and need to be. Men need to help break the stereotypes by breaking bad behaviors, listening more, giving credit where credit is due and treating their peers as peers, regardless of gender.
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.