Are you a woman in NYC Tech and interested in participating in this series? Make sure to read the whole article…
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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 Walsh Costigan, CEO and founder of Lexody. Beginning her career in business development, Walsh is a self-taught herself coder who set out to create the missing resource for those interested in language learning. Lexody’s platform instantly matches you with native speakers to have actual conversations with. Costigan is extremely active in the NYC Tech scene and understands that by helping other women succeed, makes it easier for everyone to succeed. Today she shares some candid insights on her observances in the tech ecosystem.
Walsh Costigan, Lexody
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
I officially entered the NYC tech scene in 2013, doing business development for early-stage tech startups. My career exceled rapidly, and I was one of the only females in each startup I had the opportunity to work with.
During this time, I simultaneously taught myself to program on nights and weekends, and now love coding (specifically backend web development). Although I’m the CEO of Lexody, I have also built a large majority of the platform, and therefore have a unique advantage of being able to understand both the technical and non-technical sides of the company.
As a female, you have to prove yourself more than anyone else. I can see when speaking to investors and other tech influencers that having a technical knowledge instantly gives me more credibility in people’s eyes.
The advantages of being a minority in any situation are the dedicated groups of people who want to help that minority. For women, the large number of organizations, such as Girl Develop It, SheWorx, and other female-focused groups decrease the intimidation factor for women who want to explore the tech world.
I’ve also had the pleasure of mentoring other young females, and enjoy that there is a culture of giving back among women in tech. I have met so many incredible, powerful, and intelligent women who have offered assistance for no reason, except to help another woman succeed.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
Obvious answers include promoting more women and funding more women-led companies. I personally try to help any women founder I meet – the more women who get to the top, the easier it will be for future women to succeed without bias. This can be as simple as connecting a female founder to someone in my network, telling them about an event/accelerator/etc. that applies to their industry, or just promoting their success through my social media networks.
I also believe that there needs to be more training for men, on how to work with women. There is a large spotlight on the extreme situations where women are being harassed by men in C-level positions, but this is an issue no matter what level the employees are. Off-hand comments, and “jokes” are things I hear every day, and some men don’t understand why they are offensive.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
Diversity is more than gender – it is surrounding yourself with opinions and backgrounds that are different than yours. People who look the same, and grow up in similar settings tend to have similar opinions. The more diverse a team’s background, gender, race, economic upbringing, and life experiences are, the more likely that team will create a product or service that can serve the largest possible demographic.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
The more women in senior positions, the less likely a woman will be seen as just a ‘woman’, and actually be evaluated for her skills.
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
We are not anywhere close to true diversity, but I believe that each generation will become better and better at working with diverse teams.
It starts as a child, and how each person is raised. As more inclusive generations are raised, it will become less likely for individuals to judge each other for their appearance, and start to judge each other based off personality, skill and values.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
There is no easy way for women to rise in this male-dominated ecosystem. We need to first and foremost stick together – help out other female founders, fund female-led companies, promote deserving women to C-level roles, and mentor young aspiring women.
The barriers are clear to see – people trust people who look and talk like them. Once a female founder told me about a white male VC who declined to fund her company because he “doesn’t invest in products he wouldn’t use.” While that makes sense as an investor, the obvious issue is that most VCs are white men, and would never use a female or ethnic product… so how do we progress past this funding barrier?
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
I’ve recently been attending a lot of SheWorx events. I follow GirlDevelopIt on Slack, and occasionally go to an event, just to program around other women.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Men can police other men. I have met a lot of great men in the tech world that treat women with incredible respect. If these men would also take the lead in the everyday discussion, and truly reprimand other men for degrading women (whether a female is around for the comment or not), men will start to consider these actions embarrassing, as opposed to normal male behavior.
‘Locker room’ talk (or frat talk), is all too commonly thrown around the office, and females are expected to laugh along and ‘be one of the guys’. In all reality, it probably makes them uncomfortable, but they feel like they have no choice but to tolerate it since they are technically the minority in most offices.
A huge pet peeve of mine is being hit on at networking events, and I’ve stopped being polite to anyone who attempts to make our conversation unprofessional. Men and women – if you go to a networking event and hit on someone, you’re contributing to the problem.
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.