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 Sophie Kahn, cofounder and Co-CEO of AUrate, the direct-to-consumer fine jewelry brand. Sophie is Originally from the Netherlands, Kahn attended Graduate School at Princeton University receiving her Masters in Finance. Prior to launching AUrate with fellow Princeton alum Bouchra Ezzahraoui, Kahn served as a management consultant at BCG. After BCG, Kahn found herself fusing her passion for finance and fashion as the Director of Strategy at the high-end fashion brand, Marc Jacobs. Kahn an energetic, self-starter realized that the retail market lacked reasonably priced, high-quality jewelry, and she was determined to solve this problem. Kahn’s focus in retail marketing and strategy provided the perfect foundation to launch AUrate.
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
I’ve always loved both fashion and numbers, and I used to think I had to choose between these two. I started my career focused on the numbers – studying quantitative economics and finance, where I met Bouchra – and then slowly started migrating more towards the business world (at BCG) and eventually also the fashion world (at Marc Jacobs). I am able to combine my passion for both topics at AUrate, a direct-to-consumer, tech-enabled fine-jewelry company. It’s amazing since I get to be creative and design beautiful pieces for women to wear every day, and at the same time I can crunch the numbers like a geek and deep dive into our performance from a quant perspective.
Since there are fewer of us, we stick together. So, it’s a tight-knit group and we all are there to help each other. Plus women come up with different ideas of where to apply their technical knowledge to – ranging from topics like women’s health to fine jewelry – why have men invent the things we, as women, are wearing or using? Finally, I personally believe women tend to be great at collaborating and presenting, which is important in any field, including tech.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
I think it has to start young, with the next generation. If I think about the options I had growing up, tech was never really offered, especially not to girls. Boys would be coding and hacking in their free time, but usually this had to do with car games and warfare, which I wasn’t particularly interested in. We need to come up with topics girls would like to solve and work on from a tech perspective. If you’re an eight-year old girl and like playing dress-up, why not have computing games where you can do this? Tech can be girl-oriented, too. In short: adapt the computing games to “girls” topics as well, so that everybody can have an interest in them.
As for those of us who are older, I think we need to help one another and learn as much as we can. Having more women in funding roles is essential too. It’s not okay that only 2% of VC funding went to female-led startups in 2017. But, instead of complaining about it, we just have to be the best we can be.
NYC has been deemed as one of the better places for women in technology. Why do you think that this is the case?
Because it’s really diverse already. It’s called a concrete jungle for a reason. People come from all over the place to make their dreams come true here, and it’s all about what you can do- not who you are or what you look like. Results count.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
I am all for meritocracy, so I would never push for putting women in tech for the sake of it. However, all things being equal, women have the ability to be just as good as men in tech, so we should strive to making that happen by giving women the tools to get there. That means priming and educating girls when they are young, having female role-models in the tech space, and in the VC world.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
Because it’s exactly those women who can help and encourage the next generation. If you’re starting a new career, and only see men at the top, how can you ever picture yourself there?
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
Once again, I think it is all meritocracy based. Obviously, it’s much better if 100% of people are playing the game than if only 50% of the population is participating. The more people are involved, the more competitive the field, the better the people are that will end up in the top. It’s also just more fun to be working with people from different stories and backgrounds, which is something I love about New York.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
I think the role-model aspect is the hardest, but we’re getting there. There are more and more women at the top, and we just have to keep pushing.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Men can help tremendously. Professionally, they can hire and encourage women to grow in their organization. As fathers, they can encourage their daughters to explore topics like computer science and math. As husbands, they can support their wives in their careers as equals. It’s only going to work if we do this together. Include the men!
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.