This fall, I was invited to moderate a panel for a conference put on by Women In Product, a non-profit formed to create a strong community of women builders and leaders in the tech industry.
My panel included four female founders of technology companies: Cheryl Contee of Fission Strategy, Heather Fernandez of Solv, Selina Tobaccowala of Gixo and Aarthi Ramamurthy of Lumoid.
When I walked into the main area of the San Jose Convention Center, the room had an energy you could practically taste.
Also, it was lunchtime.
It was surreal. A tech conference . . . with not a man in sight. The typical scenario, as you may have experienced yourself, is a large hall, with mostly white guys everywhere, giving you, the female attendee, the once-over — whether it’s "will she buy my product?" or "will she have a drink with me?" None of that here.
And, unlike most other conferences I’ve been to, in addition to an impressive lineup of speakers and panelists, there was also a makeup booth, a photographer offering headshots, and a lounge area with puffy white couches where women watched an entrepreneur demonstrating the power of a new product she had invented: a briefcase meets purse meets backpack. So, yeah, some girly stuff.
But there is something about bringing together a whole lot of powerful, ambitious women in one place where they can feel free from interruptions, mansplaining and awkward gender-based power dynamics.
And on the panel that I led, the speakers did not hold back. We talked about what surprised them about starting a company, the pros and cons of running a company while female, from leadership style to sexual harassment and gender bias — and ultimately as business-people what it takes to scale.
This panel took place on September 19th, 2017 and we had a full house. You can listen to our conversation here:
Women In Product was founded by a group of senior women product leaders working at a variety of Silicon Valley tech companies including Facebook, Google, Intuit, Jet.com and Trulia.
Meet the panelists:
Heather Fernandez is the founder of Solv, a marketplace for same day doctors’ appointments. Before founding Solv, she was head of business services at Trulia.
Aarthi Ramamurthy launched her company Lumoid in 2014. It’s a try-before-you-buy service for consumer electronics. Before starting her own company she was a product manager at Netflix and Microsoft -- she also built an app while on her honeymoon, called Bubblegum, just saying.
Selina Tobaccowala was President and CTO at SurveyMonkey, and she co-founded Evite in 1997 and was Senior Vice President of Product & Technology at Ticketmaster. Her new company Gixo, is a workout app that offers online fitness classes.
Cheryl Contee is the CEO and co-founder of Fission Strategy, co-founder of Attentive.ly and co-founder of #YesWeCode. Attentive.ly, a social listening and marketing automation tool for nonprofits, is the first tech startup with a black female founder on board to be acquired by a NASDAQ company.
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