I’ve always worked. There has never been a time that I didn’t work. My Dad built me a play store when I was 5 (and I was always the shopkeeper!), organized lemonade stands when I was 8 and managed a thriving babysitting business into my teens. Growing up, I really did think I could do absolutely anything I wanted. I recall going to my Dad’s office when I was young and knowing that I never wanted to be one of the secretaries congregated together, typing while they smoked their cigarettes and chatting with one another outside the closed-door offices of the businessmen. I wanted to be behind one of those office doors. It did occur to me that all the women worked outside the offices and it was the men who were behind the doors, but that didn’t matter in the least. The office was where I planned to be.
I’ve had an interesting career so far with many great opportunities, regardless of my gender. Right out of college I was a member of the team managing one of the largest IPO’s in the 1980’s (Oracle). I started my first and second ventures before I was 30 and became a partner at a Big Four firm before I was 40. I founded and was CEO of my third start-up in my 40’s and went on to become CEO at another start-up after that. I raised capital for three of the four enterprises and they are all still operating successfully today. I joined several for-profit Boards and was Chair of a non-profit Board. Over time, I started to see the subtle differences between how men and women are treated. And then I had the Chairman of one of my companies tell me that he was uncomfortable with women in the boardroom. I was floored.
By the time I joined NASDAQ Private Market as the President of Equity Solutions, I found that my experience was similar to that of many other women. Looking back, I realized that I was lucky enough to have met men who helped me along the way but that I had also crossed paths with men (and women) who made things difficult and who were generally unsupportive, if not downright hostile.
I have realized that men deal with funding, boards and business in general differently than many of the successful women I have met. Men who do things differentially are considered trailblazers, why aren’t women? I’ve met many women who simply didn’t know how to raise money or have lacked a strong network to be successful. A great venture without capital generally withers on the vine. Many women told me they just weren’t interested to “play the old-boys-club game”.
In 2016 I attended a conference for women in venture capital and private equity that really changed my viewpoint about the way women do business. Participating in this conference was a revelation. The hotel was filled with smart, successful women who had come together to further each other’s interests. These women were supportive, intelligent and genuinely interested in what you had to say. Women who do business with other women simply approach business differently than men. There is often a hesitation among many women to BE a woman doing business. It’s time to support the diverse experiences of both men and women and celebrate the differences. This event showed me it could become a reality.
I’ve met women entrepreneurs throughout the world and so many of their stories are similar. Women who want to start companies have a difficult time finding funding or having access to the right networks. And now, at this conference, it began dawn on me that the stories of many of the women funders were quite similar as well. Women who want to fund companies have a difficult time finding appropriate investment opportunities! The idea of “Women Founders and Funders” was born.
Women are not just starting companies to furnish goods and services to other women – they are starting technology companies that create products and solutions to support national security, they are creating SaaS reporting tools, they are creating media companies and they are solving problems and filling needs often ignored.
I have created Women Founders and Funders as a mission-driven company to bring together women who are seeking funding opportunities and whose ideas may bring advancement, progress and solutions to so many fields and enable the creation of tomorrow’s companies with the funding community. I do not look at those who will be involved as deserving of a chance by virtue of the fact that these are women. Every woman will have to earn her right to occupy the position of her choice. I want everyone to be considered and evaluated and simply to have a chance. My goal is to give those under-represented that opportunity.