People are finally paying attention to us women-folk. I’m seeing it everywhere I couldn’t be more pleased. As a female entrepreneur, or worse, a *cringe* “mompreneur”, I’m learning that I can drop the qualifier and just be an entrepreneur – and Sheryl Sandberg is helping.
Long before I read the first word of Sandberg’s book, I had a vague concept of the capacity of female ambition. Three generations ago, both my great grandmother and her sister graduated from college. My grand-mother went on to offer immense and lasting service as an ambassador for her state and nation as the First Lady of Mississippi for two gubernatorial terms. My mother found her voice and became a widely regarded published author when she realized her dream of writing her memoir, “We End in Joy:Memoirs of a First Daughter”. I can even go as far back as my great-great– grandmother who graduated from Liberty Male and Female College with a degree of “Mistress of Science” (Mistress of Science?!) in 1891! Each one of these women has been a part of the evolution of women as leaders. Now I understand that I cannot lay claim to any of their achievements, but still, I am proud. I am proud of a woman who graduated from college 122 years ago. I am proud that after she did, both of her daughters earned college degrees as well. I’m so proud of the fact that 4 generations and 120 years later I too graduated from college. Sheryl Sandberg’s book got my attention. It made me pay attention. It helped me to realize that it was because of the accomplishments of these, and many other, incredible women that I had the courage and the confidence to start my own company. This is one of the first times that I’ve truly recognized the direct correlation of the ambition of the women who came before me and my own. Now I find myself wondering if maybe in 5 generations there will be a young woman who is proud of the things that I accomplished.
As a web developer, I live and work in a world that is dominated by males. As a business owner, the majority of decision makers with whom I speak are men. In my home, I’m outnumbered 2:1 (unless you count the cat, then we’re even). I have been fortunate to be surrounded by men who are respectful, and incredibly supportive, of my goals. However, despite my experience, the number of women working in technology is on the decline. Computer professionals rank among the top 10 fastest growing careers, everyone, not just men, should be racing to fill these roles. Instead, the percentage of women in technology based careers has decreased from 36% to 25% in the past two decades. Sheryl Sandberg speaks clearly and frequently about her hope to see more women in executive leadership roles. A decline in the number of women in technology based careers is bound to be a hindrance to this goal. With more and more of our every day lives revolving around technology, leaders will be expected to be, at the very least, technologically competent. So where does this leave us? Hopefully, we are left with a renewed sense of determination. Ideally, we see this as an opportunity to join each other and aim for a workforce that thrives on the variety of competencies that both genders bring to the table. And as for women in start-ups? According to last year’s data from Dow Jones VentureSource, successful start-ups have twice as many women in senior roles as unsuccessful companies.
In her book, Sandberg offers suggestions to improve communication, perception and ultimately, success. There are innumerable resources, statistics and organizations to support the evolution of women in leadership roles. People are paying attention – the impetus is upon us!
I’m proud to live in a city that supports it’s start-up community and offers resources for all sorts of people dedicated to achieving business success. I’ve compiled a list of resources for entrepreneurs, business development, and mentorships in Nashville. If you are part of, or know of an organization that should be added to the list, or if you have feedback on one of the organizations listed below, I encourage you to leave your comments!