March is apparently the month we recognize women. We get International Women’s Day and then I suppose the rest of the month we stay local. Yet, the reality for women around the globe continues to be closing the gap on gender equality.
To me, the more we see female leaders in engineering, technology, science the more we will see that gap diminish both in salary and how we approach women in every aspect of employment and sectors.
There are five women that inspire me with not only their business acumen, but also the cultures they are building at their organizations with the mindset of empowerment, growth and equality.
Canva, CEO Melanie Perkins
Rejected by over 100 investors, Melanie Perkins persevered and now helms a $40B company.
No one seemed keen on the then university student’s idea to build an online tool that would empower anyone to create professional looking designs regardless of their experience.
In fact, it took her 3 years to land an investor. Perkins has been open about her many rejections and often shares what she learned and how she continues to learn and therefore empower her team. She says, ¨As a leader, I feel my job is to set, the vision, and the goals for the company, and then to work with everyone to empower them to dream big and crazy.¨
She and her husband also have committed to transfer more than 80% of their stake to the Canva Foundation for charitable causes.
Mighty Networks, CEO Gina Bianchini
Founded in 2017 by Gina Bianchini, Tim Herby and Thomas Aaron, Mighty Networks was designed to drive community innovation to help drive online business and engagement. If you are a creator or brand you can bring your content, community, online courses and subscriptions to a Mighty Networks and with each new person who joins your network becomes more valuable.
Under Gina’s leadership, Mighty Networks has acquired funding from investors like Marie Forleo International, LionTree, Owl Ventures and Great Oaks Venture Capital. Gina is a serial entrepreneur having sold her last company Ning for $150M.
Yet she is very clear about her success saying, “ It was really important to me in building Mighty Networks that I surrounded myself with people I believed in, believed in me, who I had trust and respect for.¨
Y Combinator, Co-Founder Jessica Livingston
As a successful author and founding partner of the seed stage venture firm Y Combinator, Jessica also is one of the organizers of Startup School. Let’s get some impressive stats about Y Combinator since 2005 they have funded more than 1,800 startups with a total value of over $100 billion.
Yet, Jessica remains committed to her original goal which is to help start-ups get off the ground and grow. She’s often presented insights she learned throughout the years. Below are four takeaways from her “How Not to Fail” talk:
- Make something people want
- Talk to your users as much as you can
- Stay focused
- Don’t worry about being a woman
The last point, believe it or not, is really relevant to Jessica. She is often referred to as Paul Graham’s wife with whom she founded Y Combinator along with Robert Tappan Morris and Trevor Blackwell and repeatedly asked “what did you do in the early days” because her background was not similar to her male co-founders. Finding the resolve to answer those questions repeatedly is why events like International Women’s Day remain important.
Cledara, CEO Cristina Vila Vives
Founded by Cristina in 2018, Cledara is known as the go-to for helping companies bring visibility and control to their growing SaaS subscriptions stack. The concept is to empower companies and their teams to get the appropriate SaaS when they actually need it.
Cristina has often posted about how hard it is to start a company and the need to surround yourself and your team with good advisors. While I don’t know her personally, it seems that through struggle she understands the value of a team and of seeking different points of view to get better results. So far, that philosophy seems to be serving her and Cledara extremely well, they’ve raised nearly $5M in seed.
Why Female Leadership Matters
While FROGED is still a very young company, when I look at female leadership in the space vs. male leadership - only 6 out of the 100 most popular SaaS companies have a female founder - it motivates our desire to not only grow, but mentor those coming up behind us.
Our team is proudly 60% female, representing 10 nationalities and 7 languages. This is part of the groundwork the female leaders and founders before me have laid. As we grow, we will continue to do so understanding that our culture is truly attached to our future success. We will be closing another round soon and are experiencing sustainable growth, who knows maybe that list of 6 will grow to 7 or maybe 10 by next year and we will be on it.
While I hope (still a CEO people), I know my team believes it. And that, well, that is everything.