In the New York Times article Women and Technology and Myth, Adriana Gardella interviews Cindy Padnos, founding managing director of Illuminate Ventures, about the presence – and absence – of women-founded companies in technology. According to Padnos's research, "women recently gained less than 10 percent of venture investment in the high-tech sector." Part of the Q and A in the interview goes like this:
Q. What accounts for the funding gap?
A. …Women face a challenge that is similar to the one Indian immigrant entrepreneurs – at least the male ones – have overcome. In the early ’80s, talented, well-trained and entrepreneurial Indians came to the United States to fill positions created by our shortage of I.T. professionals. Back then, they were viewed as cannon fodder for tech start-ups, typically holding junior, low-level engineering positions but rarely sitting at the controls. That’s changed dramatically, particularly in the last five years.
Q. What happened?
A. I asked these guys how they did it, and they told me it took 30 years. Many of them were part of successful teams. Eventually, they attained management positions and gained equity and wealth. Motivated by a strong belief that they had been treated like second-class citizens, one successful Indian entrepreneur turned around and helped finance another. In many ways, they’ve mapped the road for women. Although women don’t generally share the immigrant mentality, which pushes foreign-born groups to band together and help one another.
I cited this source in Your Local Women Entrepreneurs, an expression of regret that a mentoring and support network for women entrepreneurs does not exist in my locale. Lively comments on the post ensued, some asking in so many words, "How do we create a network for women entrepreneurs?"
My plan is to follow the Indian entrepreneur model. I'm going to do my very best to become a successful entrepreneur that turns around and helps finance another. Ideally, the one I fund will fund the next one, and so on. In the meantime, I am meeting in small groups with the women entrepreneurs I do know, attempting to begin the process of "banding together and helping one another."
My plan has its challenges. The great power of a network is its collective knowledge, experience and wisdom. As the founder of a two-year old company, I have little experience to offer a network and, therefore, little power to give it.
That said, I have drive and passion and determination. So do the women entrepreneurs I know. That's the kind of power that gets enterprises started.
A local mentoring and support network for women entrepreneurs is in enterprise start-up mode. For more information, please contact Handshake 2.0.