CXO

Why IT diversity is a smart business decision

Sagewise CEO Amy Wan explains why it's so hard for women founders to get their companies funded.

Amy Wan, CEO of Sagewise, talks to TechRepublic's Dan Patterson about the challenges women founders face to get funding for their companies, and, why it's smart to make your IT department diverse. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Dan Patterson: Over the last decade, the technology industry has undoubtedly brought many innovations, but it lacks a critical component, and that is diversity.

Let's talk about venture capital. When we look at the metrics and the data, we see that female startup founders get a slice, literally a slice of the amount of venture capital money funded to startups each year. I wonder if we could first try to explain why this is, and then maybe help articulate how female founders can get a bigger slice, or even half of the VC pie.

Amy Wan: It's a multi-factorial thing. I don't think we can just go ahead and blame one party, right? On one hand, largely right now, a lot of people are saying Hey, there's a lot of implicit bias in the VC world, and to a certain extent, that's true, right? You know, and there are also, biological reasons. When women get to a certain age, maybe they want to start a family, and maybe investors may not like that. But, it's women as well, right? Maybe we're not exposed to technology nearly as much. There aren't as many female developers, coders, and so I feel like they don't have that technology background.

I've been an attorney and I've had female clients, and one thing I have seen in my female clients is that they don't merely put themselves out there nearly as much, in terms of going out and raising money. They think hey, I'm going to fund this myself.Oh, I'm going to get friends and family money, but they never really... not they never really, but sometimes, they don't necessarily go after that venture-capital money. They don't necessarily think that they can.

Dan Patterson: So, parity is critical here. Not just to right wrongs, although that's often the way this issue is framed, but it's critical because technology influences every component of our life, and when we have a monoculture making the decisions about the technology products we use everyday, there can be a lot of harm in that. How do we get to parity?

Amy Wan: That's a very interesting, but difficult question, right? You know, just in getting to parity in terms of the technology we produce, companies need to be very open, and very active in going out and hiring women, so that the products they put out into the market don't necessarily reflect just a very male perspective.

SEE: Hiring kit: Chief diversity officer (Tech Pro Research)

In terms of venture capital, a lot of people have been saying hey, let's get more female founders, female partners at the VCs, female associates.

Also, VCs need to maybe take a step back and think about okay, what are the differences between male and female founders? And, how do we go about making sure that when we are evaluating female founders and female companies, that we are giving them a chance for funding, in a way where, what do you call it? In the way that females are presenting themselves.

Their companies don't necessarily look less valuable. What I've seen in this space, especially when you go to conferences and a lot of these things, is that males really put themselves out there. They beat their chests, so to speak. They go ahead and boast about maybe things they don't necessarily even have.

Whereas females boast less. They tend to say what there actually is. And there's a difference, especially when it comes to funding, or in that sort of psychological behavior.

Dan Patterson: Are there ways that as colleagues, we can also be allies, and not just build and grow our companies, but increase diversity within the organization in ways that benefit all of us?

Amy Wan: Absolutely. I mean, hiring is a big thing, right? And even in hiring, and Sheryl Sandberg mentioned this in Lean In, women and men just fundamentally, there is some sort of difference in attitude, and to recognize that, is a really good starting step.

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About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Producer for CNET and CBS News.

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