While the tech startup sector is booming and making rapid advances, it lacks a key component: diversity. White males dominate the industry, with women making up only 3% of the CEOs in the startup ecosystem, according to Entrepreneur Magazine.
Luckily, Denver is home to one of the largest groups working towards gender diversity in the startup sector: Women Who Startup (WWS). The community is now known as one of the fastest growing female entrepreneur platforms in Colorado and beyond.
Women Who Startup was founded in 2013 by Lizelle van Vuuren (pictured below). As most women working in tech do, van Vuuren noticed the lack of female colleagues at networking and community events, and decided to do something about it. She began Women Who Startup, which holds monthly events to help educate, inspire, and connect female entrepreneurs.
With over 2,000 members, Women Who Startup brings in a new guest speaker every month. Each guest speaker shares her story--what worked, what didn't, and what she'll do different next time. After the speaker, the women have time to network, which van Vurren says is "transformational networking," rather than transactional. The group is all about building a community for women where they can get support, motivation, and inspiration.
"I walk away with more knowledge, a new perspective, and at least a couple business cards of women I truly connect with," Member Sandy Armaro, the growth and marketing manager at Meyer, said about the events.
Women Who Startup also have a podcast, for entrepreneurs around the world to participate in the conversation. The podcast is hosted by van Vuuren and co-founder and CEO of Denver based P2B Investor, Krista Morgan. The two cover topics such as legal issues faced by startups, how to craft the perfect email to a VC, and life hacks for keeping you and your business healthy. On top of that, nearly every episode features a guest speaker.
Aside from the general importance of gender equality in the workforce, a study done by Grant Thorton shows that gender diversity is good for business and the economy. The study reveled that companies with diverse executive boards outperform companies ran by all-male boards. Gender diversity leads to increased competitiveness in technology, accelerates innovation, and drives market growth. Beyond that, the Kauffman Foundation found that women-led companies had 35% higher returns in a study from 2011.
Fortunately, efforts like Women Who Startup are making real progress in the tech startup sector. According to the Denver Post, an informal poll reported that, in the US, the number of females starting tech companies doubled in the past 3 years.
In addition to their monthly events and podcasts, Women Who Startup also have a newsletter, mentor sessions, an annual summit, and a new slack channel.