The lack of women entrepreneurs in technology has been lamented for decades. Today, with technology integrated into our daily lives, women are comfortable with technology as users and consumers. So why aren’t we seeing more women launch tech startups?
Blogger Tereza Nemessanyi recently pointed out that Y Combinator, one of the best-known and most successful tech incubators, has a woefully low percentage of female graduates. And it’s not that women are getting rejected from the program—they aren’t even applying. Nemessanyi has suggested women need their own Y Combinator—the XX Combinator.
Why do women entrepreneurs need their own incubator? Perhaps it’s a clue to the reason women aren’t launching tech startups. First, Nemessanyi points out, most Y Combinator attendees are in their early 20s--not an ideal age for women to launch companies. “Women who start businesses like to know what they’re doing, and be trained and experienced in it. That takes up our 20s,” she writes. “We have kids in our 30s. Our entrepreneurial sweet spot is around age 40.”
At that age, however, it’s harder for women to relocate to an incubator and devote six or 12 weeks to an intense program that devours all their time. One woman-oriented program that’s addressing some of these issues is Women 2.0 Labs.
Founded by Shaherose Charania and Angie Chang, Women 2.0 Labs is a five-week ”pre-incubator” in San Francisco that encourages engineers, designers, and “business and marketing mavens” to develop high-growth technology ventures.
The company’s mission is “to increase the number of female founders of technology startups” (although the program is open to both women and men). To that end, the website notes, “You don’t have to quit your day job or drop out of school” to participate in Women 2.0 Labs; all events take place after normal business hours.
Women 2.0 Labs:
- Holds monthly networking events throughout Silicon Valley that “help future women founders, existing women founders and others in the startup community network and build relationships.”
- Holds an annual Napkin Pitch Startup Competition for companies with at least one female founder. The deadline to apply to PITCH 2010 is October 1st, 2010; get details on the Women 2.0 Labs site.
- Provides access to “startup-friendly” resources (both financial and other) to help women start companies.
- Encourages women to work in the technology industry (encouraging more girls and young women to major in technology subjects is key to getting more women tech entrepreneurs).
Participating in Women 2.0 Labs’ five-week program costs $555. (If you believe in the power of women entrepreneurs to make a difference in technology, consider sponsoring a scholarship.)
One of Women 2.0 Labs’ goals is to “educate and present forward-thinking knowledge in entrepreneurship.” Encouraging greater participation by women as tech entrepreneurs is one of the most forward-thinking ideas I can imagine. With women becoming such voracious users of technology, increasing the number of women in technology is bound to increase innovation as well.