If you feel like many, the outlook for 2017 is uncertain. No one is sure how federal policies and global events will ultimately shape the next 12 months. There’s a plethora of speculation, though; some of it claiming this to be the dawn of a new prosperous era while others are predicting Armageddon-esque doom and gloom.
I, for one, am not interested in what others say. Instead, I’m far more focused on what we, as business and technology leaders, will do to advance the growth of women leaders in STEM. I’ve seen this same steadfast dedication across many organizations and fully believe that next year will bring an even greater commitment to this cause. This is not at all surprising to me. San Diego innovators and entrepreneurs don’t sit idly by waiting for something to happen; we make it so! No one ever handed us anything we didn’t work hard to earn, and we expect the same come January 1.
With that in mind, here’s what I propose women technology business leaders resolve to achieve in the next 12 months:
1. Start More Tech Businesses
Women have been the quiet driving force behind the growing tech economy, and this accelerated in 2016. Early last year Project Diane estimated the number of women-led tech startups in the U.S. grew to 2,200. What’s more, women are now owners of more than a third of all companies in this country according to the national census, and that number continues to climb. The most inspiring aspect of these trends is that women have done so while only securing 50-percent less capital on average than their male counterparts, according to Access to Capital by High-Growth Women-Owned Businesses.
Breaking the glass ceiling may mean changing the game plan. Men are notorious for doing this (see Bill Gates and Steve Jobs). Women are starting to be recognized for this same entrepreneurial spirit and, with that, will come more venture capital and even greater economic success.
2. Close The Pay Gap
2017 could very well be the year that the differences between men’s and women’s wages in the tech world gets eliminated for good. A lot of factors will help make this a reality, including a Congress that’s pledged to foster greater innovation and job creation here at home rather than abroad. If that happens, companies will be in great demand for home-grown, qualified, tech-savvy talent and compensate accordingly.
Women tech leaders will also accelerate the long-awaited pay gap closure by not settling for anything less. It is imperative that we continually look for new opportunities and market ourselves to them as they arise. In short, we need to do more of what men have been good at; looking out for themselves as much as their employer.
3. Mentor Others
There are strengths in numbers; that’s always been a widely accepted edict. It’s usually thought of as only a “feel good” initiative; a “pay it forward” approach so to speak.
It’s far more than that. Doing so is very much in our collective interest. We, as tech leaders, must bring more women into our industry. Building a strong, economically driven coalition will have a multiplier effect on all aspects of our country’s business, national security and quality of life interests. It starts with us and fostering and encouraging the development of our cadre, one woman at a time.
While the outcome of what will be for next 12 months is unknown, I remain excited and optimistic about what we can achieve. Our innovative, entrepreneurial communities will be at the forefront of this by continuing to foster an environment of collaboration and support by which we can all achieve our mutually shared goals of prosperity and equality of opportunity in the STEM community. I remain inspired by those who are making a difference every day and look forward to what we will do together!
Cheryl Goodman is the Executive Director of Athena, a nonprofit that champions professional growth, programming and advocacy for women in science and technology.