Mar 12, 2024

She Leads: Insider Advice from Women Redefining Finance and Technology

Charting the course for women in finance, tech, and entrepreneurship

She Leads: Insider Advice from Women Redefining Finance and Technology

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Business, finance, tech. These are spaces where innovation meets ambition on the daily, and the landscape is shifting—slowly, but surely. Women, long underrepresented in these historically male-dominated fields, are starting to make their mark, albeit with a pace that could use a turbo boost. As of 2024, 42% of U.S. businesses wear the badge of female ownership—and that’s after these enterprises have grown a staggering 114% over the last twenty years. Yet, when it comes to the golden gates of venture capital, startups helmed by all-women teams find themselves clutching at a paltry 1.9% of the funding pie.

Globally, the script reads much the same. Out of the 8,800 global companies lighting up the Crunchbase directory, less than 900 have a woman at the helm. That's a lean 10%. And in the hallowed halls of leadership, while there's been a modest uptick—with women's share in leadership roles climbing 3.6% over six years to 36.9% in 2022—the pace is more glacial drift than meteoric rise.

But here's the kicker: businesses that boast gender-diverse executive teams are hitting the profitability jackpot 25% more often than their single-sex counterparts. And yet, in the high-stakes arena of investment banking, women are still fighting for elbow room at the senior positions table, owning less than 17% of the coveted seats.

With all this in mind, the burning question isn't just "Why do we need more women in these industries?" It's "Why are we still asking this question?" Women-owned businesses outperforming in ESG scores, a whopping $1.7 trillion MSME finance gap begging to be bridged, and the silent battle for airtime in professional meetings all point to a glaringly obvious conclusion: the tech and business worlds are waking up to a goldmine of talent, perspective, and innovation, far too slowly.

With this in mind, and in recognition of International Women’s Day, we asked women from across finance, tech, and entrepreneurship: “What advice would you give women who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

So, as we dive into advice from women who've carved their paths through this thicket of statistics, let's not just nod along. Let's listen, learn, and leverage.

Lesson 1: Cultivate Self-Belief and Resilience

In the high-stakes world of finance, tech, and business, doubting yourself is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. It's not just about believing in your ideas and abilities; it's about owning them. Myriam Taylor, co-founder of MUXIMA, isn't just talking through her hat when she urges entrepreneurs to recognize their worth and trust in their unique perspectives. She's lived it. “Have confidence in your ideas and abilities as an entrepreneur. Trust in your unique perspective and the value you bring to the table.”

Hanna Larsson, CEO and Founder of Huntrs, throws down the gauntlet: it's time for women to take more risks and amp up the self-belief: “Women need to take more risks and they need to believe in themselves more. I also wish to see more women choosing to work in tech.” Forget about dipping your toes in the water; it's time to dive headfirst into the tech pool. Why? Because playing it safe never got anyone a Wikipedia page.

But let's talk about the buzzword of late: resilience. It's that get-back-up-again attitude that almost every woman we asked champions. Building any career isn’t easy. There will be ups and downs, setbacks and moments where everything just clicks. Failures? They're just plot twists in your success story. Learn from them, don't let them define you. As Anne Lanc, CEO and founder of Ionburst, puts it, “Be resilient, be yourself and have fun. Remember—this is your life. Enjoy the journey.”

Dr. Melissa Sassi, Venture Partner here at Machinelab, cuts to the chase on battling self-doubt. Your inner critic? Fire her. She doesn’t see things clearly, and she's terrible at her job. And sometimes, "good enough" really is good enough: “As I got to know myself throughout my career journey and over time, I realized that my most aggressive and abusive competitor was myself. I also discovered that she is irrational and rarely uses fact-based evidence to say what she says. As you engage your inner voice, remember one thing: sometimes good is good enough. Show up and keep showing up!”

Cultivating self-belief and resilience is about embracing your genuine self, weathering the storms, and silencing the doubters—especially the one in your head. So, let's get to it.

Lesson 2: Embrace and Express Your Authentic Self

In a society that often pushes women to conform, daring to be unapologetically you is not just an act of rebellion—it's a strategy for success. "Be yourself, and know that is your talent, your gift, your value, and your worth," notes Kim Gray, VP of Sales at Evstar. It's echoed by Kim Carson, CEO and Founder of Parallax Futures: "Lean in to every situation as your authentic self."

When we asked Dr. Taryn Marie, Founder & CEO of the Resilience Leadership Institute, what advice she would give to women who aspired to follow in her footsteps, her answer was both surprising and insightful: don’t! “Don’t follow in my or anyone else’s footsteps. Blaze your own trail. Resist and release the allure of being like someone else.”

But in this day and age, it's not enough to simply be; you've got to broadcast it to the world—or at least to LinkedIn. Shahrzad Ahmadi, CEO and founder of, tells us to "Speak passionately, confidently and effectively about your products and services." Because let's face it, if you don't believe in what you're selling, why should anyone else? This isn't just about finding your voice; it's about making sure it's heard above the digital cacophony.

And speaking of digital, Hanna Larsson's advice is concrete and vital: "Invest time in building a personal brand on social media." In a sea of sameness, your authentic self is your lighthouse, guiding like-minded customers, partners, colleagues, and maybe even future investors to your shores. Because, as Larsson puts it, the return on authenticity? It's a "win-win with a huge ROI."

So, chuck out the cookie-cutter. Ditch the "professional" mask that feels like a straitjacket. Whether you’re crafting your next tweet, plotting your business’s next move, or networking in virtual spaces, let the real you out—it’s your ultimate competitive advantage.

Lesson 3: Prioritize Continuous Learning and Growth

Finance, tech, business. These are worlds that wait for no one, and neither should you. It's time to embrace a philosophy that keeps you on your toes—continuous learning and growth.

Let’s go back to Myriam Taylor again. She urges us to dive headfirst into opportunities that sharpen our skills, reminding us that stagnation is the enemy of innovation. Dive headfirst into every learning opportunity that comes your way. Workshops, courses, networking events – if it can boost your skill set, go all in. Katie Loeb, Partner at Lockstep Ventures, takes it a step further: “Prioritize your growth. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you; be ferocious in your pursuit of knowledge by examining all that strikes your curiosity.”

Surrounding yourself with talent and intelligence serves an important purpose. In Shahrzad’s words: “Don’t be afraid to iterate on your ideas based on feedback.” Meanwhile, Anne Lanc is all about embracing advice, even when it stings: “Recognize if you need to change course and don’t be afraid to pivot if you need to.  Intransigence is not a virtue!” Because let's face it, the truth can hurt, but it can also set you on a path of unprecedented growth. So, when feedback comes knocking, don't hide behind the sofa. Open the door, listen, and adapt. Alexandra Roddy, Vice President of Ecosystem and Alliances at IBM Cloud, echoes this: “Embrace feedback, and never let anyone else define you.”

Finally, Katie Loeb throws down the gauntlet, daring us to step outside our comfort zones: “seek out uncomfortable experiences if only to learn you can overcome them.” It's about proving to yourself that when the going gets tough, you don't just get going—you thrive. Because on the other side of discomfort lies a version of you that's more resilient, more skilled, and ready to take on the world.

Lesson 4: Build Supportive Networks and Collaborate

Flying solo can be more than just lonely; it's a one-way ticket to burnout. The solution? Myriam Taylor puts it this way: "Surround yourself with a network of supportive individuals who believe in your vision… Look for mentors who can provide guidance, advice, and encouragement along your entrepreneurial journey."

Theo Lau, founder of Unconventional Ventures, reminds us to "Be an ally. For those who have a platform (and an audience), elevate others who are voiceless." This isn't just about networking; it's about net-weaving, creating a fabric so tight-knit that everyone's supported. Don’t just give them a seat at the table; throw them the mic. Imagine if we all did that.

Remember: no one's an island. Or to use a different metaphor, don't try to be a lone wolf—even wolves hunt in packs. Rally your squad, play team ball, and maybe, just maybe, you'll find yourself part of something far bigger and more impactful than you ever imagined.

Lesson 5: Advocate for Change and Inclusivity

Let's cut through the buzzwords—advocating for diversity and equity shouldn’t just be a feel-good mantra; it should lead to tangible change.

Theo Lau challenges us—don't just give someone a seat at the table; hand them the mic. Elevating those without a voice isn't just about being nice; it's about being smart. It's recognizing that unheard voices are often where we find our next breakthrough idea or innovation. It's using your influence not to hog the spotlight but to illuminate the path for others. This is where change begins—not with a whisper, but with a roar.

Debra Ruh, Founder and CEO of Ruh Global Impact, reminds us that we are all human—messy, vulnerable, fallible. "I've been left out. For silly reasons, because I’m a woman, or even because I’m an American," she confesses. “We all have abilities, and we all have disabilities. Sometimes, it’s worse than others.” Debra points out that even a lack of sleep or a stressful day can affect our capacities. “So the question then arises, why aren't we allowed to be human? “

Acknowledging our vulnerabilities isn't a sign of weakness; it's the badge of the truly strong. It's understanding that at some point, we're all just one bad day away from being a bit less capable. Embracing our shared human experiences doesn't make us soft; it makes us invincible. Because when we recognize our commonalities, we build bridges, not walls.

Lesson 6: Embrace Strategic Thinking and Decisive Action

Patricia Thaine, Founder and CEO of Private AI, puts this lesson best: choose meaningful problems. “What's most important, regardless of which career you choose, is carefully deciding which problems you are going to work on and having long-term focus. Choosing the right problem and the right solution to a problem is complicated, requires a lot of thought, takes experience with bad problems, and requires you to talk to a lot of people about your hypotheses. Listen carefully and take notes.”

It’s not about tackling just any challenge that comes your way but about zeroing in on the battles worth fighting—those that resonate with your core values and promise long-term impact.

And then there’s the rallying cry from Jennifer Arnold, co-founder and CEO of Minerva AI: Fortune favors the bold. Arnold practically dares us: “Don’t wait, don’t wonder if, don’t ask for permission, just go. You’re it.”Taking risks and believing in ourselves isn’t just recommended; it’s non-negotiable. After all, if you’re not willing to bet on yourself, why should anyone else?

Moving Forward

Circle back to the beginning, where we laid bare the stark figures—42% of U.S. businesses are woman-owned, but a scant 1.9% of venture capital ends up in the hands of all-women teams, and despite making up half of the startup scene, women founders often find themselves shouting into the void for recognition and resources. It's a landscape that, while daunting, is dotted with opportunities for seismic shifts, spearheaded by women equipped with the knowledge, grit, and self-love necessary to forge ahead.

It's crucial to remember the journey ahead isn't just about navigating the tech and business worlds with finesse; it's about reshaping them. The stats we opened with aren't just numbers; they're a call to arms. The path to changing these figures isn't lined with passive hope but with actionable insights.

And at the other end of these numbers, are women, each with individual lives, making the most of it all. The point of all this isn’t ROIs or MVPs—the point is to make women’s lives better. And on that note, Nicole Patrice DeMember, Chief Architect at Life's Great Cake, has a reminder for us all: "The quicker you learn to love yourself, the better your life is going to be. And the sooner you stop caring about what other people think, the better your life is going to be." ❖

Images Courtesy of Katie Loeb, Kim Gray, Kim Carson, Dr. Taryn Marie, Dr. Melissa Sassi, Alexandra Roddy, Nicole Patrice DeMember, Shahrzad Ahmadi, Jennifer Arnold, Anne Lanc, Patricia Thaine, and Daniel N Johnson

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