Why Is New York A Friendlier Scene For Female Tech Entrepreneurs?

“Chapter 1. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion…no, make that: he – he romanticized it all out of proportion. Yes. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.”-Woody AllenManhattan

A few weeks ago there was an article in The New York Daily News claiming that female entrepreneurs in the tech space prefer New York to build their businesses over Silicon Valley not because they like the pizza or crowded subways but because they are actually received better by investors as well as other entrepreneurs. The author of the article, Rich Shapiro, said based on his interviews with entrepreneurs as well as entrepreneur observers that “New York is quickly establishing itself as the place to be for women seeking to launch tech startups.” And we have seen some amazing female-based startups emerge in The Big Apple in the last few years such as LearnVest, Rent the Runway and Birchbox to name a few. We decided to ask our own panel of experts why in just the last few years New York developed a better reputation than Silicon Valley.

According to recent research from The University of New Hampshire Center for Venture Research, only 8.9% of all proposals presented to angel investor organizations were put forth by women. Men and women tend to seek out investors of the same gender which automatically puts women at a disadvantage since most investors are men. According to The Diana Project, only 10% of VCs are female. According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, data shows that while about 41% of private companies in the U.S. are owned by women, only 3-5% of them get venture capital. The U.S. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor says that women start ventures with eight times less funding than their male counterparts. But that is for general U.S. numbers, so what is happening in New York versus Silicon Valley?

Carrie Chitsey, is the Founder and CEO of mobile marketing company 3Seventy. It specializes in mobile CRM and makes QR codes, apps, and mobile sites for companies wishing to better engage their audience through their mobile devices.  She told The Grindstone:

“Having worked in NYC for 6.5 years, there are many powerful women in key executive roles and leaders in the city. Women are very smart and well respective, it’s standard. Silicon Valley is more of a good ole boys’ club of Stanford and young tech entrepreneurs. Getting into that club as an outside is much harder and if you haven’t previously raised money from a VC company there with a proven track record it’s hard to break the inner circle.”

Though New York sometimes does have many of its own boys’ clubs (Wall Street is arguably the most famous boys’ club in the world), think of who you associate with Silicon Valley? Most people would probably say Jobs, Gates and Zuckerberg. There is definitely a boys’ club in Silicon Valley. New research from the UC Davis Graduate School of Management in partnership with Watermark, found a disappointing picture of female representation on the boards and in the executive suites of high-profile companies in California, which together represent nearly $3 trillion in shareholder value. Women still hold fewer than one in 10 of the highest-paid executive positions and board seats at the top public firms in California — a rate that has improved by just 0.2 percent annually. And the fact that even though Sheryl Sandberg has become one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley and is obviously the most highly-valued Facebook employee (as we learned with the IPO this week), there are no women on the board of Facebook. “This is a place where technology companies are way behind,” said Marilyn Nagel, chief executive of Watermark.  “Tech companies don’t always focus on building the pipeline of women, and so there are not women who are moving up as rapidly. There are not programs in place to ensure that women take a seat at the table in the uppermost echelons of business.”

Heddi Cundle, Founder & CEO of myTab, talked to The Grindstone.

“Silicon Valley is run on fear & paranoia – I’m told off repeatedly by women on the west coast for not dressing masculine enough, to tone down my personality to fit more in with the male scene etc yet in New York, no one cares.they just like my start up www.mytab.co regardless of how I appear, speak etc.”

Heddi has an especially interesting look at how the New York tech scene has evolved as she worked here in the 1990s. She recently wrote a post for Forbes on the subject when she came to New York City for some tech meetings this year. She was delightfully surprised when she met with women in the industry.

Not only are these gals kinder and less defensive than the past decades but they know their stuff in tech. I was interrogated about my startup and with good cause. The questions were well thought out, unique in strategy and challenging in a “c’mon Heddi, you’re onto something big with this company but it’s my job to bust your balls until you get too big” way. And the best part – the questions and meetings were aimed at the intention that these women had my back and were really rooting for me.

I’ve had many meetings with women in Silicon Valley and all are great but there’s an LA Fear element. You know like in LA, its run on fear and paranoia (being a one industry town and all that)? Well the Valley has the same type of nervousness. Women want to strut their stuff and claim Hail Mary’s about their opinions but still shy away from truly being a happy and confident Rottweiler. But the East Coast? They’re knocking out the slam dunking image nonstop and they’re doing it with style, panache (yes, I do still say panache – you should also) and a flurry of intelligence that won’t be undermined by their male colleagues.”

Photo: SVLuma/Shutterstock.com

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