Women-led Startups in 2013 Showed New York’s Tech Scene Not Just a Boys’ Club

Though it might seem that way to some, technology never was strictly the domain of men.

The programming languages of Rear Adm. Grace Hopper and the algorithms of Ada Lovelace run deeply in the digital DNA of computer science.

Women do found and build startups, as we have seen in New York this past year. Still, these women say more must be done to make their stories more common, to better reflect Hopper and Lovelace’s legacy.

Back in May, Kathryn Minshew, CEO of The Muse, did not mince words on the matter, calling for more visible female role models in technology. Further, she said she wanted to see the usual persona of the innovation scene shaken up. “Every time there is a panel that says, ‘What’s the future of technology?’ and you see eight white dudes’ faces staring back at you, we’re taking a step back,” Minshew said.

There are many voices in New York taking up this cause, such as that of Rachel Sklar and her Change the Ratio advocacy site and Deborah Jackson, CEO of Plum Alley and co-founder of Women Innovate Mobile. Advocates formed alliances to support women working now in innovation and to encourage future generations to do so, such as the NY Tech Meetup: Coalition of Women in Technology..

Companies and accelerators are also helping women entrepreneurs grow. L’Oréal’s Women in Digital program brings in women-led startups to potentially work with the company, and also honors standouts among them. This year, two New York companies, 72Lux and Poptip, alongside Joyus of San Francisco, received the Next Generation award from L’Oréal—with a bit of star power from Olivia Munn.

And then there is Springboard Enterprises, an accelerator for women-led startups, which, for the first time this year, let journalists come to its annual forum. Though based in Washington, DC, Springboard held demos in New York for 10 startups from Manhattan as well as Chicago, Salt Lake City, and Ontario. The gathering brought out angel investor Joanne Wilson and Buzzcar founder Robin Chase to share their wisdom on the entrepreneurial world.

Encouraging more women to march ahead in technology, however, is only part of the equation. They need to bring novel ideas to market, and then nurture them. Birchbox saw the e-commerce side of its business grow this year and Ayah Bdeir’s littleBits continues to create new functions for its electronics modules.  Over at Tutor.com, Mandy Ginsberg is putting her knowledge from growing Match.com to work as she builds up the tutoring site.

There are far more examples of women-led startups in New York, and across country. Kelsey Falter, CEO of Poptip, believes more young women should be encouraged at an early age to dive into tech. “Instead of giving a Barbie doll, give something like littleBits tinkering sets to make an Arduino,” she said. “Inspire your children to be creators.”

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