It’s no secret that in the tech industry, women are a minority. That’s what makes the accomplishments of the women on this list particularly inspiring. They didn’t ask for companies to award them the leadership positions they deserved. Instead, they used their entrepreneurial talents to launch their own enterprises. Their groundbreaking companies are blazing new trails in tech. Even more importantly, though, they’re impacting in the lives of future generations of women in seriously powerful ways.
1. Adriana Gascoigne, CEO and founder of Girls in Tech
Tired of working at startups and being the only woman, in 2007 Adriana Gascoigne decided she’d work on changing the status quo. That year she founded her nonprofit, Girls in Tech, with a mission to improving gender disparity in the tech industry. Thanks to Gascoigne’s savvy tech leadership, today Girls in Tech has 60 chapters in 36 countries, and more than 60,000 members. Chapters offer a number of innovative programs to support women in the tech space, including educational and training sessions, networking, and mentorship opportunities.
According to Gascoigne, getting more women into tech starts by creating the right office setting: “It’s more than just hiring more women or just throwing money at a diversity and inclusion executive. It’s building a culture that is inviting and creates a comfortable environment for women to thrive.”
2. Amanda Signorelli, founder and CEO of Techweek
Amanda Signorelli was inspired to start Techweek after witnessing firsthand the powerful effects of technology advancements on large corporations. Since its founding in 2011, Techweek has grown into a one of the nation’s leading technology conferences, helping local startups network and grow. Based in Chicago, Signorelli’s conference and media company helps shine a light on what she calls “local champions”—those who are creating sustainable tech companies outside of Silicon Valley.
Signorelli is also a big proponent of bringing more women into the field: “The number of women at the top of the funnel who enter tech needs to increase, and businesses need to create inclusive policies to ensure women can rise through the ranks in the tech industry.”
3. Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna, co-founders of Birchbox
In 2010 neither Katia Beauchamp nor Hayley Barna had experience in the beauty or tech industries. But that didn’t stop them from launching Birchbox, a subscription-based ecommerce beauty company. The co-founders got their inspiration by observing a real problem women faced: they needed an efficient way to try new beauty products. Birchbox solved it by delivering samples monthly. By the spring of 2017, Birchbox had upwards of one million subscribers and had raised more than $86 million in venture capital.
Beauchamp believes there are many reasons there are a lack of women in tech: “Honestly, I think it starts early [during childhood]. When a woman is growing up, it’s important the people around her tell her what could be possible, and that she has role models to look up to. A critical part is believing it’s possible. I also think if you decide to be an entrepreneur, as a woman it’s more difficult to raise capital. Opportunities [for women in tech] would improve if there [were] more balance in the investor community. That’s where most change needs to happen.”
4. Logan Cohen, co-founder of Küdzoo
Soon after graduating from college, Logan Cohen was looking for ways to improve the educational experience for others. In 2014 she partnered with Trevor Wilkins to co-foundKüdzoo, a mobile application that incentivizes students to work hard. Küdzoo partners with local businesses and schools to provide students with rewards for their grades, attendance, and achievements. “Küdzoo Cash” can be exchanged for gift cards, discounts at restaurants and stores, and much more.
Not only is Cohen doing her part to help ensure students are always doing their best, she’s also advancing the profile of women in tech. In 2016 Cohen came into the spotlight for her efforts when she was featured on Forbes’ list of 30 Under 30 in education.
5. Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest
Alexa von Tobelstarted LearnVest in 2009 with a very specific vision: to offer personal finance advice to women. Her inspiration for the company came when she was on a leave of absence from Harvard Business School and she realized that even though she’d graduated from an Ivy League university she had no idea how to intelligently manage her money. Since then, LearnVest has expanded into an award-winning financial planning platform for the masses. And Von Tobel has become the author of Financially Fearless, a New York Times bestseller.
In an exclusive Huffington Post interview on the subject of “What Women Do That Holds Them Back,” Von Tobel had this advice for women looking to create their own startups: “[Build] the smartest and best team, then take great care of the people on your team. That love makes people excited to work and it’s the committed, passionate people that help create magic, which is what you create when you’re the CEO of a startup.”
6. Krystle Loyland, co-founder and CEO of Preacher
Although Krystle Loyland and her partners co-founded Preacher only three years ago, their full-service creative startup has skyrocketed to prominence in Austin, Texas. Today Preacher has more than 40 employees, as well as an impressive client list, including Crate & Barrel, Squarespace, and Venmo. The key to entrepreneurial success, according to Loyland, is being willing to reach out: “When we started Preacher and had no choice but to ask for help, I realized how generous people can be with their time, talents and wisdom if you just ask. And the people who are best…have the confidence to know that they don’t know everything.”
Named as one of Ad Age’s Women to Watch 2017, Krystle Loyland is quickly becoming known as a creative powerhouse who is breaking industry molds. Through her entrepreneurial skills and dedication to excellence, she’s transforming perceptions of women and their potential to conquer any industry.
7. Shiza Shahid, founder Malala Fund and co-founder Now Ventures
Shiza Shahid’s entrepreneurial talents emerged while she was studying on scholarship at Stanford University in the late 2000s. Having grown up in Islamabad, Shahid watched from afar as violence at home ramped up and the Taliban’s repression of women grew. When Malala, an 11-year-old BBC blogger began sharing her day-to-day struggle to get an education in Pakistan, Shahid was compelled to reach out. As a result, Shahid organized a camp in Islamabad for young girls to empower them to become effective activists and entrepreneurs. Eventually this grew into the Malala Fund in 2013.
Deeply enthusiastic about the power of investment funds to transform the world, Shahid and two partners founded an investment firm, Now Ventures, in 2016, which provides seed funding to mission-driven startups.
Shahid’s inspiration to succeed is derived from: “Women leaders of all kinds fighting for change, climbing new heights, and opening the door for many more women to follow—in particular, women entrepreneurs. I believe entrepreneurs change the world, and I’m inspired to see more women starting successful companies and focusing on ideas for social good.”
Now that’s something we can really get behind. Three cheers for these amazing women!