So Where are the Women Tech Entrepreneurs?

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2008-05-15 Print this article Print

Andrea Henderson, who is working with Hart at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University to update the Diana Project research in a post dot-com bust era, feels that women entrepreneurs were especially hard hit by the tech market crash of 2001. 

At the height of the dot-com boom in 2000, women accounted for seven percent of tech entrepreneurs, a number which currently hovers around four percent.

"The dot-com boom was a chance for new players to enter the field. So when the market crashed, those with the longest track records and history of successes got back on their feet the fastest," said Henderson.

During the boom, there were more women tech entrepreneurs than ever before, but many of them didn't seek new endeavors when venture capitalists were reinvesting in tech companies. Little research has been done to take a look at why most women didn't return.

"If it was your first time out and the bust happened before you had a chance to be successful, you may not have had a chance to come back," said Henderson.

The impact of the dot-com bust on women is especially visible within the ranks of serially-successful entrepreneurs where women are almost completely absent.

"BoardRoom Magazine found a while back that there are very few serially-successful female entrepreneurs. Men are more likely to come back after a failed venture. The message that you can still have success after a business failure isn't getting to women," said Vosmek.

So where are the women tech entrepreneurs?

Can all of these facets which slow the progress of all businesses created by women-the tendency to stay small, a lack of networks, fewer mentors, smaller presence at the venture capital table and a higher dropout rate after the dot-com bust fully account for the drastically low number of technology businesses started by women?

Some argue that these theories are a good start but not the whole answer.

"There are lots of reasons thrown out there as to why fewer people are investing in women's ventures. Some suggest that women don't have the necessary education or experience, that they aren't high risk-takers or that many wish to be the sole controller of their businesses and not take on partners. But none of these reasons are enough to explain the shockingly low participation of women in tech entrepreneurship-less than five percent," said Henderson.

One promising sign is that quite often, as soon as the dynamics that tend to weigh against women entrepreneurs are brought to their attention, they change almost immediately.

"We work with women to address the network issue and connect them with serial entrepreneurs. We believe that we can shortcut some of their pathways with the been-there, done-that experts," said Vosmek, who said that Astia has a greater than 60 percent success rate with the companies with whom they consult.

Yet, as exemplified by the BusinessWeek article, the prevailing image of a tech entrepreneur is still a young, scrappy guy like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook or Kevin Rose of And it is those faces that are mainly seen seated around most venture capital tables.

"Change will really happen when we see higher numbers of women at the venture-capitalist level," said Vosmek.




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