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Joanna Riley Weidenmiller Headshot

The Balancing Act

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The human race has always been enthralled with adventure and emerging into new frontiers. Technology has proven to be the new western frontier and while the biggest boom turned out to be a bust (remember the Dot Com bubble?), the innovation that was spurred during that time is now being used as a foundation for today's digital tech revolution.

The tech boom is back and thriving -- there are still lots of uncharted territories, unclaimed stakes and rules that are still being figured out as they go, for good, bad or controversial, but the crowd looks a little different. Women are more visible, and although there are still a ways to go, new female pioneers are becoming the norm. As we are emerging into a new crossroad, both women and men can learn a lot from each other to build next billion-dollar company.

I have always been in predominantly "male" industries, whether it was as a full-scholar Division I athlete, in the FBI or as an entrepreneur in the business and technology space. I have found that the key to success is through a strong balance between male and female management and advisors, which is a fundamental element to how I was able to sell my first company at the age of 24, and how I run a venture-backed technology start-up today.

This is truly an exciting time for women in start-ups in Silicon Valley as many are looking to make their stakes in a space traditionally dominated by men. Currently, only 6.5% of CEOs are women, and 1.3% of women run venture-backed technology, according to statistics released from the Dow Jones 'Women at the Wheel' report. Although there are still very few women CEOs in the start-up space, the combination of women finding success by driving results and their conservative practices with money has proven that of successful venture capital-backed exits, 64% of companies had at least one female executive.

The Mad Men-like barriers for women are disappearing, and successful women like Mariam Nacify, cofounder of Minted, have found part of their success by seeking advice from both men and women. One of Nacify's investors for Minted was none other than one of Silicon Valley's sweethearts, Marissa Mayer.

Mayer, is an exceptional entrepreneur and let's admit, compared to the average person, man or woman, Mayer is Wonder Woman. Her recent news of a baby and becoming Yahoo's CEO will be eased with the amount of help from her entire team, but even without, it is clear that she is a force to be reckoned with.

Mayer's success is directly supported by Tony Schwartz who believes women know more about leadership than most men. In the Harvard Business Review site he says:

"An effective modern leader requires a blend of intellectual qualities -- the ability to think analytically, strategically and creatively -- and emotional ones, including self-awareness, empathy and humility...I meet far more women with this blend of qualities than I do men."

The Harvard Business Review's website also published a study by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman named "Are Women Better Leaders Than Men?" that studied 7,280 leaders and found that women were more likely to outscore men on everything from "displaying high integrity" to "driving for results", all of which were traditionally thought to be characteristics of men.

On the other hand, while women are great leaders, they have their flaws as well. The American Express OPEN "The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report," found that many women struggle to expand their business because they have to realize they need to delegate and as their company expands, they require more support -- entrepreneurial, technical, educational and leadership development.

The struggle of delegating work is common and directly aligns with findings from Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman that, as the Washington Post reports, "the only competency on which men had a more positive score [than women] was 'developing strategic expertise,'" according to which included opinions from 7,280 leaders.

Women have come a long way in transforming the digital space, and although a lot of progress has been made, there is still some work to do.

Instead of focusing on the question of where are all the women in tech, we should begin to think of the bigger issue: how do we, as entrepreneurs, stay innovative and competitive, man and woman, or better yet together?

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