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"Women 3.0," Taking On The Good Ol' Boys in Tech With Style

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For all the talk and bluster about diversity initiatives in Silicon Valley, the results are pitiful. Year after year, women-led technologies companies receive less than 10 percent of venture capital funding. In the first half of 2013, 7 percent of female run companies received VC funding, less than half of those applied. In 2001, the number was 5.72 percent.

Tech companies employ an average of 12.33 percent women engineers. The numbers for executives are even worse. As Reuters reported, "9 percent of U.S. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are female, down from 11 percent last year, and 12 percent in 2010." That same survey revealed that about one third of the organizations had no women at all in their IT departments.

The irony is however, that on average, women spend more time online per month, 24.8 hours compared to 22.9 hours for men. Not only are they online more, but they spend more time looking for ways to spend their hard earned 71 cents on the dollar: "Men and women visit retail sites in practically equal amounts, but women spend 20 percent more time on those sites." And perhaps most importantly for companies looking how to finally turn a profit, women engage other users to discuss purchasing and recommendations more than men.

Considering women spend more actual dollars on gaming consoles, books, music, toys, apparel, home and living and accessories, then perhaps these companies might put women on their staff?

So what are the hard numbers? Well, they're a more difficult challenge to procure than one might think. When CNN asked 20 leading companies to share their data on race and gender, 17 of them said absolutely no way. All companies with more than 100 employees are required to file these statistics with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission independent federal agency, (EEOC). Yet, CNN was forced to file a Freedom of Information Act with the EEOC and the Department of Labor. And they were denied. Denied?

I am a woman director, which is a field that is similarly dominated by men. In researching for this blog post, we had an equally difficult time putting our fingers on the numbers of women in my field. I do know, however, that the percentage of women in the union I call home, The Director's Guild of America, has never risen above 10 percent during my eight year membership. Discovering the same was true for my fellow female trailblazers in tech has motivated me to kick off a new series on A Total Disruption entitled "Women 3.0."

For the premiere episode, we join Sarah and Jinhee, co-founders of a social shopping app called Snapette, as they face this stark reality on the eve of their "demo day," the culmination of their tenure at Dave McClure's accelerator program, 500 Startups. It's during this demo day that they either "make it rain" and find financing for their venture, or part ways, which will mean Sarah returns to her MBA program at Harvard and puts her startup dreams on ice for now.

These fearless founders know the challenges they face navigating the ol' boys club of Silicon Valley where money meets tech, but they believed in their vision. Snapette is an app that acts similar to the way YELP catalogs and locates your choice of restaurants, bars and shops in your immediate area. Snapette helps us locate a specific item of clothing in a specific location.

The concept is sound, based on detailed research of shopping and social habits. As Sarah tells us, 34 percent of all women have taken a photo of a product in a store, 25 percent of women have shared photos with friends to get feedback and an incredible 92 percent of women share deals or offers that they find with other women. While the general concepts of local retail information, a searchable catalog of products and user-generated reviews and photo content all might sound familiar, until the creation of Snapette, there was not a centralized mobile outlet that combined it all together

While two Harvard students launching a business venture together might not sound out of the ordinary, Jinhee and Sarah's path is unusual because their respective time at Harvard occurred over 20 years apart. Sarah, is just 27, while Jinhee is 50 and a mother of three. These ladies embraced the fact that they are the minority in this high-tech world, and were determined to turn that to their advantage. Hoping to raise $500,000, they went on to secure $1.5 million in financing. Last year, PriceGrabber acquired Snapette, allowing Sarah and Jinhee to realize their dream of opening an office in New York.

 
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