The rain was really starting to come down hard, but the female CEOs at Internet Week appeared undaunted by the passing storm. Birchbox’s Hayley Barna, Learnvest’s Alexa von Tobel, Nest.io’s Caren Maio, Mashable’s Sharon Feder and Artspace’s Catherine Levene joined CNNMoney reporter Laurie Segall for a discussion about gender in tech.
The panel was entitled “Why Being a Good CEO Has Nothing to Do with Being a Woman,” but it was clear from the first question that the women on this panel were more concerned with talking about their businesses than how being a woman has hindered their growth in the tech sector. And who can blame them? After all, the panel was specifically about how gender had nothing to do with their success–though almost all of the questions revolved around their experience as women in a male-dominated world.
“A good executive has everything to do with being a woman,” said Ms. Levene. “I think they make amazing leaders, great managers. They have a different way of communicating with people, so I think it’s a fantastic opportunity. As it relates to women in technology, you just have to face the fact that there are not that many.”
“I wish this was less about being a women and more about the businesses that we’re building,” added Ms. Barna.
Once we got the gender politics (mostly) out of the way, the ladies elaborated upon their advice for building a successful business–whether you have two X chromosomes or not.
1. Have a good mentor.
“I think that it’s been really helpful for me to have a series of mentors that I’ve had throughout my entire career, and that’s been incredibly helpful,” said Ms. Levene. “My advice is to find someone that you can really trust, that you respect, that you look up to.”
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
“Building your business is a lot of asking the right questions, knowing how to collect the data and knowing when you’re wrong and turning it in another direction if necessary,” Ms. Barna said. “So it’s really a balance between confidence, vision–but then also being able to ask the right questions.”
3. Don’t ask permission. Just do it.
“My advice for people who want to start a company is: start it,” advised Ms. von Tobel. “Don’t ask for it. Go out and really start it. There’s great capital out there, and I really believe if you work your ass off you can have whatever you want.”
“Don’t ask permission,” added Ms. Maio. “If it’s something that you’re really passionate about, you really feel that fire in your belly and you’re ready to do it, then do it.”