10 female entrepreneurs breaking down the tech boy’s club

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5. Sonja Bernhardt, CEO, ThoughWare

 

 

Bernhardt is the founder and chief executive of software company ThoughWare. She also founded Women in Technology and co-founded the Australian Women in IT and Science Entity.

 

Last year, Bernhardt became the first Australian inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in Silicon Valley.

 

She has also been awarded an Order of Australia, and oversees a number of initiatives designed to raise the profile of women in technology and break perceptions of technology careers.

 

One of her key tips for female-led tech start-ups is “resilience, resilience, resilience”.

 

“What will occur more frequently than success is failure and being hit by curve balls. Retain your internal strength, believe in what you are doing and be resilient,” she says.

 

“Get up that one more time from being knocked down. Remember why you are doing this and retain your passion and pride. Get up and keep going.”

 

 

6. Nikki Durkin, founder, 99dresses

 

 

Durkin started her first business at the tender age of 15. She designed T-shirts and had them printed and drop-shipped from China, and sold them through eBay.

 

After finishing high school, Durkin started working on 99dresses.com, which aims to create an “infinite closet” of free fashion for women.

 

Last year, Durkin won an iAward for Best Australian Startup, and soon after was accepted into Y Combinator in the United States. She graduated from Y Combinator in March this year.

 

“Personally I think it’s fantastic to be a woman in tech because there are so few of us, and the great thing about that is that no one is solving problems that exclusively affect women,” she says.

 

“There’s less competition, and more room to stand out and create something awesome.”

 

“So my tips for any budding female tech entrepreneur would be to find a tech co-founder – if you don’t code yourself – solve a problem you are passionate about and just do it.”

 

 

7. Jocelyn Hunter, founder, BENCH PR

 

 

Hunter has been working in the IT industry for nearly 15 years. She has worked for a wide range of companies including Palm, 3Com, Samsung, Cisco Systems, Xero and Zendesk.

 

In 2006, Hunter moved from the United Kingdom to Australia. Then in 2008, she set up BENCH PR, which specialises in the business-to-business and technology markets.

 

“At industry events, you get used to being in a small minority – I’ve been mistaken for the waitress many times,” Hunter says.

 

Hunter’s advice to other female tech entrepreneurs is to do your homework, practice what you preach and outsource to the professionals.

 

“If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’ll get found out pretty soon. Be clear about your offer and how you add value to your customers,” she says.

 

“You need to be using technology in your business, trying new tech products and understand how they work, first-hand… Focus on what you do best and outsource the rest.”

 

 

8. Kate Kendall, founder, The Fetch

 

 

Kendall is currently in the process of moving to San Francisco to join the co-founders of YouTube on a new magazine publishing website called Zeen.com.

 

She will be heading up marketing, communications and external community for the website and its parent company AVOS.

 

Kendall has been working in the magazine and publishing industry for five years, and was previously the digital director of Niche Media.

 

She’s worked across titles including Dumbo Feather, The Conversation, Marketing, Desktop and Macworld, and originally started out as an editor and journalist.

 

Kendall is founder of The Fetch and is particularly active in the start-up and social media space, with more than 37,000 followers on Twitter.

 

“What women need to do is just push forward… The more we can show the journey of local entrepreneurs being successful, this will be when a lot of these things get evened out,” she says.

 

 

9. Nicola Gracie, founder, FitIntegrate

 

 

After a stint at the York Butter Factory, the location of the infamous tweet that ignited the debate over the status of women in tech, Gracie moved onto AngelCube, where she is building her new business.

 

The venture, Fitintegrate, is an automated service that provides temps for the fitness industry. It is currently being trialled by Fernwood and has lofty ambitions of changing the sector.

 

Gracie says that she never had an issue in relation to her gender while at the York Butter Factory.

 

“I never felt uncomfortable at the York Butter Factory – they made me feel very welcome and I think there was a bit of an unjust reaction to the tweet,” she says.

 

“I felt an enormous amount of support at York Butter Factory. There are certainly more guys than girls, but it’s certainly not a boy’s club.”

 

“I haven’t had a problem in being taken seriously. I don’t know if any particular program will help the number of women in tech.”

 

“I think the numbers will grow in the future. The only way to increase numbers is to get involved – apply to incubators and go to industry events.”

 

 

10. Marianne Sea, co-founder, Young Republic

 

 

Sea is one of the three founders of Young Republic, a business that calls itself “Australia’s first interactive marketplace for fashion, jewellery, homewares, art and lifestyle products from home-grown upcoming and independent designers”.

 

Young Republic is one of the select cadre of tech start-ups to be accepted in this year’s Startmate incubation program

 

But Sea is exceptional in her own, perhaps less welcome, right – she is one of just three females in the 23 different founders taken on by Startmate in its class of 2012.

 

Despite this, she is upbeat about the status of women in the tech sector.

 

“I’ve found the industry to be very supportive and encouraging of female founders,” she says.

 

“I’d say the biggest challenge has been finding other young female entrepreneurs to relate to.”

 

“Don’t let being in a male-dominated industry deter you – enable it to motivate you.”

 

“There are a lot of great organisations and groups focused on providing women equal and in some cases, additional opportunities over male-founded companies, so this is the perfect time to go for it and give it everything you’ve got.”

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