After the company Jan Ryan founded was acquired in 2013, she took some time to explore ways she could give back to the community — a way to help others experience the kind of success she had with Social Dynamx, Inc.
She realized the city had a lot of women founding startups and seeking funding, but it didn’t have an organization dedicated to women entreprenuers.
“There was such a gap in our ecosystem here for how to boost women entreprenuers and help make them succesuful,” she said. “Women were not learning from each other enough. They were not connected enough into certain organizations in the city.”
So she started networking with fellow women founders and created Women@Austin in 2014. She thought she may only find a handful of interested women to form a steering committee. But soon she had 20 women who wanted to mentor and network with others.
Now the organization has 700 members, including more than 20 on a steering committee trying to find the best ways to unite women and advance their position in the tech landscape — from starting companies to the C suite.
“I think we all agreed… that this is not to take women away and be by ourselves,” Ryan said. “It’s not just somehting to have women be in a club. It’s really about connections, and it’s men and women. I believe we’re at a tipping point that really in Austin we recognize that men and women working together is what produces the best results. We’re focused on getting more diversity in these situations and companies.”
Austin, like the rest of the nation, still has a wide gender gap in tech executive roles and in business ownership. But it has made strides, and it was recently ranked the fifth-best place in the nation and the 12th-best in the world for women entrepreneurs to scale their businesses in a study commissioned by Dell.
And there are several signs of additional momentum for women entreprenuers and executives. True Wealth Ventures, for example, recently raised $4.7 million of a planned $20 million fund to invest in women-led businesses. Meanwhile, organizations, including DivInc and Notley Ventures, are putting a strong emphasis on supporting women founders.
“There’s a verve in the city now that there has never been,” Ryan said.
With that in mind, Women@Austin has shared insights from its steering committee to help other women advance their goals of forming businesses and climbing the corporate ladder.
See below for their advice.