The Choice For Female Entrepreneurs & The Support Of A Community

Written by:  Robyn Spoto, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Tampa Bay Wave
founder, SpotOn Digital Media.

Event attendees discussing the event Funding Options for Women Tech Entrepreneurs in June 2019.

The facts: There are fewer female tech entrepreneurs in Tampa than males – OK, not just Tampa – but frankly, that doesn’t bother me. 


I often hear that we need to change the ratio and get more women and girls interested in tech and entrepreneurship. And while I don’t disagree that we need more inclusion and representation, I’m not convinced that changing the numbers should be the focus. 

Why?

Because our focus should instead be on providing support and community to the female tech entrepreneurs that are in Tampa – rather than persuading or recruiting new – and bring awareness to why we choose entrepreneurship or why we may be discouraged its journey.

THE OPTIONS

Endless. Work for a company. Start your own company. Don’t work and rely on a partner, spouse, or parent. Bootstrap. Raise money. Grow slowly. Grow like a hockey stick. Play more than you work. Work more than you play. Start a family. Stay home to raise kids. Work from home to attempt both. 

When the options are abundant,  a choice can be challenging. 

As for me? I left a corporate job about 12 years into my career and was exposed to truly inspired entrepreneurship when I joined a few remarkable investors on a tech startup. Eventually, we sold the company, the MamaBear App, to Grom Social five years later – all the while coworking at Tampa Bay Wave. 

My heart was stolen to the process, pain, and satisfaction of starting a company, building a team and growing a business. My professional and personal growth was exponential and I continue to build upon those lessons in my current journey with my own company, SpotOn Digital

It’s that experience that keeps me connected to Tampa Bay Wave with a profound understanding of – and appreciation for – the value of community, and one that has come a very long way since. 

And with that journey comes observations about leadership advantages and overall challenges for female entrepreneurs. 

ADVANTAGES OF FEMALE LEADERS

This recent Forbes article does a great job outlining strengths women leaders have, such as … 

  • Women deliberate. Good business decision-making means evaluating options, careful to not make reactionary decisions. 
  • Women turn feedback into results. Data shows women more often have collaborative leadership styles, openly receiving feedback with a propensity to act on that feedback to impact change.
  • Women possess critical emotional intelligence. A Forbes reported study concluded that women lead nearly every aspect of the emotional intelligence scale critical to growing a business.

TOP CHALLENGES FOR FEMALE LEADERS

In 2018, female-led ventures received 2.2% of the $130 billion total in venture capital money invested over the year – a rather stagnant annual trend. 

Why, you ask? 

Because while the reasons are subjective at best and hotly contested at worst, I tend to side with this rationale and study, which explains that when pitching investors, women are asked more prevention questions over promotion questions, such as, “How are you going to mitigate risk and secure your data?’ instead of ‘What will be your measures of success and how will you grow the business?” 

The study then suggested that entrepreneurs should turn prevention questions to promotion answers to balance the bias.

This then begs the equally contested subject of unintended bias and more specifically: Does it exist? 

Uh, yeah. Of course, it exists. But as the mother of two teenage boys, I’d argue that it exists for both sexes, sometimes, admittedly, from my own mouth.

So what can we do about it? 

Acknowledge it and then when making decisions or asking questions, make a conscious, concerted effort to actively override any hardwired biases.

We may not solve this problem entirely but we have to work together to make it better. 

HOW TAMPA BAY WAVE SUPPORTS FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS

  • We have female-focused quarterly events typically partnered with other great supporting community organizations. 
  • Our accelerator companies can be selected to participate in a monthly peer mastermind forum to vet and work out top challenges and opportunities.
  • Be accepted into our accelerator program or tech diversity cohorts.
    Connect with mentors to support and advise you through different challenges. 
  • Connect with the community around you through any of our gatherings for the motivation, inspiration and continuous displays of grit and grind that it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Y’all, we got you. And I can’t wait to meet you.