InfoLawGroup is holding a series of popup panel discussions called “cocktails and conversations.” Our latest discussion was about what it takes for women to ascend to the upper echelons of business and featured successful entrepreneur and CEO, Fran Maier.
Fran is now the CEO of one of the fastest growing gig-economy startups, Babierge, which is changing the way parents travel with children all across the country. Babierge has had lightening fast growth over the past year and a half, but its rapid success is not surprising considering Fran brings the experience of being co-founder of Match.com, former CEO of TRUSTe (now TrustArc) and former board member of GE Capital Bank. She has served as Chair of the Stanford for Women on Boards initiative and has been and advisor and angel investor for several start-ups.
Following are some of the key takeaways that Fran offered to women looking to launch successful businesses and/or to break through barriers to the Boardroom.
Play to Win
Fran started off the discussion by talking about how women are the heart of small business yet only 2% of venture-backed businesses are women owned. And, According to 2020 Women on Boards, 29% of Fortune 1000 companies still have one or no women on the Board. Most of the problem lies in how money is raised and how boardroom talent is sourced, but women can also hold themselves back.
Fran gave examples of times in her career when she has seen women decide to cash in their chips early on in the lifecycle of a startup or lay off employees rather than invest their own money to keep the startup growing. She said that same fear that makes women risk adverse also stops them from asking for what they want, such a money and board assignments.
“Women play to survive,” said Fran. “Women should play to win.”
Support Other Women
Women who play to win support each other. For example, in the ’90s, in between ventures and lamenting the recession over drinks, Fran and a female peer vowed to always help each other in business. Fran coached her friend on landing a high profile position at a leading technology company. Then, when Fran was the CEO of TRUSTe and transitioning it from a non-profit to a venture backed for-profit, her friend introduced her to a woman at a leading venture capital firm who would become TRUSTe’s lead investor and later Babierge’s first angel investor. The more women who reach out and support each other, the further women will come in making strides in the C-suite and the boardroom. Professional women should avail themselves to the plethora of opportunities (SheEO and Portfolia, for example) to invest and advise early women-led start-ups
Ask for What You Want and Be Persistent
Sometimes you have to make “unreasonable requests.” Of course you will not always get what you ask for, but you will never get what you do not ask for. Persistence is the key success. And making sure that you are brave enough to ask for help as well as to make the “big asks” – whether that be venture capital money, or equity, or a title or whatever it is that you need and want to be a success. The first step is to know who to ask and then to ask.
Network and Get on the Lists
Networking remains the dominant means that companies source boardroom talent. Going back to the importance of asking for what you want, women should tell the people around them, including their higher ups, that they are interested in serving on a board. There are also specific board registries that connect women with boardroom opportunities and anyone thinking about pursuing a corporate board position should investigate those services. (BoardList, Equilar, . . . )
Build A Boardroom Ready Resume
Women need to keep in mind that pursuing a boardroom position is different than landing a job. When it comes to breaking through the barriers to the boardroom, women should think about the functional experience that boards need in this current business climate and highlight how their experience alleviates the board’s pain points.
For example, many board members lack the technology knowledge to navigate a business environment riddled with privacy and security risks. Women with privacy, security and e-commerce talent should emphasize these skills on their boardroom resumes. You may also have specific finance or other relevant experience. Work with a consultant or talk to anyone you can to learn how to make your resume read “board ready.”