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Forget The Glass Ceiling: 3 Ways To Build Your Technology Company Without One

By Geri Stengel

The Next Women - August 1, 2014

Geri Stengel, the president of content marketing and market research company Ventureneer, introduces The NextWomen to her book, Forget the Glass Ceiling, which hopes to provide women entrepreneurs with practical advice on how to start and grow companies.

No need for women to put up with sexist, “brogrammer” culture that can make women feel unwelcome, demeaned or even endangered. Use your technology skills and drive to start your own company. And if you're not a techie, find a cofounder who is, or hire someone who can fill that gap! 

“Starting a company may sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be.”

In Forget the Glass Ceiling: Grow Your Business Without One,10 women provide practical advice on how to start and grow companies, really BIG companies - all are or have the potential to be $100 million plus companies. As its foundation, the book uses Gender-Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI) Research of High-potential Women Entrepreneurs - the first diagnostic tool that comprehensively identifies and analyzes the conditions that foster the  development of high-potential female entrepreneurs. Both the book and the research were commissioned by Dell and are provided  at no charge.

To whet your appetite for the book, here are three tips: 

Find inspiration from role models

“Sometimes, it may feel as if you don't have a role model to look up to. But role models are everywhere. You just need to know where to look. Don’t limit yourself to women heading technology companies.”

It’s great when the women are techies, such as Paula Long, of data company, DataGravity. Her track record includes selling a company to Dell for $1.4 billion and raising $42 million from VCs before DataGravity’s product had even launched. 

But it's not necessary to be STEM-qualified yourself. Other women have co-founders who are techies. This includes Danae Ringelmann, of  Indiegogo -  the first and largest crowdfunding site. Her company has raised $56.5 million, including $40 million in January, 2014, in the largest venture investment for a crowdfunding platform. 

It also includes Luan Cox, of Crowdnetic, which aggregates data from equity crowdfunding sites, making it easier for companies and investors to find each other. 

Other women buy companies that have the technology capabilities their companies need. Liz Elting, of TransPerfect, a global language service provider, and Nina Vaca, of Pinnacle, a global workforce, vendor management and IT-solutions provider, bought companies with the technical expertise they needed. Surprisingly, neither of these women raised outside capital to start or grow their companies. TransPerfect had $402 million in revenue last year and Pinnacle Technical Resources $201 million.

Connect to fuel business growth

One size doesn't fit all when it comes to networking but the 10 women share three common strategies: 

· Large and diverse networks that include not just business people but media, politicians, and regulators 

· Purposefulness in using their networks 

· A preference for strategically attending conferences as opposed to networking events 

At a time when many are becoming reliant on social media to make connections, Kourtney Ratliff of Loop Capital - an investment bank, brokerage and advisory firm - far prefers making the ask by phone or, better yet, in person.

Kara Goldin of Hint, a beverage company that provides water with a splash of natural flavour, loves connecting people. No time to be a gatekeeper and ask permission. She’s full speed ahead.

Reach out and ask for help

Was there self doubt in starting and growing their companies? Sure.

Erika Bliss of Qliance, a direct primary care provider, thought she needed an M.B.A.

Lili Hall of KNOCK searched high and low for the book that would tell her how to start and grow her company  - which she never found.

“You can’t build a major company by yourself. These 10 women didn’t isolate themselves. They didn’t do things by themselves.”

When they didn’t know the solution to a problem, they turned to their stable of advisors, which included accountants, family members, peer advisor groups (a.k.a. CEO roundtables or Mastermind,  groups such as Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Women Presidents’ Organization, and Young Presidents’ Organization) and board members.

When Mandy Cabot of show company, Dansko, thought the company had outgrown her mom-and-pop, homeschooled model, she hired a team of professionals.

Entrepreneurship provides women who want to sidestep the glass barriers the ability to control their own destiny...and build a business without glass barriers for themselves or the hardworking, innovative women they hire.

Geri Stengel is president of Ventureneer, a content marketing and market research company that specializes in helping corporations generate thought leadership among women entrepreneurs. She is the author of Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One and Forbes contributor.