15 Emerging Female Tech Executives to Follow
The women on this list are leading by example and emerging as a new generation of female tech executives. They’re not waiting for Silicon Valley to reform itself before they get started.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
After 20-plus years in tech, June Sugiyama wrote last year, "I've grown used to being one of the only women in the room." With only a quarter or less of tech jobs held by women, and even fewer at the C-suite level, Sugiyama's experience is common. The lack of gender parity in tech is a much discussed reality--and also a persistent one. There's even some indication it is getting worse. The causes are complicated--culture, education, and bias are part of the picture. But one thing virtually everyone agrees on is that more female role models would help. The women on this list are leading by example and emerging as a new generation of female tech executives. They are founders, coders, marketers, and educators. Some of them have Ivy League degrees and others are self-taught. What they have in common is a record of finding success in tech on their own terms. They're not waiting for Silicon Valley to reform itself before they get started.
1. Rachel Haot, 1776
Bridging the gap between government and tech, Haot has worked for the mayor of New York City, the governor of New York, and now, the DC-based startup incubator 1776. Haot rose to prominence as the first Chief Digital Officer of New York under former Mayor Bloomberg's administration. She held the position for three years before moving upstate to Albany to work in the same role in Governor Cuomo's administration. While working for the state, her projects included a complete overhaul of New York's ancient website and helping the governor pitch his broadband infrastructure plan to the legislature and the public. Last January she joined 1776, a benefit corporation that seeds and incubates startups focused on solving problems in fields such as healthcare, energy, and transportation. Working from 1776's New York office, Haot helps the incubator's portfolio companies navigate regulations and interactions with the government, drawing on her public sector experience.
2. Rebecca Garcia, CoderDojo NYC
Garcia believes that anyone can enter the tech workforce if only they have access to training and knowledge. As a co-founder of CoderDojo NYC, she has worked to expose young people--especially from communities underrepresented in tech--to coding languages and skills. Her efforts have been recognized widely, including the Obama Administration, which gave her a Champion of Change award in 2013. Like many of the CoderDojo youth, Garcia was introduced to tech through an extracurricular program--in her case, a MIT summer session. She has been building websites ever since. In addition to her work teaching kids to code, she also maintains a day job. After working at Squarespace and NextCaller, she is currently a technical product manager at Microsoft. Balancing her volunteer and paid work is the trick. She said recently, "If you're staying up late, spending more time on your side projects/gigs than your actual full-time job, maybe you're onto something."
3. Maggie Wells, Connatix
Before joining Connatix two years ago as the head of publisher solutions, Wells had worked everywhere from The Economist to cutting edge mobile advertising startups (and written a series of young adult novels to boot). At Connatix, one of the leading native advertising platforms, Wells brings together her experience from both her publishing and advertising backgrounds. Since Connatix launched in 2013, it has helped publishers and advertisers boost a crucial and elusive metric: engagement. Engagement is a measure of how much a reader actually watches, reads, or clicks on a bit of digital marketing. Increasingly, it is the measure of success for digital ad campaigns. Wells helps publishers roll out native advertising--in the form of articles or videos--that integrates with a website's content so that users don't just overlook it. Since Wells came on board, Connatix has expanded its video product line available to publishers and landed some big new clients, including Dow Jones Media Group.
4. Leah Belsky, Coursera
A Yale-educated lawyer, Belsky began her career in policy. She worked in international development and science policy at the World Bank and the National Institutes of Health, and served on President Obama's technology policy committee. In 2006, she jumped into tech as a founder of Noank Media, a global media company. After two years, she moved to Kaltura, where she led the company's expansion into Europe and helped get its education business off the ground. Today Belsky leads global sales and business development at Coursera, an education startup that offers massive open online courses (MOOCs). Belsky joined Coursera in 2015 to develop several new business lines, including partnerships with corporations and Coursera's certificates program. Belsky is only 36 years old, so anyone who follows the Edtech or media startup landscape should expect to keep hearing her name.
5. Michelle Vautier, dLocal
A leading global payments executive, Vautier began her career in Mastercard's B2B division. In 2012, she moved into tech when Netflix hired her to manage its global payments. A year later, she moved to Facebook and, in 2015, founded Ritual Payments, a startup. Last year she joined dLocal, a startup launched in November, that focuses on B2B payments in Latin America, Turkey, and China. She has had a noteworthy start as Chief Revenue Officer at dLocal. Although the company is brand new, it has already landed major clients, including Wikipedia, GoDaddy, and Motorola. The company's founders, who had previously founded AstroPay, another global payments firm, attribute their early success to the deep experience of the management team. Pitching Vautier's and other senior executives' expertise and relationships has made it easier for dlocal to convince big customers to take the leap and sign contracts with the newest kid on the block.
6. Smadar Landau, Feelter
An Israeli Buddhist who lived in the Far East for seven years, Landau's entrepreneurial journey is anything but typical. After serving as an officer in the Israeli Navy, Landau moved to India, Tibet, and China, where she studied in a monastery and conducted philosophical workshops for tourists. Seven years later, she returned home to Israel and went on to study business administration. After founding the School of Advertising at Tel Aviv University and teaching there for a few years, Landau decided to take a stab at startup life. She formed Feelter, a platform for retailers that curates and presents customer reviews and sentiment from across social networks right on to the retailer's site. Landau says her philosophical roots inspired the concept of bringing "truth" to consumers and helping retailers in the process. Well, the truth is paying off - the company has raised $4 million in funding, was accepted into the Mass Challenge Accelerator in Boston, and went on to win GMIC's G-Startup Worldwide competition.
7. Parisa Tabriz, Google Chrome
One of Silicon Valley's security experts, Tabriz has been working in cybersecurity since 2005. She made a name for herself while holding the title "Security Princess" on Google's Chrome team from 2013 to 2016. Today she's "Browser Boss" (a.k.a. engineering director) for Chrome. Tabriz is a hacker at heart (as most of the best security pros are) and manages a team of engineers she refers to as "hired hackers." She's also something of a hacking evangelist. She believes children--especially girls--should be taught the tools of the trade. Ultimately, wider dissemination of cybersecurity skills will lead to a safer web. That's how things have played out in Tabriz's own case. She got her start hacking by figuring out how to purge banner ads from websites she created using a free version of Angelfire, an early web design platform. "I liked the challenge of that," she once said at a conference, according to Wired. "That's how I got into computer security."
8. Michal Tsur and Lisa Bennett, Kaltura
In 1999, Dr. Tsur left academia--she was a game theory scholar--to cofound Cyota, an early cybersecurity firm. Bennett soon joined Cyota to run its marketing department. Six years later, Tsur and her co-founders sold Cyota for $145 million. Bennett stayed on as a senior marketing exec at RSA while Tsur co-founded her next blockbuster startup: Kaltura, a leading online video platform used by top media companies, corporations, and universities. In 2007, Bennett re-joined Tsur, and as VP of marketing for Kaltura, has helped grow the company into Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. Tsur, as president, runs Kaltura's education and enterprise business unit, and has helped build the company into a market leader. Kaltura is now rumored to be a unicorn--that is, worth more than $1 billion--and the company's next step could be an IPO.
9. Morgan Missen, Main
If you want a job (or an employee) in Silicon Valley, you want Morgan Missen's number. Ten years ago, when she was hired by Google, she started carving out a prominent niche for herself in the Valley's ecosystem, as a go-to headhunter. She spent three years finding talent at Google before going to work at Twitter as the then-startup's first official recruiter. Next she was head of talent for Foursquare before setting out on her own. Since 2012, she set up her own firm under the brand name Main, and has become a sought-after recruiter and consultant. She helps tech companies streamline their internal recruiting systems and sets up matches between tech talent and firms. Techli summed up Missen's role succinctly, writing, "If geeks are the new rockstars, then former Foursquare head of talent Morgan Missen is with the band."
10. Ruzwana Bashir, Peek.com
In 2004, when Bashir was only 20, The Mail on Sunday, a British tabloid, wondered if she might be the next coming of Margaret Thatcher. She had just been elected president of Oxford College's prestigious debating society (and, in the process, fended off a dirty campaign to delegitimize her election win). But politics didn't interest her in the long run. In her 20s she worked in private equity and investment banking before moving into senior positions at Gilt Groupe and Art.sy, where she was part of the founding team. In 2012, she set out on her own, co-founding Peek.com, her current venture. Funded by early backers including Eric Schmidt and Jack Dorsey, Peek set out to be the OpenTable of activities. The app and website allow users to browse and book excursions and tours in their home city or while they are traveling. Peek's "Pro" version is a backend tool for operators to manage bookings and promote themselves. Only 33 and with $17 million of funding in the bank for Peek, Bashir is on the rise, just not in the way the tabloids predicted.
11. Laura Behrens Wu, Shippo
Shippo CEO Behrens Wu and her co-founder Simon Kreuz originally set out to build a small e-commerce site. But they soon found that shipping was a nightmare. For a small outlet, it was important to shop around for the best price on any given package, but there was no good way to integrate the various shipping vendors into one store. Amazon had the functionality to do that, but it's solution was proprietary. So, instead of launching their store, Behrens Wu and Kreuz decided to solve the shipping problem they had discovered. They founded Shippo in 2013 and built a multi-vendor shipping API from the ground up. In a little less than three years, they raised more than $2 million in seed capital as sales continued to ramp up. Last September they closed a $7 million series A round and today the startup has dozens of employees and more than 10,000 customers.
12. Tracy DiNunzio, Tradesy
DiNunzio rented out her bedroom on Airbnb and sold her car and some of her clothes to keep Tradesy going in the early days. Now it has raised $75 million in venture capital funding and is regarded as a pioneer of the next generation of online retail. DiNunzio founded Tradesy in 2009 as Recycled Bride, a marketplace for used high-end bridal attire--like multi-thousand dollar dresses that usually only get worn once. A former artist, DiNunzio taught herself every aspect of running a tech business from web design to customer service. At the same time, she rebranded Recycled Bride as Tradesy and expanded product offerings to all kinds of high-fashion goods for women. Now that she has raised boatloads of money, her investors say that she is planning to roll out new Tradesy departments for men's and children's clothing.
13. Karen Dayan, Trusona
Karen Dayan went from serving in the Israeli military during the Gulf War to heading up marketing for Microsoft Israel. She was then recruited to Microsoft HQ to do business planning, and since has played leading marketing roles at a variety of B2B enterprises and startups. Today, Dayan serves as CMO of Trusona, a cybersecurity startup seeking to do away with passwords. The company, which launched last year and raised $8 million from Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, has developed identity authentication technology that allows users to securely access web and mobile applications without entering a password. In an increasingly vulnerable world, Dayan and her colleagues are working hard to make the Internet a more secure place. Recently, the company rolled out passwordless access for Salesforce.
14. Jessica Matthews, Uncharted Play
At a wedding in Nigeria, the power went out, so Matthews' Nigerian relatives hauled out the diesel generators to keep the lights on. The noise and fumes bothered Matthews, which got her thinking about alternative ways to produce energy. On the same trip to Nigeria, she also watched her cousins spend their afternoons playing soccer. Back in the US, where she was a student at Harvard, Matthews invented a soccer ball with a kinetic generator inside. After being kicked around for a few hours, the ball could power a lamp. In 2011, Matthews' soccer ball became the first product of her new company, Uncharted Play. Today, funded by a $7 million series A round, Uncharted Play licenses its kinetic generation technology to manufacturers of strollers and other goods that can convert movement into energy. A dual American and Nigerian citizen, Matthews believes that no woman of color had raised such a substantial venture capital round before her. "We're in the game now," she told Business Insider. "I'm excited that I'm playing on an equal level as the people that look the opposite of me in Silicon Valley."
15. Erin Teague, YouTube
A software engineer with a management degree from Harvard Business School, Teague has led product teams at Twitter, Path, and Yahoo. Along the way, she's worked on a wide range of leading consumer tech, including a mobile social network and a fantasy sports platform. But her latest gig is probably her coolest one yet. Last year she landed at YouTube where she leads the team developing the video site's virtual reality app, which was officially launched last November. Created with the same goal as the parent site, the app is designed to allow users to create, upload, and browse VR content with few restrictions. Teague says that the software had to be created from the ground up with a lot of experimentation because, as she told [a]listdaily, "Building VR is new for everyone." The app is meant to work with (and to help sell) Google's VR headset which was launched alongside Teague's product.