PENNY LEE: Intersecting Politics and Tech to Create Inclusivity

Penny Lee being interiewed on CNN.

Empathy, kinship and an inclusive community have been part of Penny Lee’s vernacular as a young minster’s daughter, growing up in, Palmer, Alaska. As Penny and her family established themselves in their community, her father would welcome the congregation of all different backgrounds into their home and thrived on a life of a service to others. When community members struggled, they all struggled and empowered each other together. When the community rejoiced over an accomplishment, they celebrated in unison together.

At the young age of 14 years old, Penny began to create her own role as a budding changemaker during her first engagement with politics. As a member of the family church congregation, Edna DeVries won the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor congregation and Penny jumped at the chance to volunteer on her campaign. Through her campaign work, Penny witnessed the power of motivating an audience with clear messaging and how people would just gravitate towards someone of influence. Needless to say, Penny was intoxicated and decided to make politics her life’s work.

Fast forward to college, Penny focused her efforts in political science and journalism at Baylor University and worked for a political consulting firm. There Penny was able to actively work on the Ann Richards campaign who then went on to become the 2nd woman governor in the state of Texas. A common thread began to develop through Penny’s entry into adulthood. She was motivated to be part of a movement that increased the likelihood of women acquiring success in positions of power.

Like any inspired young individual ready to take on the political world, Penny moved to DC and worked for the Democratic National Committee and weaved in and out of campaigns and worked for multiple administrations. Notable politicians that benefited from Penny’s consultation include Harry Reid, Ed Rendell and President Bill Clinton. Her energy source was inspired through the power of policy and legislation and the challenge to change things that were broken. Penny’s opportunity to intersect her love of politics and challenge a broken system of gender inequality in the world of technology was just around the corner.

On the campaign trail with Barack Obama in Philadelphia in 2008

While working for the political consulting firm, Venn Strategies in 2012, Penny got a call from a male friend asking if she would participate in a “Shark Tank” inspired event where she would get to sit back, watch start up founders pitch and say “Yay” or “Nay”. In this newly established tech market place, the playing field was nearly all white men. They needed a female, democrat diversity factor and Penny was available.

As Penny got her first taste of the startup world, she realized the lack of diverse founders and wanted to establish the positive evolution of different races and sexes represented. The group of white republican male friends that asked her to originally participate eventually hired Penny to chair their investment group, K Street Capital. “Over those three years, we invested in 35% women led startups, 11% African American and 12% Hispanic. As a woman, I know that if I had not been in the room, those numbers would have been lower if nonexistent. We are still working diligently to increase those percentages. ”

“What you can make happen as a woman by having a seat at the table is key”.

Fast forward to January of 2017, Penny becomes the Chief Strategy Officer after being an original investor in the seed fund of 1776 and is motivated through a philanthropic and political lens of investing. Because of existing antiquated regulation hurdles, Penny understood the challenges technology startups would face as they disrupt their respective market place. 1776 would provide a community of resources for young business’ to thrive that included a robust curriculum, mentorship, and key network opportunities .

Speaking at a 1776 event where Penny was an original investor.

Her current focus is bringing parody into investing. By being an advocate for female founders and bringing an increased awareness of the disparity she is able to inch forward on behalf of women as a whole. “Women are not getting the same questions that men are getting. Typically men are funded on potential where women are funded on actual performance”, states Penny.

Penny is driven to emulate her father and create kinship and inclusion within the technology community. We at EnrichHER have been so fortunate to have Penny as a mentor through the Vinetta Project and help us as we establish our EnrichHER financial investing platform. As a girl boss and influencer, we thank you for all the progress you have made to create an opportunity for women founders of all races and backgrounds. Thank you Penny!

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