Hacking “Lady Problems,” Breaking Barriers in Female Entrepreneurship
By Lisa Wang, Co-Founder, SheWorx
There has been a significant upswing in the number of new female entrepreneurs. According to the Kauffman Foundation, a record 26% of new entrepreneurs in 2015 were women, up from 22% the previous year.
Yet even as we see more women taking the leap into entrepreneurship, the tiring question, “Can we have it all?” continues to pervade the discussion. From lukewarm support systems to a dearth of mentors, significant barriers still dissuade women from undertaking the all-encompassing grind of founding a company.
What can we do about it?
Enter AngelHack’s Lady Problems, a hackathon series addressing the problems that prevent female entrepreneurship.
The hackathon series taking place in 14 cities globally came to New York City on October 8–9th, and brought together developers, designers and entrepreneurs to come up with innovative solutions for addressing issues women face in health, safety, economic empowerment, and culture.
Over the course of the weekend, participants put their heads together and rapidly prototyped MVPs of their solutions, constantly keeping in mind the question “how will this support more women in entrepreneurship?”
As a judge, it was incredible to see the diversity in the room in all aspects of the word — gender, race, age, sexuality.
The diversity seemed to be a testament to the increasing urgency in the realization that encouraging more women in technology is not only a social problem, but an economic one that affects everyone if not addressed.
The companies that pitched showed incredible sensitivity towards these issues through the solutions presented. Participants were judged on creativity, feasibility, and alignment with the four core themes of health, safety, economic empowerment, and culture.
Pitches ranged from the Dish’d team, a meal planning solution that would decrease the amount of planning time and support better work life balance;
Her Village, a Task Rabbit for mothers with social currency built in to encourage giving and asking for help with last minute tasks;
TriAngel, a Tinder interface that would spark matches between female founders and their perfect Angel Investors and Mentors.
The grand prize winner was a company called Tracker built by Emilie Hsieh and Simon Tam. Simple and elegant, Tracker is a Slackbot that empowers employees to report bias, allows managers to track trends and provides tips and tools to manage improvement.
As the co-founder of SheWorx, this was something I found especially relevant because we constantly discuss how the small injustices are often go unaddressed, but over time, are extremely detrimental. Tracker provides a s safe space to report these injustices and has the potential to create a real shift in the way companies are run.
Other winners included Winii, an online support community for women to better understand and manage personal finance (AWS first place);
Rosy, a mobile app to promote self care, body positivity, and female empowerment, by enabling women to take control of their health (AWS second place);
LADYBOT by Caitlin Chai, Harrison Gregg, a chat bot for supporting women in the workplace through motivating and empathetic text replies (HPE Winning team).