Equal participation of both men and women in the economic activity of a country is critical not only for sustainable development, but for a balanced and equitable society. Although this a fact already acknowledged universally, there still exists a disparity between awareness and reality. A number of companies have begun to realize that empowering women at the workplace is actually good for the business. That said, there still exists (among other things) a gender pay gap and low percentage of women in top or decision-making positions in tech, financial and many traditionally male-dominated sectors.
Indeed there are numerous obstacles blocking female executives from reaching the top. While the tendency of men hiring fellow men is rampant globally; issues stemming from gendered roles at the workplace – such as insecurity, lack of guidance, inspiration or low self-worth – hinder women’s growth in the corporate world.
Resolving these issues is only possible through peer mentorship and proactive knowledge exchange, in short women helping other women. Glassbreakers is one such organization that aims to create a vibrant community of mentors and mentee, empowering aspiring women through inspiration, guidance and identifying career goals.
Tell us about Glassbreakers and what was the inspiration behind its launch?
Glassbreakers is an enterprise software company focused on diversity. We have a free product for women in workforce in several industry verticals that connects peer mentors across companies and offers inspiring user generated content at glassbreakers.co. Our first enterprise solution is a scalable peer mentorship platform for large organizations that connects women internally and highlights women remodels at the company. We’re currently building data analytics tools as well as a full digital transformation for employee resource groups (i.e. we’re expanding to other diverse groups like LGBT, people with disabilities, etc.) to strengthen diversity departments across the Fortune 1000.
The inspiration behind launching Glassbreakers as a company was our shared passion for solving the workplace challenge of retaining and promoting women and minorities in leadership. You can’t be what you can’t see and so we want to innovate diversity as a core business function to help make the global c-suite 50/50 and eliminate workforce gender inequality.
What challenges did you face as an entrepreneur – does being a woman makes it more challenging, raising funds?
Pattern recognition is a big part of the investment landscape. Investing in startups is a big bet and most people want to place a bet on what they know or in a team that might be similar to one they’ve seen succeed before. As a company with a woman CEO and woman CTO there aren’t many other co-founding teams like us that have come before. Fundraising is hard for any startup, we had some challenges in the beginning trying to fundraise like our male peers, so instead we took a different approach – focus on revenue first before fundraising on just a vision. Once we locked in our first paying customers, we were able to target investors we wanted to work with and pitch the opportunity based on the financial return not just the vision.
Funding partners are companies mostly headed by men, does that factor in, especially for women entrepreneurs and that too in the male-dominated tech (STEM) sector? If so, how can this be addressed?
Sixty percent of our investors are women so there are plenty of amazing women investing in startups. Prominent and successful venture capital firms typically have at least one woman as a partner so firms without any women on the team are kind of a red flag. The same goes for engineering teams without any women on the team – we don’t recommend any women join a startup with more than ten employees that hasn’t yet hired a woman. Our team includes two men out of seven total employees for context.
Why put yourself in a situation where you are the only woman in the room when choosing a funding partner when you can work with better teams that aren’t as archaic and probably better due to their diverse leadership. You can’t fix the landscape but you can chose who you want to work with and it’s your opportunity to share with investors, not the other way around.
How does Glassbreakers work and what are its main goals?
Glassbreakers works as a software as a service (SaaS) for enterprises wanting to improve their diversity initiatives through data, the power of the cloud and scalable peer mentorship for employee resource groups. We’ve built machine learning algorithms that connect women (and other affinity groups coming soon), based on personal and professional interests and commonalities. Our main goal is to support diversity as a core business function to help our customers generate higher revenue through increased retention, innovation and promotions of diverse talent.
Women helping other women is important to women empowerment – at the workplace and otherwise, but an inclusive discussion is critical in order to attain sustainable results. In your opinion, how can this be achieved?
Including other members of the workforce who have been historically discriminated against is a huge part of what we do. Our community events are also always 80% women and 20% men. We spend time with our male allies and it’s incredibly important to keep them apart of this conversation. Toxic masculinity in the workforce hurts everyone, so sustainable inclusion means empowering men to also push aside gender norms and fight for their peers against discrimination whenever they see it.
How can women (individuals) as well as companies outside the US benefit from Glassbreakers?
There are women in 99 countries currently using our free product at glassbreakers.co Some of our customers include multinational companies – so we’re making this a global movement.
What in your opinion entails leadership and how can we empower women to create leaders?
Leadership is the freedom to make yourself be heard and command others to listen. Women, all over the world, must overcome a culture of violence against women who speak up in public. In Kenya, for example, the government is trying to insure that 33% of government leaders are women but the women who run for office are targeted for violent attacks. To truly empower women to step into leadership we need to work harder to protect them from physical threats, online harassment and media scrutiny for their womanhood. In the United States the second leading cause of death for women under 50 is domestic violence (after car accidents). Our society needs to evolve to a point in which violence against women isn’t the norm so we can empower women to be leaders without the very real fear for their safety.
What feedback has Glassbreakers received since its launch?
All super positive – our users are the best. We’ve scaled pretty rapidly since launching thanks in part to the product feedback from our users and the customer feedback for our enterprise product. We’re doing something meaningful, with a truly great team, so the support we’ve received has been tremendous.
What is Glassbreakers’ role in creating an all-inclusive digital/tech landscape, especially in the Silicon Valley?
We’re a technology company, with a product that helps women in tech connect to each other for mentorship, support and empowerment, but our customers and users come from every industry. Having a woman led enterprise software company and women led engineering team has hopefully opened the doors for other entrepreneurs to see it can be done and the obstacles aren’t gender specific these days. Yes, Silicon Valley has some catching up to do, but it’s changing and evolving thanks in part to the incredible people involved in the Glassbreakers community.
Images credit: Digital Photos