Contrary to Stereotypes, I Founded An InfoSec Company Wearing A Pink Dress
By Janine Darling
The story I’m about to tell isn’t old or new or anything but the way things sometimes are.
I am the woman founder of an InfoSec company. Operations and branding consumed much of my professional career; only recently has technology become my livelihood. When I meet new people these days, I can see an invisible balloon over their heads: “Why didn’t you start a dress, shoe, candle, jewelry, cosmetics company?”
From the time I was a child, my interests have always been polarized. Cars fascinated me, as much as origami did. My favorite toy for many years was an electric train set that puffed plumes of smoke from its stack. I asked for more tracks each year until the train could travel in an intricate journey around the house. I didn’t want a Barbie or baby dolls. I wanted to build and to make things that worked well.
That hasn’t changed. I also was – and always will be – a person who deeply appreciates privacy and security. My childhood was consumed by hiding places where I kept the trinkets and baubles that were most important to me.
So it’s no wonder I’d end up building a company that helps people protect the things most important to them. It was a unique opportunity to provide a solution that millions of people need desperately. My aim was to be of use to them in the best way I know how.
Sometimes business acquaintances get where I’m coming from; sometimes they don’t.
At a recent professional group meeting, a comment caused a stir why more women weren’t involved in STEM activities. This particular male chauvinist suggested women aren’t interested in building the kinds of companies that are funded by VCs. That we are more interested in fashion, children, food – the softer, smaller side of business.
Many of the women present responded with anger, rudeness, and insults. I wondered why. There is some truth to it. It’s not a negative, but rather a lovely characteristic. I smiled, and admitted that I love fashion … and that I founded a technology company that is changing the face of data storage worldwide … while wearing a pink dress.
Someone else suggested that perhaps women aren’t up to it without “special” treatment. That could not be further from the truth.
It’s not that we can’t get it done. We just don’t get the chances to as often as men do. In fact, studies from the Harvard Business Review and others repeatedly conclude that women founders and executive team members as extraordinarily and uniquely valuable, in fact what one might call the icing on the cake, to the success of any company, most particularly tech ones.
Here are some supporting stats:
- Private tech companies with at least one female founder achieve a 35% higher return on investment
- When these companies are backed by funding, there is an average 12% increase in revenue
- Women-led companies perform 3X better than the S&P 500
My two co-founders are men. We are uniquely qualified together, regardless of our genders, to reach our goal: Becoming the No. 1 trusted and preferred private and secure data storage company in the world. Gender was never the slightest consideration. They are the right partners for the success of the business. Period.
I am laser-focused on experience, relationships, previous successes, level of interest, ability to listen, analyze, create solutions, willingness to be part of the team, and culture fit.
Wasting time on noticing whether someone wears nail polish or not is simply bad business. It is always my hope that I am evaluated the same as everyone else.
But as a company founder and leader who happens to be a woman in a field where there are even fewer of us then in others, I know I speak for most of us in every field.
What we want in the business world is quite simply, parity. To have reasonable opportunity to rise to the heights we are capable of. To be in roles where the way we think, when combined with the way men think, make for successes that would otherwise, for either of us, not be possible. Who doesn’t love a win-win?
Top Photo Credit: Flickr