Advice

5 Lessons in Leadership for Female Founders

Launching a tech startup demands vision and something that most founders don’t talk about — bravado. Male founders, the majority of whom I see on Zoom screens in those endless virtual conference rooms, are great at this. But as a female founder of two companies and a woman of color, summoning the showman took me some time and a different set of skills.

I still remember the first meeting after starting my first company. Sitting outside of the coffee shop before meeting the prospective client, I kept thinking “Am I good enough?”, “Can I do this though I don’t have all the necessary experience and formal education to run this business as a founder?” I let fear get in the way of the pitch. It was the side effect of imposter syndrome that many women leaders struggle with. But after a few failed meetings, I overcame that and now I see my imposter syndrome as an opportunity. Success lies outside of the comfort zone. If I am having this nagging feeling – am I good enough to do this new thing? I am working outside my comfort zone and it’s that feeling that helps me expand my horizons.

This fight against my own imposter syndrome brought me to Everyday Life. Before co-founding Everyday Life, an insure-tech platform, I felt too comfortable and stagnant in slow-moving corporate culture and the 9-5 life. I wanted to challenge the status quo, to redefine a problem or innovate a solution, and I wanted more than a corporate job could give me. I was ready for the anxiety and mental struggle that’s part and parcel of building a startup to find my seat at the table.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Acknowledge the discomfort. Accept that you just don’t know everything, like how to run a business when you’re trained as an engineer. Use what you don’t know as a signal to learn new skills. It’s more interesting with experiences.
  2. Be assertive. No apologies. In an industry dominated by male founders, women are often stereotyped. Speak up, even though others may confuse your ambition with you being difficult. Startups require a 150% commitment. Don’t apologize for being assertive to meet deadlines and achieve goals just because you are a woman.
  3. Stay authentic.

Expect to have disagreements with your co-founder, investor, or business partner. Push-pull is sometimes the rhythm of the workday. Speak your mind. The most successful ideas may seem crazy at first. Share them.

  1. Hire for diversity.

Diversity brings creativity and innovation. Women – especially women of color – are grossly underrepresented in the technology industry. As you scale your team, hiring a diverse group across all races, genders and ages will make your organization stronger. Remember, your customers don’t all look like you, either.

  1. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers.

Entrepreneurship is challenging and tech startups often brutal. Expect rejection and lots of it. All you need is a single “yes.” I’ve seen women wilt, lose confidence and be discouraged by criticism. Most successful entrepreneurs are only successful after a few failed attempts. Failure can teach you more than your success, so don’t give up on entrepreneurship too easily.

Now that I have a seat at the table, I am using what I learned from big corporations and from incredible men (and women!) in start-ups to mentor and support women with big dreams.

 

Author Bio:

Dipali Trivedi, CTO and co-founder of Everyday Life, was raised in a small town in India with no internet and went on to get degrees in engineering and AI from VJTI, then an MBA from MIT. As a woman of color and a mom, she wants to make expert financial advice available to all and fix an industry where average income people — those who need protection the most — can protect their families and their precious budgets. Unlike “old-fashioned” one-size-fits all policies, the company designs policies that automatically adjust over time as people’s needs change, often saving thousands of dollars.

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