Sramana Mitra: The thing that is unambiguously true is that there aren’t enough female technologists in the industry yet. As a result, there aren’t as many female founders who go out to raise money for credible ventures. That is a fact.
Hence, the number of companies that are female-founded that do get funded is not as high because the starting point is not as high. That can only change if we have more technically trained women in the industry. That has to start at the university level.
Christina Brodbeck: I think that’s true. I also feel that there are many ways to get women into technology. It doesn’t have to be, “Go into science or engineering.” I came from a liberal arts background. I was a history major and came into technology through design. Most of my life, I never thought that I would go into anything related to technology. I was very much focused on the arts. It was really this one moment in college when I saw that technology could be creative.
We also need to expand how we expose people to technology. There are different things that get different people excited. Sometimes, there’re ways to get women into technology that are not just through STEM. Maybe it’s through arts. It could potentially be through writing. We need to be more broad in terms of how we get anybody into technology versus just saying, “You need to study engineering.”
Sramana Mitra: One of the big trends in the industry is artificial intelligence. If a founding team goes to a VC for investment, they’re going to look for artificial intelligence expertise. If you’re a female founder who’s trying to finance an AI startup and you don’t have any technical background on that, that’s not going to fly.
Christina Brodbeck: Absolutely. I’m not saying that you should go and create a startup that you don’t have the expertise in. I was just saying that people will drop out of college and they are self-taught. There are different paths to get into technology. Maybe you’re dropping out of school. Maybe you got a four-year degree and studied journalism. Maybe you found your way to tech through that. I’m just saying that there are ways to bring any gender into technology and have them focus on technology without a straight engineering degree.
Sramana Mitra: I understand what you’re saying. I’m presenting a counterpoint that there are limits to what that can achieve. Without a core technology background, it’s very hard to do core technology companies.
Christina Brodbeck: Of course. If you don’t have that background, you probably shouldn’t be starting that business.
Sramana Mitra: I agree with that. On the other hand, if you don’t have that background and you’re reasonably comfortable with technology and able to process technology and lead teams, that’s perfectly fine. It happens a lot.
Christina Brodbeck: One of the beautiful things that we’ve seen about technology, especially in the past decade, is that it has become a lot more accessible. We have a lot more plug-and-play solutions than we had before. That expands the number of people who can create a startup without necessarily having deep technological skills. Obviously, technological skills are important. We do look for that in teams but I do think it has made it easier and has allowed more people to create businesses that weren’t able to create businesses before.
Sramana Mitra: Absolutely. E-commerce has become very easy to build businesses around these days.
Christina Brodbeck: That’s right.
Sramana Mitra: It was nice speaking with you. Thank you for your time.