Women are drastically underrepresented in tech. That’s no secret. Only 4% of venture capital partners are women; just 10% of companies that raised series A rounds last year had female founders; and less than 20% of computer science majors are women (a number that has fallen from 37% in 1985). Fortunately, the industry is starting to talk about this and some progress is being made, albeit slowly. This list includes 10 women in tech who are doing influential work right now. Some are working to break the glass ceiling in the industry, while others are chasing the Silicon Valley dream of founding the next billion-dollar startup.
1) Julia Hu
As an undergraduate at Stanford, Julia Hu became fascinated by the work of a sleep scientist who coached athletes to improve their performance by enhancing their rest. Hu found the process powerful, but arcane. How could large numbers of people make use of it? She founded Lark to provide the solution, expanding their AI mobile coaching app beyond sleeping better to losing weight and getting fitter. Lark has been called “Best App for Apple HealthKit” by MacWorld, and Hu’s company has raised $12 million since its founding in 2010.
2) Sophia Amoruso
Growth is the currency of tech and Sophia Amoruso is rich in it. Amoruso started her business career selling vintage clothes scoured from thrift stores on eBay under the handle Nasty Gal. In 2006, she launched her own website and her growing fan base followed her. In 2008, she managed to sell $228,000 of clothes through Nastygal.com. By last year, sales had reportedly topped $100 million. Even after her meteoric rise, Amoruso is still trading in growth. She has the backing of Index Ventures to the tune of $50 million of funding.
3) Lauren Mosenthal and Eileen Carey
The programmer and the hustler, as Newsweek admiringly labeled them, Lauren Mosenthal and Eileen Carey are a formidable tech partnership. It’s a good thing because their goals are ambitious. They have set out to create a moneymaking startup and break down the barriers to women in tech at the same time. Their company, Glassbreakers, is a kind of LinkedIn for tech women focused on peer-to-peer mentoring. Members plug in their experience and are matched with others like them who might be able to help with contacts, skills and advice. Mosenthal and Carey have raised several hundred thousand dollars of angel money and are on the road now looking for $1.5 million of seed funding.
4) Shama Hyder
Few people are as self-made as Shama Hyder. As a child, she emigrated from Bangalore, India to Texas, where her parents worked as a taxi driver and a dry cleaner. She went to college by cobbling together scholarships and she convinced the tech world that she was an expert in social media marketing by writing one of the first comprehensive books on the subject. She parlayed that work into credibility for her company, Marketing Zen Group , a PR and digital marketing firm that has become an influential tech player. The speed of her ascent has stunned some observers. A VC director told Inc, “I don’t know where she came from, and the next thing I know she’s popping up everywhere. … It blows me away.”
5) Trish Costello
Trish Costello doesn’t intend for her equity crowdfunding site, Portfolia, to be exclusively for women, but it was created with women in mind. Fully 80% of consumer spending is controlled by women, yet, as Costello told Forbes, “they’re largely overlooked as potential investors and market-makers.” Portfolia enables upstart consumer goods companies to reach a group of “consumer-investors,” mostly women, who have the interest and social media reach to get new ideas off the ground. Costello raised $1.5 million for Portfolia in August and fundraising campaigns are currently underway on the site.
6) Kristine Steuart and Katherine Berry
Twin sisters Steuart and Berry founded Allocada after years working as a marketer and a coder, respectively. Steuart had always been frustrated by how fragmented and inaccurate her companies’ marketing budgets were, making assessment of marketing ROI nearly impossible. Berry thought better software could be the solution, which led to Allocadia’s SaaS (software-as-a-service) platform that consolidates scattered marketing data in one place. The company raised $7 million last year from VCs including women-led Illuminate Ventures.
7) Rachel Haot
Rachael Haot (ne Sterne) began her career as a tech entrepreneur and then moved into public service where she has dedicated herself to making government more tech-savvy. Mayor Michael Bloomberg hired her to become New York City’s Chief Digital Officer in 2011. Last year, she moved to state government where she became the CDO in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration. In both positions she has pushed forward initiatives that have improved internet connectivity, STEM education and Open Government. In January, Cuomo announced the latest initiative she has worked on: a $1 billion progra to improve high-speed internet access throughout New York state.
8) Mariah Chase
Mariah Chase cites one fact to explain her business, Eloquii : 65% of American women wear sizes 14-24. Shopping in mid-market and upscale clothing stores you would never guess this was true, which is why Eloquii has an opportunity. An e-commerce platform, Eloquii sells fashion-conscious, plus-sized clothing. Although the plus-sized fashion market is underserved, competition for it is heating up. Eloquii raised $6 million in December to support its growth and the company’s investors are betting that it will emerge as a permanent player in a market that may soon get the attention it merits.
Last year, Duggal founded the Female Founders Fund, known as F Cubed. The VC firm invests only in companies with at least one female founder. The goal, as Duggal puts it, is “to prove the thesis that when you invest in women, you get great returns.” Duggal knows what it takes to create a successful business, as a co-founder of Indian e-commerce site Exclusively.in, and other ventures. Today F Cubed’s portfolio companies include startups Eloquii, Manicube and Gracious Eloise.
10) Carrie Kerpen
Of course, I’m quite biased about this one, (as she is my wife and co-founder), but Carrie Kerpen has reinvented Likeable Media since taking over as CEO 2 years ago when I left to launch Likeable Local for SMB’s. Kerpen has taken the once word-of-mouth-marketing and social media agency and turned it into a highly profitable Content as a subscription model (Caas) for brands seeking ever-more quality multimedia content. She’s also the host of the popular weekly all the social ladies podcast, in which she interviews female executives to talk social, mobile, and technology.