Wow, what an honor to moderate and lead The SUP46 Femtech event together with Andriana Pateraki. The FemTech team’s intention and wish is to inspire and empower more women to dare to start their own tech companies and take leadership roles in the tech space. We also want to share the issues we face in this day and age. Finally, we want to show you what is possible through inspiring interviews (real and raw conversations) with powerful female leaders to share their stories of success, learnings, and struggles. Women we can all celebrate especially today on international women’s day.
Empowering female entrepreneurs and leaders is a topic that is very close to my heart. As a female founder and leader in the tech space, I have experience being treated differently because I am a woman.
Fortune Magazine had a recent article reporting that only 2% of VC money goes to female founders and that 70% of employees still want to have a male leader instead of a female leader. A wealth of research shows that female leaders (much more than their male counterparts) have different expectations in the workplace. It is a catch-22 and double bind for female leaders. We need to change this.
Social norms, when it comes to women are historically unsupportive as a whole. They are established and reinforced by the belief that most other people engage in behavior that is consistent with the norm and the belief that other people think of this behavior as right or acceptable. It is a challenge for all of us to break social norms because as humans, we want to belong, be seen, heard, and respected in the groups we are part of a workplace, school, community etc. To risk going against the grain takes vision and courage.
I believe that we have a responsibility to transform social norms to support female entrepreneurs and female leaders. This means we need to come together to be ¨Agents of Change.” To change social norms, we need to take an active role to speak up and be heard, and point out when other women are treated unfairly in the workplace, schools, communities, management groups, boardrooms, etc. This means as female leaders we get to stand in our power and own our voice. Challenging and transforming social norms means we get to be bold and outrageous.
As leaders, we get to take every opportunity we have to lift up, empower, and inspire other women to take risks, be bold, think big, ask for support, and take action to realize their dreams and cause the impact they came here to create. The panel spoke about what leadership is to them, how they go up against social norms as well as the future of female leadership and entrepreneurship.
I’m still lit up with energy from the inspiring stories, learnings, and presentations from our powerful panel and startup leaders! First on stage was Pernilla Ekman, one of the Nordic Tech scene’s biggest role models who is also a very dear friend of mine. She and her team have been on amazing journey building Zound Industries. She started out as the company’s CFO and the last 5 years, she has been the company’s CEO. She has lead Zound Industries through some very rough waters.
In the interview, she spoke about the importance of preparing her team to face hard facts and to recover fast when things get challenging, and to always have a plan B. I loved her advice about how to handle unfair treatments she experienced firsthand and towards other women in her company. She shared the importance of addressing the white elephant in the room (mistreatment of women) right away, going to the source as opposed to gossip which creates a toxic environment.
Our next fantastic speaker on stage was Lisa Thoren. Lisa is a successful entrepreneur who was born into a family who created the legendary Baby Björn company. Baby Bjorn redefined the baby product industry. Lisa began her career with the family business as the company first communication manager. She helped lead the company from $2M (when coming onboard) to $32M, Today, Baby Björn turnover is around $70M annually and is owned to 60% by women. When sharing about her marketing journey and building its revolutionary brand, her job was to tell the world about the company’s purpose and its mission.
They did a lot of things right when it comes to building a successful consumer brand. First, they had a strong company purpose and their story authentically connected with their consumers. They also created a customer-centric business with a quality product.
One of the biggest moments in the interview was when Lisa spoke directly to the audience and told them “never forget your purpose and who you are serving when you build your companies.” Today, Lisa is building her next company Performance Sk8, which is changing the game in the booming Skateboarding industry.
I want to thank you Pernilla Ekman and Lisa Thorén for inspiring us and showing us on what is possible and also a big thank you to Rebecca Bengtsson from Zmartbag, Lena Wijkström from Friendtivity and Gina Adamova from Figuratic for your great pitches. It was so inspiring to listen to your vision and plans for your products. Last but not least, a big thank you to my amazing sidekick, Andriana Pateraki.
The next FemTech event will be in May 2019! I’m so excited for our next event that will focus on building B2B companies. We will soon reveal who the amazing female leaders and entrepreneurs we will have on stage.
Cheers to inspiring and empowering women all over the world who are challenging and changing social norms daily!
Johanna Wollert Melin