Meet Luann Abrams. A woman whose career has spanned everything from aerospace engineering to venture capital. To say she knows a thing or two about leadership, especially in male-dominated industries, is putting it lightly. How many times have we heard (and how much data supports) the idea that men are hired on potential and women are hired on what they’ve accomplished? While we have seen progress across industries at large, the progress is minimal compared to where we should be. Luann is one of many who is on a mission to change this and created a company, CEOX to accelerate this change. CEOX connects highly qualified female CEO-ready candidates to CEO roles. They identify these women by asking successful CEOs and senior leaders to nominate them. More than a recruitment firm, CEOX is a mission-based organization the connects and supports women by creating community, programming, and opportunity for our candidates. Listen in below as Luann and I discuss how far we have come, why this issue continues, and where we can go from here.
#TechTuesday Highlight #68: Luann Abrams, Founder, CEOX
How/why did you get into your space?
Being involved in venture capital over the past 5 years, I found it was not uncommon to see the founding CEO of portfolio companies be replaced as the company was growing and scaling. Every time I saw this happen though, the new CEO was a man. It really hit home when I saw this happen at a women’s healthcare platform. The husband and wife founding team were leaving, and the new CEO was a man. That’s when I started looking into what was going on and I found the investors surrounding these companies were typically the ones choosing the next CEO, and because most investors are men, their networks aren’t gender-balanced and so it wasn’t surprising that they were finding men to fill these roles. In addition, I researched more about bias issues around hiring and one issue that continues to pop up is that men are hired on their potential while women are hired on what they have already accomplished. So if a woman hasn’t already been a CEO, she is not likely to be chosen, while a man with similar experience will be seen as having the potential to succeed in a CEO role. I knew women were capable of leading companies, in fact, data shows that women-led companies grow faster and generate more revenues, so I wanted to identify these women and make a place for VCs, companies, and recruiters to go when they needed to find a new CEO.
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem and why is that role important?
I have always been a fierce advocate for women having worked in male-dominated industries my entire career. Because of that, as soon as I grew my own voice, I started getting very involved in Women in STEM advocacy. A few years ago I started a mentorship program to connect successful women with younger women in my town. And now with CEOX, I expect to accelerate getting women into leadership positions. I’m already seeing an impact within the CEOX community, as I was recently approached by two different conference organizers asking if I could connect them with high-level women to speak at their conferences. I’m also bringing these women together not only from the tech industry, but all industries to connect, network, learn from and support each other.
How has technology impacted your industry and why is this important?
Technology has historically been male-dominated despite the earliest computer programmers being women. The gender disparity needs to be solved from all angles and CEOX if focused on the top down. Because if we get more women as CEOs they are more likely to hire diverse teams which are more likely to be successful in solving hard problems.
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2020 (as it relates to your industry)?
There is starting to be more and more recognition in the value of diversity in tech and that is a trend I want to accelerate.
Who is a person that inspires you in the space and why?
I love to follow and learn from successful CEOs such as Beth Ford, Sally Krawcheck, Paula Gold-Williams, and Lisa Su, as well as other (not famous) CEOs, like my friends Rita Hansen and Libby Unger. But I always call out Caroline Criado-Perez, the author of “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men” as one of the people I have learned the most from.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your space?
Anyone who believes in the importance of gender parity especially in tech is welcome to join our movement. We recently launched our CEOX Ambassador program so that individuals can leverage their own networks to find CEO-ready women and help elevate women. It is a great way to get started doing impactful work.
Anything else we should know about you or you want to include?
Although CEOX primarily focuses on gender diversity, we believe diversity of all kinds is critical to the success of businesses and our society. To that end, we are growing and learning every day so that we can make sure our list of CEO-ready women is diverse and reflective of our country as a whole.
#businessunusual #networking #leadership #diversity #venturecapital #vc #Innovation #Technology #Startups #womencan #women
Have thoughts on this week’s trends or questions for me or Luann? Post your thoughts in the comment section or share them on Twitter. Please include the hashtag #techtuesday and mention me @ScarlettSieber! Until next week. 🙂