My Take: Women as Founders, Disrupting the Norm & Delivering Results

My Take: Women as Founders, Disrupting the Norm & Delivering Results

Michel Feaster
Michel Feaster

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to join a group of women from TedxAmsterdamWomen in collaboration with Facebook with representatives from other groups, notably LeanIn Netherlands, as they traveled to Silicon Valley for a Study Trip to bring new ideas and inspiration back home. Closing the gender gap in the workplace at all roles and levels and addressing pay and fundraising disparities are topics that are incredibly important to me over the last 6 years. Founding and working to grow my own company, Usermind, has made me more convicted about the performance advantages that diverse teams unlock. The LeanIn Silicon Valley study trip was yet another moment on my journey to both share and be inspired by fellow women professionals. It was an honor to connect with these women and talk about how we can work towards a solution together.

LeanIn is an organization that builds circles of women around the world to foster open conversation where women share challenges and work towards goals while running programs for real change in public policy and with major companies around the world.

While we’re making big moves to foster real change, the LeanIn Women in the Workplace report was, sadly, unsurprising. Women continue to enter the workplace with more bachelor’s degrees than men, but we still have to overcome gender bias to get through the door. I believe this is due to the lack of diversity and representation at the management and leadership levels -- the LeanIn report sites only 1 in 5 women are represented in the C-suite. I am proud to be one of those women, but that number must rise if we’re going to see substantive change in the next decade.

I’m a proponent of disrupting the norm and not being afraid to stand apart from the crowd. It’s not easy to do --it’s hard to become comfortable with creating disruption, however positive. However, we must lean in to make the change we wish to see.

My two key takeaways for how we can make real change…

Women in business need to found. I’ve talked about this before. The more women that found companies, the more we can drive the necessary cultural shift and get hard work noticed, recognized and rewarded. Let’s remove those barriers that make it just simply more difficult for women to get promoted, fight stereotypes and become business leaders.

Founding my own startup was one of the best things I ever did. The diverse backgrounds represented on my leadership team and across the company is something that I’m particularly proud of. Crafting a diverse culture is just smart business. It drives balance and better decision making because we get to benefit from the experiences and perspectives of different backgrounds and communication styles. It’s something that helps Usermind differentiate, both in attracting and retaining top talent and in delivering value to our customers.

We must support each other to drive change. It is increasingly important to me for groups like LeanIn to not only continue to exist, but to excel, grow and gain real traction in places like Silicon Valley. Communities, peer-networking and driving awareness is the best way to scale our support around the world. I’ve talked about imposter syndrome a lot in the past. Fear of failure is much more prominent among women than in men - we need more women mentors in the world to build each other up, move past the fear and move the needle to see the equality gap shrink.

Last week’s event was incredible, thank you to Eva Van De Fliert, Carine de Meyere, Dorianne Richelle, Sabrina Redshaw-Mebarki and Wouter van den Berg for doing such an impeccable job crafting such a well polished, meaningful event as well as Andreessen Horowitz for hosting. I’m looking forward to continuing to invest my time, efforts and offering my voice to help lift up fellow women in tech and global business. Together we will shrink the gender gap and grow better businesses.

Michel Feaster
Michel Feaster
Michel is Co-Founder and CEO of Usermind.

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