You probably have a better chance of running into Polkaroo than a female tech startup CEO

I came across an article in Monday’s Globe that had me do a double-take for a couple of reasons. One was because I came across a familiar face in Lisa Crossley, President & CEO of Natrix Separations – a biotech company commercializing unique chromatography technology. In the article, Crossley goes on to discuss her entrepreneurial path as well as share some insights on commercializing a Canadian technology.

The other reason I was taken aback was because I was staring down at a biotech start-up’s female CEO. A female leader in a technology start-up is a bit of a mythical creature, like Polkaroo – “A woman who started a tech company was here? And I missed her again?!”

Okay, so maybe the presence of these women isn’t that unlikely, but there aren’t too many out there, especially here in Canada. I would venture to guess that the number of women who have founded or are heading up technology start-ups in this province could be counted on my hands. The Stanford GSB Project on Emerging Businesses claims that 10% of tech startups have a female CEO, Founder or President. In Canada, of the companies that received venture financing in 2007, about two per cent were led or founded by a woman. Two per cent!

In this day and age in other professional communities women are well-represented – what is taking us so long in this area? Sure, there may be more women in science and engineering as well as in business schools, and there are many female entrepreneurs out there, but when you mash all of this together, there aren’t too many left standing.

I liken this phenomenon to women in rock (the other male-dominated sector). If you look back to who trailblazers like Debbie Harry, Patti Smith or Chrissie Hynde looked to for artistic influence, you won’t find a female in the bunch. But, looking at the next generation of influential women rockers — Courtney Love, Kim Gordon and Shirley Manson — their references all fall back to this initial group of women, and so it goes on from there.

We need to shine a spotlight on the Gina Bianchinis, and in our own backyard, the Lisa Crossleys, just like a Debbie Harry or a Patti Smith. One would hope that, as women in tech startups evangelize tech entrepreneurship as a career option, we’ll see more women catch on.

I have the pleasure of working with Lisa and a team of other motivated female technology professionals through the Women in Science & Technology Business (WSTB) group. WSTB connects women from technology organizations across the GTA to expand their professional networks and to enhance and accelerate their careers. What I appreciate about the WSTB group is that it not only brings these like-minded ladies together, but is focused on delivering programming that offers opportunity for skills development with hard takeaways to assist female tech professionals in navigating their career. For those interested, look for a schedule of events to be rolled out in the fall and come on out at: