Much has been said and written about the lack of women in the tech sector. Is the problem the old boys network – or that success in technology is seen as a young man’s game? In this series, we speak with some of the top industry women in New York as they discuss the challenges they face, the perceptions that need to be changed and the work that’s being done – or not – to help to promote women in tech.
Today we hear from Susan Sandler, a mentor and marketer who has been in the online industry since the early days of Web 1.0 in NYC, and who has been leading or starting businesses every since. Founder and CEO of Sandler Co. and PopUpSummer!, an alternative PopUp retailing company, she has given counsel and advice to BirchBox, Haven’s Kitchen, and FilmBuff.com, and shares her unique insights with us as well.
What was/is the biggest challenge facing you as a female entrepreneur?
Work/family life balance and equal compensation. Working flexible hours and being married with children can skew the landscape around growth opportunities. I’ve needed to be aware and vigilant about those issues throughout my career in the agency world and as an entrepreneur.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurship in New York?
There can be more proactive recruiting of female led startups to accelerator programs and events that attract early investors. Professional women and men can make more of an effort to mentor female entrepreneurs and introduce them to resources for strategic and financial support.
What is being done that you like presently?
Start up and accelerator programs such as The Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA), TechStars and Spark Plug in New York actively seek out women entrepreneurs for their mentoring programs. The Golden Seeds group of primarily female investors, and Joanne Wilson’s investment platform are examples of early stage investors who concentrate on female led start-ups. The 4th annual Women Entrepreneurs (WE) Festival just took place in conjunction with my alma matter at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts (ITP), and I look forward to participating each year.
Are you involved in any organizations that help to promote female entrepreneurship? Or, do you do anything personally to help promote women in technology?
Yes, I volunteer as a marketing mentor to start up companies at the ERA, where I am currently working with a dynamic woman entrepreneur among others, and spend time with additional entrepreneurs who are referred to me for guidance. I am a founding board member of Women in New Media (WINM), which provided a networking community, professional enrichment programs and job opportunities to women in technology, advertising and media.
Do you feel investors have a different mindset when it comes to investing in a woman-run company? For example, does the work/life balance issue come up?
The issue comes up in terms of lifestyle and is a factor for the investor in getting to know the principals of the company they are considering investing in. Whether or not it has any effect on their decision to invest is specific to each potential investor, most of whom I find tend to invest in great people (whether woman or man), vs. business plan.
Do you think that women in top roles at major tech companies are scrutinized more closely than their male counterparts?
Yes, I think there is a bigger fishbowl effect for women in leadership roles. Men in similar roles seem to be less scrutinized in the corporate world until something goes wrong and there is a real red flag to pay attention to.
Do you have a hero and if so, who is it?
My Grandmother Nita, who partnered with my grandfather to run a family business while raising three children and maintaining a rich cultural and social life in rural Indiana was my mentor and remains my “hero” in memoriam, to this day. She role modeled and defined elegance, intelligence, creativity, loyalty and hard work for me, which I continue to strive to achieve.
Where do you and your company fit into the ecosystem?
At Sandler Co., we are our client’s advocates in the marketing arena and have their best interests in mind as we work with them to communicate their story and accelerate their brand. We use any and all media technologies and channels to do so.
PopUpSummer! is the live event and retail element of our service, where we focus on developing and executing unique exhibition, sampling and sales opportunities for clients.