To Diversify the Innovation Community, Jump-Start Female Entrepreneurship

Opinion

Just about a year ago at this time, I read a report that made me ask myself whether I was doing enough—and the right kind of “enough”—to encourage diversity in our technology startup community and innovation ecosystem here in Boston/Cambridge. Fortunately, when I looked at the startups in my portfolio of seed investments, I found a surprising number of women founders and founding team members.

I admit I had no intentional plan to support female entrepreneurship. This happened organically, because I have always invested and supported in the best people. A lot of them were women.

One of the best things we can do to diversify our local innovation community in Cambridge/Boston is to jump-start female entrepreneurship.

And, here in Cambridge/Boston, I don’t think that we need some big master plan. It starts with taking off the gender goggles and hiring/backing the best people for the job, always. There’s some incredible talent  here, including undiscovered talent in our local universities (talented female PhD students) or in the innovation units of our largest local corporations (visionaries looking for breakout opportunities).

It continues with actively leveraging the experience of the women leaders in startups to get more women on startup boards of directors. We need more women in the boardrooms of the best startups.

We also need more women in venture capital—which, if you’ve read some of the media, will probably be a longer haul, at least at the top echelons. But we can start at the angel level, and work it upwards.

I think that—as with all great startup communities—this should start with entrepreneurs. The more female entrepreneurs we have today, the more female board members and venture capitalists we will have over the coming decades. Although I hope that, like Paula Long (most recently founder of DataGravity) and Ellen Rubin (most recently founder of ClearSkyData), most of the great female entrepreneurs elect to stay in operating roles.

I’m committed to doing whatever I can to influence a positive change in this direction. What about you?

[Editor’s note: To tap the wisdom of our distinguished group of Xconomists, we asked a few of them to answer this question heading into 2015: “How should the innovation community solve its gender and diversity problems?” You can see other questions and answers here.]

Andy Palmer is the CEO and co-founder of Tamr. Follow @andyhpalmer

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