Prompted by inequalities in the world of entrepreneurship—94 percent of venture capitalists are men, and only 10 percent of venture capital funding goes to female founders—Boston College’s Shea Center for Entrepreneurship is encouraging women to form their own startups.
With this goal in mind, the Shea Center sponsored a Female Founders Panel on Tuesday night in Gasson 305. Three female entrepreneurs—Katie Martell, Anita Brearton, and Angela Jin, CSOM ’17—spoke about their experiences working in business. The women, who have each successfully co-founded a startup, spoke about discrimination against women in the workplace and how to successfully enter entrepreneurial networks.
“Only investing in men leaves out 50 percent of the talent pool,” Brearton said. “That is an extraordinary number of untapped opportunities.”
“There is a cycle that needs to be broken. We, as women, need to get out and break that cycle. We need to start being much more visible.”
Martell, who graduated from Emerson College, started her company, Cintell, in late 2014. She now serves as Chief Marketing Officer. Cintell is a consumer intelligence company that aims to help B2B—business-to-business—companies better understand their consumers. While her company remains a small business with only 17 employees, Martell has served members of Fortune 500, and spoken at events such as TEDx, MarketingProfs, and the Business Marketing Association.
Brearton has worked in high technology for over 28 years, but her most recent project, CabinetM, is still an early-stage marketing technology startup. CabinetM is a discovery platform that connects marketers to marketing technology companies.
Jin started her company, 1950 Collective, during her sophomore year at BC. Jin co-partnered with her best friend, who attends the University of Texas at Austin, to create fandom merchandise and apparel. Currently, the company donates 10 percent of proceeds to women empowerment organizations.
The three women addressed why women are discriminated in the hiring process and business dealings. Martell believes that women are treated unequally because of a lack of transparency within the industry.
“There is a cycle that needs to be broken,” Martell said. “We, as women, need to get out and break that cycle. We need to start being much more visible.”
Martell, Brearton, and Jin were then asked about their mentors throughout their professional development. Jin said that most of her mentors have been BC professors and other BC students who have started their own companies. Brearton encouraged students to find mentors both in their professional and personal lives.
The women then discussed differences in leadership styles between men and women. Martell referenced studies that prove that women are naturally better at multitasking and have more empathy when dealing with customers. Brearton disagreed—she believes that leadership is characterized by the individual, rather than by gender.
“I think you have to be a little bit crazy to be an entrepreneur,” Brearton said. “Male or female, you have to have courage, confidence, and belief in your mission. I think that it comes down to individual traits, and how that then translates into the culture that you create.”
Jin spoke about the challenges she faced when balancing academics with her company. The success of a startup depends on how much you love and care for it, she said. Brearton also mentioned that passion for the company is important. She said that there is never a moment in her day when she is not thinking about CabinetM.
Brearton and Martell encouraged young women to venture into Boston and attend networking events, but Martell believes that real-world experience is necessary before creating a startup, and suggests that students wait until after college graduation to launch their businesses.
“I would not have been in the right state of mind to start a company in college,” Martell said. “I learned a lot from the real jobs I have had since graduating. Personally, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. They prepared me for doing this on my own and gave me much more confidence.”
At the end of the panel, the women took questions from students and faculty, and shared advice on how to stand up to men in the business world. They also encouraged men to make a conscious effort to hire women and treat female partners equally.
“Have an open mind, treat women as your equal, hire women, and support the women in your network,” Brearton said.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Katie Martell started Cintell in late 2014.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor