Tracey DiNunzio, the founder and CEO of upscale online thrift store Tradesy, tells author and Tradesy investor Tim Ferriss in a recent episode of his podcast that as a woman founder she’s one of the “mystical unicorns of the tech world.”
In the past, she’s been annoyed by the occasionally patronizing way the media asks her about being a female founder in Silicon Valley, where women are rarely found in middle management positions, let alone leadership roles. But she’s heard and seen enough now to know that sexism in tech remains prevalent, even if she’s never experienced it. And she wants other female entrepreneurs to know that there are “evolved” tech guys out there to work with, and that women can even use some of the lingering gender bias to their advantage.
DiNunzio explains that she used to ignore the subject of gender discrimination in the tech world because it was irrelevant to her. She’s raised $US13 million from the likes of Richard Branson, Kleiner Perkins, and Ferriss himself and never associated any of her failed pitches with gender bias from male investors.
But she does understand the reality that many women face, and unlike those who say overt sexism is rampant in Silicon Valley, DiNunzio thinks it’s more nuanced.
“The one thing I would say is that I think there’s a real difference between overt sexism, which I don’t believe exists that much in the tech sector, and subtle, behavioural, lightly discriminatory stuff, which I do think does exist, even if it doesn’t exist in my world. And it’s a difficult beast to battle, because it’s non-obvious and it’s not always clear,” she tells Ferriss.
A report from the Proceedings of the National Academy on Sciences earlier this year suggests that a subconscious gender bias exists for not just tech founders but all entrepreneurs. After studying three pitch competitions over three years, researchers found that men were 60% more likely to get funding than women. In a follow-up study involving 194 Americans, both men and women rated male-narrated pitches much higher than identical ones that were narrated by women, and both genders rated the male pitches more “persuasive,” “fact based,” and “logical.”
It’s why DiNunzio considers the men who work for and invest in Tradesy to be “evolved,” since they have chosen to work for a woman, and hopes that more in the industry abandon the idea that tech is a boys’ club or that helping promote women in tech is a charitable act.
That said, she has happily taken advantage of the good-intentioned (albeit misguided) guys who fall into the latter group.
“Certainly along the journey, I got some invites to some dinners last minute where I knew that it was just because they looked at the guest list and went, ‘Holy sh–, there are no women coming. Who do we know that’s female?’ And I got to go to some cool events because of that,” she says.
DiNunzio and Ferriss talked for over two hours about how she overcame not just the gender gap in tech but a lack of technical training and a slew of bad habits to build Tradesy into the growing success it is today. Their discussion is spread over three podcast episodes, which you can listen to here.
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