Women have come a long way in terms of holding high-level business positions and entrepreneurial roles. Today, more than 9.4 million firms are owned by women, employing nearly 7.9 million people and generating $1.5 trillion in sales. Despite this great growth, retail technology is still one industry that’s lacking sufficient gender diversity. Women account for more than 85 percent of consumer purchase power, which means it’s now more crucial than ever to get women involved in retail technology. Doing so will help the industry continue to grow and develop in the digital age that we’re in.
In my personal experience as the co-founder of a retail technology company, I’ve gathered a few important bits of advice that have helped me run a great company and lead others in their own paths to success.
1. Be the Example
Starting a company in your late 30s isn’t exactly common practice in the startup community. In a way I’m a late bloomer, but the steps my co-founders, Niels Sodemann and Martin Pronk, and I took to establish and get Queue-it to the level it is today have been fully inspired by our unique backgrounds and experience levels.
It’s quite challenging being a woman in the tech industry. It’s male-dominated and the gender gap is very apparent. I’ve been working in IT my entire life, which has given me the opportunity to observe the consistency of this industry in terms of male thought leaders, despite the ever-changing dynamics of retail. As a woman within the retail tech industry, I’ve drawn on my individual passion to keep motivated and always seek to be one step ahead of my male counterparts to make sure I’m noticed.
I met my co-founders while working on IT government projects within a software consulting company. Having previously worked together helped us see the common goals, values and vision we had in mind for Queue-it, and our knowledge and the shared network we had managed to gather played an important role in establishing our product. Even though we had a clear idea in mind about the product we wanted to develop, I encouraged the team to co-develop our company with input from our customers in order to make sure that all the features we chose to integrate would bring long-term added value.
2. Create a Network
A key factor in my success has been having access to a network of IT software industry and enterprise professionals. Building relationships throughout my career from different jobs, interactions and shared experiences has proved invaluable in setting out on an entrepreneurial venture. Something that never ceases to amaze me is how willing people are to help one another, particularly fellow female tech leaders. This has proved valuable time and again. I’ve continued building my network even after entering the entrepreneurial world. A good network is key to gaining customer references.
I’ve tapped my network to help improve on the company’s product functionality, which helped us to avoid errors and better serve our customers. Additionally, it’s important to keep tabs on the latest industry trends and continue learning from both internal and external sources. Being aware of industry trends has helped me learn to better understand challenges my customers face and how we can work to solve them.
3. Carve Out Your Own Ideal Role
It has always piqued my interest to see the different approaches that women can bring to the tech industry. It’s important to remember that your voice not only matters, but is critical to the advancement of the company and the industry at large. Speak up and work to carve out your ideal role within your company.
It’s challenging, yet exciting to follow the advancements of the retail industry and to observe how technology is changing along with it. The latest solutions that are being developed set high benchmarks, but this fast pace also allows for creative, quick thinking.
Discover your favorite aspects of work in addition to your own personal strengths. Use this combined knowledge to seek out opportunities where you can truly make a difference in your organization.
In closing, my best advice to striving female leaders in technology is to keep at it. Persistence and presence are key. As we grow the number of women in the industry and close the gender gap, we can effectively add new perspectives. After establishing myself within this industry, I could say that women in retail tech still have a unique edge compared to men. The satisfaction of succeeding within this industry, and the chance of becoming an influential person within key networks is higher since women that make it in retail tech stand out more. I believe that with an infusion of new perspectives come new and innovative ideas that will drive the industry forward.
Camilla Ley Valentin is the co-founder and chief customer officer of Queue-it, a virtual waiting room system that allows you to gain control of website overload during extreme traffic peaks by placing customers in a queue.