Katelyn Bourgoin, entrepreneur and founder of multiple startups, discusses the challenges of being a woman in technology and what success means to her.
What inspired you to be a woman involved in the technology world?
Honestly, I landed in the tech world quite accidentally. I never thought of myself as a tech person — I was more so one of those creative types. Then one day I was struck with inspiration for a new product. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, and six months later I was the CEO of a fast-growing tech startup.
What kind of gender inequality have you noticed within the technology world?
One of my personal pet peeves is when women entrepreneurs are referred to as “female founders.” No one refers to men as “male founders” — they’re just founders. It’s a small thing, but it says a lot about how women are often perceived in the tech world. Most people want to be inclusive, but unconscious bias is tricky. It’s not just about hiring more women or encouraging more women to start tech companies. It’s about taking a systematic approach to creating an environment where women are enabled to succeed. That means acknowledging that bias is real, even if it’s not intentional.
Do you have any advice you would provide to young women entrepreneurs?
As a woman entrepreneur, you’ll face unique barriers. It’s not fair, but it’s a reality. Certain roads may be closed to you, so you’ll need to find other ways forward. Be resilient and remember that there are multiple paths to get to your destination.
How have you found success in the tech work field?
I believe that whoever gets closer to the customer wins. That’s my mantra. If you can solve your customer’s problems — their real problems — you’ll be successful. When in doubt, talk to your customers.
Can you touch on the gender inequality with venture funding?
To put it bluntly, trying to raise venture funding as a woman is terrible. In 2019, women got a measly 2.8 percent of all venture capital (up from 2.2 percent in 2018). This is a very real problem. For instance, one study showed that women pitching the same exact business ideas as men still get less funding from venture capitalists. Fortunately, there are a lot of smart people working on solving the problem, but progress is slow.
Why is it important to have women in the technology field?
Technology can help to solve humanity’s most pressing problems. That said, humans are generally self-interested. That’s not an insult — it’s Darwinism. So logic indicates that if the people working in tech are homogenous, we’ll end up solving problems that only benefit those small groups. Increasing diversity in tech is the best way to ensure that we solve problems that affect everyone.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’d tell my younger self that it’s OK to change your mind. In fact, it’s essential. Unlearning is a massively underrated skill.
How do you define success?
Success to me is being able to do what you want, when you want. Success means having the autonomy to work on projects that light me up. Or having the flexibility to take time off when I need it. Or having the confidence and security to say no to opportunities that don’t align with my values. It took me 10 years of entrepreneurship to figure this out about myself. But once I did, everything else got easier.