Supporting FirstBoard.io & Neythri
For most of my time as an engineering student in India, I was the only woman in my electrical engineering classes and later in life, I was often the only woman at portfolio company board meetings in Silicon Valley. Yet, outside of work settings, I was surrounded by smart, accomplished women friends and often had male colleagues who were devoted allies and sponsors. I personally felt the large gap between good intentions on inclusion and the actual experience of women in tech that has been widely reported in the media over the past years. Narrowing the gap has been a passion for me.
In 2012, I led the creation of a new format for TiE Women's Forum along with Kiran Malhotra, where we brought together a cohort of women founders and CEOs to meet at NEA six times over the course of a year. In each session, a founder brought a specific problem to solve - product, market, team or financing - that we would help them think through as a personal board of directors. Ten years on, many of the founders have stayed friends and helped each other grow professionally. In my experience, these network based efforts to help women learn from peers, build trusted mentors and lift each other up at critical career moments are the most engaging ways to effect positive change for women in tech.
I have benefited as an investor from peer networks like AllRaise and the Equity Summit. These are excellent organizations that help women investors imagine a more inclusive new normal, see varied role models, and access dedicated supporters for our firms. In turn, I am happy to be a founding supporter of two organizations that are doing outstanding work to include women in parts of the startup ecosystem where we are under-represented relative to the talent we bring.
Women have been traditionally underrepresented on the boards of technology companies, yet studies have shown that companies with boards with female representation outperform. At venture funded companies, there are often independent board seats available to balance founder/funder boards that are typical at the early stages. Serving on a venture company board can be intellectually rewarding as well as serve a stepping stone to public board roles.
FirstBoard.io is a curated group of accomplished female executives in technology, working together to increase the representation of women on boards, and at the highest level of corporate governance and management. The organization, led by Rita Scroggin, builds a pipeline of experienced women leaders to take on their first board seat through pportunities to network with existing board members and building awareness among founders about accessing this pool of board talent.
Network based efforts that help women learn from peers, build trusted mentors, and lift each other up at critical career moments are the most engaging ways to effect positive change for women in tech.
Neythri.Org and Neythri Futures Fund
South Asian women are making amazing strides in industries from technology to politics to arts. But we don’t have a common platform to come together as a community and support our professional aspirations, cultivate leadership, and advance women in their careers. That’s how the idea of Neythri was born.
By building programs that serve as a vehicle to learn from each other, promote and encourage leadership while acknowledging the special socio-cultural pressures South Asian women face, Neythri strengthens the sense of connectedness and supports the professional aspirations of its members. Founded in 2019, Neythri grew to over 2000 members very quickly and became a lifeline for many women starved for professional networks as they balanced work and families during the pandemic. I am proud to be a Founding Circle member of Neythri.
An interesting insight from the community platform was that while South Asian women are accomplished leaders in Science, Mathematics, Politics, and Social Justice, we are a very small minority of LPs and GPs. The Neythri Futures Fund is a springboard for South Asian women to deploy capital and share their expertise with portfolio companies. When Mythili Sankaran started Neythri Future Fund, she invited me to join as an LP and Investor Advisory Council member. I was delighted to join their stellar board.
At NewBuild.VC, we are fortunate to belong to these networked communities of friends and peers who lift each other up and grow together.