Rise as you raise others. That is the message driving the success of entrepreneur, Terri Brax. It has become her life's mission as she has expanded her reach from revamping child care services to empowering women across the country to pursue careers in technology.
Why Terri Brax?
As a young mother with a newly obtained master's degree under her belt, jumping back into the workforce meant first securing an exceptional childcare service that would incorporate educational and nurturing activities for her child. Unimpressed with the lackluster daycare and nanny services available, Brax embarked on an entrepreneurial journey. She created TeacherCare, a lifelong educational service that provides families with highly-qualified private teachers and educational nannies who create activities tailored to each child's specific needs and interests.
Brax's business progressively gained more traction over the course of the next two decades as it expanded its reach into major cities like New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. However, like many female entrepreneurs, Brax began noticing that the obstacles she encountered during her fundraising process were specific to female founders. During this time, Brax was invited to join a women-only think tank to better understand why there were so many obstacles in the paths of women trying to launch and scale their startups. It was at this event that Brax realized women in Chicago, as well as all around the world, were starting groundbreaking businesses and raising impressive amounts of money. Yet they still faced gender biases that held them back from taking their businesses to the next level.
According to Brax, "It was then I had my aha moment— what we like to call 'WTF Moment.' I realized there really was a community of women who were willing to help other female founders and entrepreneurs change the future with their businesses. And these women were willing to come together to share stories, shed light on industry barriers, and give advice about how to tackle them."
WTF IsWomen Tech Founders
This realization inspired Brax to launch her second startup, Women Tech Founders, a nonprofit media organization that serves as a power network for women by hosting events, offering mentorship opportunities, and curating entrepreneurship and founder-focused programming. While her intention for the business was, and still remains, inspiring women to get involved in technology, she has had to first help women overcome the barrier of misinformation.
She discovered very early on that women could not see themselves in the WTF community or even as women tech founders due to preconceived notions about tech. Many women feel that tech is a field for people sitting behind computer screens all day long, plugging and playing numbers. In order to combat this belief, Brax brought women in tech to the forefront of her platform to unravel any possible misconceptions.
Courtesy of Terri Brax
"We realized we needed to build an army of role models so other women and girls could see the power they could hold, to realize their potential. They hadn't been exposed to what we saw— passionate women of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, who were leveraging technology to reach their dreams and improving the lives of millions in the process."
WTF is helping women thrive despite being the minority within the tech industry.
In order for women to excel as entrepreneurs while navigating male-dominated careers, Brax knew that they had to band together and leverage their shared resources to equalize power across gender lines. It may seem like too great a feat for one woman, even one company, to accomplish, but WTF is certainly leading the way.
Supporting Women In Tech
According to research conducted by Harvard Business Review, "women outscored men on 17 of the 19 key leadership capabilities that differentiate excellent leaders." Women bring innovation and problem-solving abilities while contributing towards the overall growth of a company. And preparing women for leadership positions in the tech field, where they will become increasingly more welcomed, has been a major priority for Brax.
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com
Brax's fundraising experiences enlightened her to the deep inequality between male and female founders, so she made the decision to bootstrap WTF from the very beginning as a completely grassroots organization. And it has remained so ever since. Brax believes that unconscious bias is one of the leading drivers of the funding gap, but it is not the only problem. She knows that the lack of diverse people, voices, and experiences at the funding table are also hindering women from receiving the funds they need. But Brax is providing a opportunity to challenge the status quo for how society views women leaders.
Brax has made it the mission of WTF to create an army of diverse role models and give female founders direct access to investors. Her organization has successfully accomplished this by hosting several events such as a Founder & Funder networking night, pitch training, and their Fundher Pitch competition. Even with events that give female founders access to female-focused VC funders, Brax knows that this is enough to close the funding gap.
I believe having more female funders in the venture capital space will certainly help close the funding gap. But that's not the only way to solve this problem. It's not an either-or situation.
Closing The Funding Gap
Several studies have already shown that female-led startups have a higher ROI than male-only led startups, yet a mere 2.7% of all VC funds go to women. Brax refers back to a PwC research report that suggest not only does this reality mean missed investments for investors but also for our economies. By overlooking half the population, one that offers a particular abundance of potential, there is a direct impact on the productivity and competitiveness of the economy. With studies such as these, coupled with her lived experience as a female founder, Brax equips women with the necessary tools to become leaders in the tech space. She is building women up as leaders and skilled entrepreneurs who understand how to utilize technology to their advantage and make themselves more investable.
Courtesy of Terri Brax
As Brax continues to succeed as an entrepreneur and ally to all women, she is far from finished expanding WTF's mission and outreach. Their membership has already grown through word of mouth and community partnerships. Furthermore, online platforms have allowed more women to find empowerment through the organization. Their community that once exclusively focused on female founders is now welcoming women with positions at major corporations as well as entry-level women who show interest in careers in technology
Brax shares that she is excited to launch Women Tech Founders 2.0 at their upcoming conference on April 24th at Google in Chicago. She invites all who are interested to join the event and be inspired by these rockstar, gamechanging women who are paving the way for other women to succeed.
WRITTEN BYShivani Mangar