Real Talk: Why Women Fear The Tech Industry
As you know, Foxxtales loves a great girl boss. We had the chance to sit down with tech Girl Boss, Jen Mellon (CEO & Co-Founder of Trustify). Trustify is a digital platform that connects you to highly trained and vetted private investigators. In an industry saturated by men, Jen is changing the way that we look at female leaders in the STEM world.
Foxxtales: Can you tell me what it is like to be the only woman in the room sometimes?
JM: Being a woman in tech has been an interesting experience…because almost every single room that I walked in, I was one of few, if any, female founders. Often, the conversations that I was having were just so antiquated. I find it interesting how we talk about technology start up companies as being so disruptive. But, when you look at the data that’s out there, it’s one of the most lacking of disruptive industries - in terms of women and diversity in tech. It’s hard sometimes. I’ve had potential investors, saying that they don’t feel comfortable with me being a mother.
Foxxtales: Do you think there is a fear for women to enter these industries or to start their own businesses because there are not many examples for them to follow? What are some of those fears that women have to enter this space?
JM: I think that it’s hard. I think human nature is (and there’s a lot of good studies and research out) that we want to walk into a room and see people that we can identify with. It’s really hard when you are a woman or a person of color and you walk into these tech meet ups and all you see is a bunch of white men. That’s really hard because you don’t see yourself in that space. There is this question of, “How do I belong?” So, there is that innate fear that you might not even notice, but it is there because of human nature.
Foxxtales: How do you recover from failure?
JM: It’s about believing in yourself. In my office, I have a framed piece of art that says, “She designed a life that she loved.” It’s about knowing that: my life has taken a really weird trajectory, but it was arched by my design. And when it wasn’t, because life wanted to hand you lemons, you made lemonade and you just keep designing. That’s what design is. Art evolves. It sometimes looks very different at the end than what you thought it would look like. So, just taking a deep breath, being okay with the roadblocks and know what you can do.
Foxxtales: Where does philanthropy and giving back fall into your business and personal life? What drives you to be a part of these great organizations (like Girl Up!)?
JM: This is also something I care a great deal about. I originally started in the non-profit world because I left undergrad and said, “I want to save the world.” The only way to do that is to do non-profit, charity work - and I loved it. Then, I made this pivot into starting my own businesses. So, in the beginning, I figured I would just sit on board of these organizations and support them with my time, my talent and my treasure. I loved that too and it was great. Then, when I started Trustify, I thought, “One day, I’ll have a foundation arm,” or “One day, I’ll be able to do all this great pro-bono work.” I believe strongly - for young individuals and seasoned entrepreneurs - that you do this at the seed stage, when you start the company. [I believe] that it will add to your success. So early on, we formed partnerships with national non-profit organizations. Organizations like Becky’s Fund which works with domestic violence. We work with the Women’s Innocence Project which provides pro-bono services for legal counsel to help individuals who were wrongfully convicted get exoneration. We work with a lot of organizations that work with trafficking of women and children. We deal with a lot of missing persons. We also work locally. It’s great to do national work, but my offices are here [in D.C]. We work with local organizations to provide food and shelter to homeless individuals and marginalized populations.
Foxxtales: Do you give any advice to your daughters? How are you trying to shape them as young women?
JM: For my daughters, it’s finding organizations that I support - like Girl Up! - that give them access to the tools that they need to be successful young women and successful career women later on. What I say to them all the time is that, “You can do whatever you put your mind to.” It sounds so cliche, but these are things my family members said to me. When I came to them with a crazy idea, they would say, “Well why not?” I think we need to tell young girls, “Why not?”
Foxxtales: In one simple sentence, could you give advice to women who want to break out of their field and try something different?
JM: In one simple sentence… believe in yourself and don’t look back.
Foxxtales wants to thank Jen Mellon for contributing to our community!
Want to learn more about Jen Mellon and her company, Trustify? Visit trustify.info