CEO Of Rideshare App Kango Writes Timely Op-Ed About The Need For More Women In Tech

By Sara Schaer

In light of recent revelations in both Hollywood and Silicon Valley, it’s important for women to keep sight of their aspirations and dreams, to help each other achieve them, and to never give up.

This is particularly true for women in leadership positions, as powerful women in the workplace are still a relatively recent phenomenon. As a result, our professional track record and potential can be affected by gender role stereotypes. For example, when I was starting the company I founded, Kango, I was asked how, as a mother, I planned to juggle running a startup versus my family obligations. I asked myself: would a potential investor ask a man how he would balance being a CEO with his Dad duties?

Unfortunately, this is a scenario often faced by female founders – and it’s an important lesson to note. As the Harvard Business Review notes, it’s part of a demonstrated pattern whereby during fundraising pitches, women are more often asked about potential obstacles, whereas men are asked about their ideals and reasons for their future success. But, we women too should focus on our vision and our strengths!

With more women achieving positions of power in the workplace, and running successful large companies, I’m optimistic that we are making a positive impact on reducing gender bias and sexual harassment. But, the more active we are in leading by example, the faster change will happen.

Just by being a woman and having a job in the tech industry, we can start to change the perception of this traditionally male-dominated field. The sector is far different from when I joined an internet startup back in the late 90’s. I was hired as the second product manager at a small tech startup called Snapfish, eventually becoming Sr. Director of Product. I ended up building from scratch, a team of 50+ product managers, designers and engineers spanning 3 continents, making millions of dollars for the company with the products we released. I stayed through Snapfish’s acquisition by HP, all the while having 2 children along the way.

When I started, the internet field was just emerging. These days, big tech companies are common; yet, the proportion of women in technical and non-technical positions in these companies is still too low. I started talking to other women, both inside and outside of the industry, to find out why. Sometimes it was the dilemma of family vs career, and women feeling like they could not choose both, especially once they hit a certain age.

I continued the conversation, and I felt that I could contribute to the success of other women by creating a solution to this daunting challenge. Since I was already working with technology, I knew we could use a blend of mobile technology and vetted caregivers, to make life easier for working moms – since we can’t be everywhere at once. My co-founder Siva and I came up with Kango, an app-based “Uber for Kids” service that provides safe transportation and childcare for kids.

This became a way for moms (and dads, and kids!) to have it all. Women may encounter obstacles, but we can support each other by having honest conversations about what is standing in our way, by continuing to innovate, and by proving that we can get it done.

It’s critical to have encouragement from other women in the tech industry who can relate. We need to be there for each other, and we also need to be role models for the younger generation. I encourage you to inspire young girls, so that they believe they can be the CEO or founder of a company. This is why I personally mentor middle school and high school girls who are interested in the STEM field, through a program called Technovation.

I find it exhilarating and energizing to invest in a generation – girls and boys – that will be able to benefit from more and more equality in the workplace. Plus, the problems they want to solve, and the solutions they create, are so refreshingly different from what other demographics think of! It really showed me the importance of having diverse founders start companies and build new things to improve the world.

So, my advice is to pass along your knowledge to the next generation of young women who want to be engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs. They will believe in you, as well as themselves!

 

 

Sara Schaer is the co-founder and CEO of Kango, a rideshare app for kids. Previously, she was a product manager for Snapfish were she grew the product team from 2 to 50 globally through their acquisition with HP. Sara led Kango’s pitch round for 500 Startups, where they earned a spot in the 9th batch. The Stanford University alum also recently championed a first-of-its-kind partnership with Chrysler; the automaker is providing eligible Kango drivers with a 2018 Pacifica Hybrid minivan for rideshare use. Outside of work, Sara mentors young women through the Technovation program, and lives with her husband and two sons in San Francisco.

 

 

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