Laura O’Shaughnessy Talks Women In Tech After ‘Best Female Entrepreneur’ Recognition
November 19, 2014
This week, our co-founder and CEO, Laura O’Shaughnessy was named a “Best Female Entrepreneur” by the Stevie Women In Business Awards. We sat down with Laura to understand how she came to lead a thriving business.
How have your life experiences shaped your career?
Laura O’Shaughnessy (LO): I was lucky to be born into a family where I was surrounded by strong leaders – both male and female – which had a profound impact on my definition of leadership. My grandmother grew to lead The Washington Post Company and became the first-ever female Fortune 500 CEO.
Having her as a role model and growing up with a father who was also a CEO meant time at the dinner table was spent discussing the intricacies of business and the challenges they were were solving. This was in a time when technology was really starting to evolve in the publishing world. Having that kind of exposure gave me a platform to start thinking about business issues and rare insight into how great companies operated from the ground up.
“Girls need to know early that they can start a business, they can code and they can lead innovation, so that biases of a “males-only” industry never develop.”
What can we do to better promote gender equality in the workplace?
LO: Despite significant progress, we still operate in a “biased” framework. We have to recognize the framework before we can break it apart – and it starts a lot earlier than the workplace. For example, my daughter is one and my son is three and the gender constructs are already prevalent. When my son is praised, it is for being being smart and physically able. When my daughter gets complimented, it is for being nice and pretty. We do not yet live in a world that tells girls they can be anything they want to be. This needs to change.
It is hopeful to see high-profile women like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and CTO of the United States Megan Smith bringing these issues to the public conversation, though. Girls need to know early that they can start a business, they can code and they can lead innovation, so that biases of a “males-only” industry never develop. SocialCode was founded by three women and today is nearly half female, with women in every department creating huge results for the biggest brands in the world. It is unique for the tech space, and this culture of diversity attracts better talent creates better results.
What is missing from the current conversation about women in the workplace?
LO: The conversation about women needs to be partly about women, but also about men. Relationships must be structured for two equal partners. Women will need to run out to take kids for a doctors appointment sometimes, and so will men. We need to expect both genders to fully participate at the workplace and at home.
“This is the age of entrepreneurship. Trust yourself, have confidence in your ability and push yourself to try anything.”
Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
LO: If I could go back, I would push myself to start a company in college. It is a unique moment in life when you have a ton of free time, are surrounded by really smart people and have nothing to lose! This is the age of entrepreneurship. Trust yourself, have confidence in your ability and push yourself to try anything. The worst that can happen is that your startup will not get traction. You will have great experience and a great resume because of it!
Fill In The Blanks
I am driven by a desire to win.
The smartest thing you can do in your career is find awesome people to work with.
Success takes really hard work, the right team and being in a space with the wind behind your back.