AM: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I started out at Surgical Solutions, at one of my first hospital site visits I had just come off a red-eye and I was wearing high high-heels in a hospital where everybody wears sneakers or clogs. And I still had to put on the bunny suit and for some reason —I had not packed any other shoes with me — and here I am walking thru the hospital, a rookie CEO in health care walking around in scrubs and high heels.
AM: None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am extremely fortunate to count a handful of mentors that I can credit with helping to provide me with coaching that influenced my decision-making at crucial junctures in my career. I talk about several of them, including my mother, Fay Hartog Levin, in the chapter “On Mentorship” in Leadership & Life Hacks
. Joel Peterson of Peterson Partners is one of the most influential mentors to me as such; I have endless gratitude to him for the wisdom and support he has provided me in ways small and very large. His book on the 10 Laws of Trust
is a must-read.
AM: Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience, what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
If we take a leap of faith that women are as talented and creative and capable as men at starting companies, if not more so, then you have to look at the structural environment around how companies get created to answer that question. Companies get created when passionate people have great ideas, inspire people to follow them, and then get the support, economic and otherwise, to get things off the ground. I’ve done it more than once in my career. Since there are more men who are investors today than women…it has taken time for the sea change in the investor ecosystem to take place. Does that mean women can only get money from women? No. I have been staked and backed by venture capitalists and private equity firms alike that were led by great men. These firms and tremendous men believed in me, sponsored me, and helped me get from A to B. But more women in the role of the investor will only help women more as entrepreneurs and founders. You need a great idea and access to capital, access to informal and formal networks that provide that capital, in order to get new companies off the ground. The more women playing a role in the entrepreneurial and investor ecosystems, the more opportunity there will be.
AM: Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?
I take a personal interest in students of mine at Stanford GSB or Booth who want to found companies and help in any way I can. My family and I are also investors in a few seed-stage venture funds that invest in women and non-obvious founders like Ali Rosenthal’s Leadout Capital
or Jessica Yagan’s Impact Engine
that support the ecosystem of women entrepreneurs and investors. On a personal note, the only angel investing that I have done directly to date is in women-led companies. So I hope to have an impact by walking the walk.
AM: This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Oh, it’s so fun to start your own company! It’s gratifying, you control your own destiny, great job variety, you get to have an idea and inspire people to see it come to life. Founding your own company is gratifying, challenging, can be lucrative, inspiring, fun, self-reliant, all that good stuff is why women should found their own companies.
To see the 5 things that can be done to help empower more women to become founders
, you can read the complete article here