We all have heroes we respect and look up to. As an entrepreneur, I am especially motivated by successful people from around my hometown in Silicon Valley, because their proximity gives me a personal connection to their stories and businesses. Plus, for all its fame and innovation, Silicon Valley has been widely criticized for its lack of gender diversity in the tech sector. Very, very few women have made it to the top tiers here, making their successes all the more noteworthy. Here are a few of the amazing women in Silicon Valley whose stories have helped refuel my ambition.
You can’t get much more multi-faceted than Sheryl Sandberg. As a technology executive, author, and activist, Sandberg resides in Menlo Park, California, and is the COO of Facebook. She is also the very first woman to serve on Facebook’s board! Before Sandberg obtained her position at Facebook, she functioned as VP of global online sales and operations at Google. In addition to her high-standing position at the social media titan, Sandberg juggles positions on the boards of prominent organizations like The Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, the Center for Global Development, and V-Day. Sandberg is an obvious inspiration for her outstanding work ethic and notable female stance in the business world. Her determination and impressive reputation illustrate that women everywhere can take a stand and become enormously successful.
Check out this Ted Talk in which Sandberg analyzes our lack of female leaders.
Tracy Young is the CEO and co-founder of PlanGrid, a revolutionary start-up company in San Francisco, California. After graduating from California State University in Sacramento with a degree in construction engineering management, Young worked as a construction project engineer and helped build two hospitals. In the midst of these developments, she realized no technology existed to improve the efficiency of the construction work. To fill this void, she helped dream up a system that allows field workers to view, store, and communicate via construction blueprints. Young and her friends then quit their jobs and moved into a house together, refining their collective dream until PlanGrid was founded in 2011. Like many of us aspiring female entrepreneurs, Young had an idea she was passionate about and put it into action. PlanGrid now facilitates construction software for Wi-Fi and cellular networks, and is the engine behind over 500,000 construction projects!
A successful entrepreneur and investor from Saratoga, California, Gina Bianchini kicked off her jaw-dropping career as the co-founder of Harmonic Communications. She later became the co-founder and CEO of Ning, a hugely successful online platform for creating custom social networks. After leaving Ning, Bianchini headed up a start-up in Palo Alto called Mighty Networks, which brands itself as the fastest way to create a community-powered brand in the form of your own social network. Aside from Bianchini’s many incredible business ventures, her other accomplishments include being a Stanford grad and her prominent feature on the cover of Fortune magazine. Bianchini demonstrates to female entrepreneurs from all walks of life that there are absolutely no limits, and she consistently encourages women to never stop working to develop their ideas into phenomenal successes.
Kimberley Bryant is a leading African-American electrical engineer. Born and raised in Tennessee, Bryant obtained her degree from Vanderbilt University and has operated at renowned facilities like Novartis, Diagnostics, and Merick. Her daughter fostered an interest in computer programming, so Bryant enrolled her at a school in the Bay Area. Bryant soon discovered her daughter’s courses were directed towards male students, and were rarely attended by African-American female students. As one who experienced isolation herself while earning her education, Bryant decided she wanted more for her daughter. She then founded Black Girls Code, a San Francisco non-profit that teaches computer programming to school-age girls in after-school and summer programs. This organization champions the lofty goal of instructing one million black girls to code by 2040. Because of her monumental efforts, Bryant has been recognized by the White House Champions of Change for Tech Inclusion, and has been named among the 25 Most Influential African-Americans in Technology by Business Insider. Bryant is an inspiration not only due to her astounding skills and business achievements, but also because of her unfaltering drive. While pursuing a passion to do better for her family, she will subsequently improve thousands upon thousands of young lives.
Brit Morin is an acclaimed entrepreneur, author, and the Founder/CEO of innovative tastemaker, Brit + Co. After graduating from the University of Texas, Morin moved to Silicon Valley to work at Apple on iTunes, and was later employed at Google. At the young age of 25, Morin left Google to begin Brit + Co, a thrilling organization that seeks to involve and entertain its members both online and offline. Headquartered in San Francisco, Brit + Co has blossomed into one of the largest digital media companies for women, boasting a community of over 125 million online users across multiple platforms. Morin herself is a regular contributor to world-class media venues like NBC’s Today Show and The Huffington Post. She is also the spokesperson for business game-changers such as Target, Uniqlo, and Johnson & Johnson. By following her dream of founding a company, Morin developed an iconic American brand, and she demonstrates to budding fellow entrepreneurs that, if we go above and beyond, we can reach—and succeed at—our highest aspirations. In this video, Brit explains why the maker movement matters to the up-and-coming generation:
Hopefully some of you other young, aspiring female entrepreneurs will be challenged like I have by the stories of these inspiring women of the tech industry. Looking forward to hearing about your successes!