The average CEO doesn’t sport pink hair.
The average CEO also isn’t a woman.
According to Fortune, women make up only 6.6 percent of CEOs in 2020. The upside is that the number is growing, albeit slowly. To drive meaningful change, women in leadership positions are taking action to alter the stigma around how a CEO or founder looks and acts.
Take a look at the following women CEOs and founders of Los Angeles-based startups. Aside from breaking the glass ceiling in their industries, they are also working to lift up the women around them. Take Therese Tucker for example. The pink-haired CEO and founder of Blackline, and the first woman founder to take her tech company public, is taking time to mentor women in lower-level positions and early-stage startups. Mentorship opportunities pave the way for more women leaders in the future.
What Blackline does: Blackline helps companies modernize their accounting process by unifying their data and processing work and automating repetitive tasks. Its cloud-hosted financial management software allows businesses to close their books from wherever they are.
CEO and Founder: Therese Tucker
About Therese Tucker: Long before Forbes listed Tucker as one of its Top 50 Women in Tech in 2018, she was listening to an accountant complain about the bank’s manual processes to reconcile the books. She was also taking notes.
With more than 25 years of technology development, software engineering and finance experience, Tucker developed the first automated solution for account reconciliation. She later founded Blackline in 2001.
Under Tucker’s direction, the company switched to a SaaS and cloud business model. It was a risk since the shift initially restricted cash flow, but it paid off when customers increased their licenses, which increased revenue. She also led the company through an IPO in 2016 and became one of the first and only woman tech company founders to do so.
Her next big move? Stepping down. In August 2020, Tucker announced that she plans to step back and transition into an executive chair role at the beginning of 2021.
How Tucker is supporting women: Therese Tucker said the new position would give her more free time to mentor women, according to a Forbes article. “If I’ve got more time to serve on boards for women, do more, then I don’t see why this role couldn’t go on for a while,” she said. For Tucker, mentoring women in lower-level roles or small startups means more female leaders in the future.
What NexTravel does: Flying for business but stuck at the airport due to bad weather? For employees, the next steps can be confusing: do they call the airport or their assistant? With NexTravel’s end-to-end booking system, companies can allow employees to make their own business flight and schedule changes without taking out the corporate card.
CEO and Co-Founder: Wen-Wen Lam
About Wen-Wen Lam: Lam received a B.A. in Economics at the University of California, Berkeley and then went on to pursue her MBA in Entrepreneurship and Marketing at the University of Southern California. After graduating, she was CMO at HeyPal, a venture-backed company based in Singapore, and led marketing for MindJolt Games (now SGN). She was an early employee at Spock, a venture-funded people search engine, and was one of the original founders of Women 2.0, an organization educating and mentoring female entrepreneurs. In 2015, she co-founded NexTravel and became the CEO.
In 2015, Lam wrote an article for Elite Daily that expressed the struggles of launching a startup. After their initial travel partner pulled out — and took a client with them — it was easy to see the future of the company as hopeless.
Instead, Lam and co-founder Alexey Pakhomov got to work. Lam recalls hundreds of emails, cold calls, meetings and rejections. Eventually, the perseverance paid off and they were able to partner with a travel company that fit their progressive and accommodating needs.
“There’s no straight line to success, and the sooner you accept that, ironically, the shorter your path will be. You just take things one day at a time and trust your gut,” Lam wrote.
In January 2020, NexTravel raised $2.4 million in Series A funding.
How Lam is supporting women: In 2006, Lam co-founded Women 2.0, a company focused on gender, diversity and inclusion in tech and startup spaces. Today, they provide content, programming, products and services to more than 300,000 women. Their mission is to support women-founded tech companies and startups with the professional resources and networking opportunities they need.