Last week was International Women’s Day, and my team members and I discussed doing something special to show our support. We wanted to make sure that we did something that would inspire equality in the workplace and throughout our lives.
As a former high school teacher, I recall that the computer science and cyber security classes I taught usually had only 5-8% females in them. In Skycure we have 17% women which may be good when compared to other startups in our field but definitely not something to brag about. While we have given a lot of thought to this, as managers, leaders, educators and colleagues we have much more work to do. One simple action everyone can take, is to open this for discussion.
Today, we hosted a company-wide event spotlighting two of the women I admire the most from the startup ecosystem: Rona Segev Gal and Shuly Galili. Rona came to our office in Tel Aviv at the same time that Shuly came to our HQ in Palo Alto. During the event, we listened to the career and life stories of both women, followed by engaging discussions between each of them and our teams.
Rona started as an entrepreneur, continued to a very impressive career as an investor and has recently joined the two passions when she co-founded a new venture capital called TLV Partners. She recently closed her first fund of $115M, and has already made a few investments. Rona is also a mother of two sets of twins (!). Being a father of 2+1, I cannot express the level of respect I have for a mother of 2+2. Rona was the first to invest in Skycure, and I owe her much for my development as a CEO. Not only has Rona gained my biggest respect, Rona is admired for her tremendous contribution to the Israeli startup community.
Shuly had no experience with high tech before she built out the CI-CC (California Israel Chamber of Commerce) in 2000. The key to her success was her incredible acumen in connecting people – a skill honed from previous work leading non-profit organizations. With the help of Shuly’s leadership and vision, CI-CC has brought top VC partners to Israel again and again as well as nurtured those partners’ continued VC activities in Israel. Like Rona, Shuly has also recently combined her entrepreneurial spirit with the venture capital world to co-found UpWest Labs, a seed-stage fund which puts the focus on offering early Israeli startups essential resources, mentorship and access to key partners and capital.
Both Rona and Shuly are strong, passionate, impressive and, most importantly, they are both leaders who inspire others to be better and reach higher. I found it interesting that while both Shuly and Rona acknowledged the challenges that women face to succeed in our industry, neither of them put any focus on gender when discussing their careers. I think this is a valuable insight: we need to understand the challenges and act accordingly as a society, but as individuals, we should not be overly preoccupied with gender issues in ways that can denigrate our female colleagues rather than uplift them.
Some interesting highlights from our discussion were that we need to remind ourselves that a men’s environment is often intimidating for some women, and while most of our female employees felt comfortable, we need to constantly improve on that matter. We discussed some differences between males and females, and shared that in many households, women still have more responsibilities than their partners. While this situation adds challenges, I also believe it is one of the reasons why women are often more efficient at work than men.
I felt honored to have these two amazing leaders join us on such an important day. I feel our team was inspired and gained much from the discussion. It is clear to me that there is still a lot that could be done, and that focusing on gender equality with our youth could make all the difference for the next tech generation. Stories of successful women like Rona and Shuly can and will inspire our youth, and not just those already in the industry today. It is also clear to me as a CEO that I can do more, and I would love to continue this discussion internally and externally. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts about this, what you feel startups are doing right, and what could be improved in terms of equality?