VentureBeat: What happens at your event in November this year?
Gascoigne: Lady Pitch Night is the largest women’s business competition in the world at this point. Last time we had 288 applicants spanning 26 countries, so we decided to replicate it in the United States and other parts of the world. The one in San Francisco will take place on November 10 at NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center. We’re hoping to attract 350 attendees. We have a phenomenal panel of judges. 10 finalists will pitch live for a chance to win $25,000, computers for their team, and office space for six months.
After this we hope to produce it in Dubai, Brazil, and India in 2016. We’re working hard on those events as well. But for now, as of this moment, we have 113 applicants. We hope to double that by the deadline on October 10.
VentureBeat: The past year has been unlike any other as far as women in tech and diversity topics getting in the news. We’ve had things like Gamergate and Intel’s diversity initiative. What do you think about how much awareness has been created in the last year, as well as the controversy that’s come along with it?
Gascoigne: People are speaking out. They’re leveraging their freedom of speech and having a voice when things happen. It’s fantastic, because they’re keeping corporations and people accountable for their actions. People can’t get away with things anymore, even if it’s just a blog post or a tweet or a text.
The woman who was harassed by a venture capitalist at a conference in Berlin—The whole world knew about that within 20 minutes of her tweeting about it. That made life awkward for her as well, but as she said, people have to know. People can’t get away with things like that. We’re seeing people gain more confidence to share that kind of voice and hold companies and individuals accountable. That’s a phenomenal part of how the industry has evolved.
Since the inception of Girls In Tech in 2007, it’s been great to see all the activity around women in STEM. I feel that people see the difference in what women bring to startup boards, having different perspectives. If you have a woman as a founder or CEO or executive of your startup, your company is more likely to be successful.
More organizations are popping up around this movement, and more companies that support funding women entrepreneurs. We have NCWIT providing reports and statistical analysis on what’s going on in the ecosystem. Organizations like Girls In Tech and Girls Who Code focus more on the granular, educational-type programs and curricula, helping expose girls and women to tech and helping make sure they become leaders and executives.
All the noise and excitement has led to very positive results. There’s going to be some controversy, but as we said earlier, without challenges, we won’t have opportunities. It all goes hand in hand. I see that drastically changing.
VentureBeat: It does come with these by-products like Twitter mobs and online harassment.
Gascoigne: There’s a lot of online harassment in many aspects of our lives, if you really think about it. We’re not as private anymore. Access to everyone’s data and everyone’s information and everyone’s photos—This is the world we live in, to the point where we can say good, bad, and ugly things to each other online all the time. That doesn’t mean it’s okay, but it’s more prevalent. It happens. Freedom of speech has positives and negatives. Unfortunately, unless you turn off Twitter, that’s just going to continue on.
For people out there that are on a mission and have a passion to change something for the better, continue forward. Put your horse blinders on and go for it. There are always going to be people who have something to say about what you’re working on. It’s just noise.